Managing Risk


Participant Training and Education

The term “aerial adventure park” refers to a broad array of course types and user experiences. Almost every course has its own unique risks, requirements for participation, activity restrictions, and operating practices. In addition, terms like ropes course, challenge course, zip line, aerial trekking, treetop obstacle course, treetop adventure, etc. are applied inconsistently throughout the marketplace. A person’s successful participation in one adventure park cannot be presumed to qualify a participant for another park.

Given that ambiguity, park operators have the responsibility to educate visitors regarding the specific nature of their parks’ activities, as well as train and verify that each participant demonstrates the necessary skills to proceed through the park.
Training needs can vary widely. In some cases, training is extensive, because the failure of a participant to successfully perform a task may result in a serious accident to themselves, staff, or other participants. In other cases, technology, staff intervention, or an increased level of staff supervision may reduce the consequences of a participant’s actions. In such cases, the amount of training may be greatly reduced. Implement education and training systems that are consistent with the level of risk and the consequences of a participant’s failure to perform a specific skill or task.

Training should be delivered in a manner similar to that for other communications: using multiple/redundant opportunities, more than one method/learning style, and structured for assessment and skill verification.

We highly recommend that you develop education and training systems in conjunction with the original equipment manufacturer or a vendor who is qualified to work on the type of aerial adventure course(s) at your facility.

Releases and Waivers

Although releases/waivers are not enforceable in all jurisdictions, many jurisdictions have developed case law that supports the enforceability of releases in whole or part. Work with local counsel familiar with tort law specific to the adventure tour operator market to develop a document that will be enforceable in your locality, as case law may require specific wording and/or clauses within the release in order for it to be enforced.

In addition to standard risk mitigation language, you can use the waiver/release agreement for other purposes as well. The document is another opportunity to educate visitors, for example. It may also include contract language for media use/release of photos or other information, and be used for record keeping and future marketing endeavors.

Give careful attention to how and when the release/waiver is made available, not just to its wording. Most jurisdictions require that participants have adequate time to read and understand releases/waivers.

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About Author

Mark is the founder and president of AlpenRisk Safety Advisors, LLC, a risk management and safety consulting practice serving the snowsports, high-risk recreation, and hospitality industries, and has more than 30 years of experience in risk management, insurance, safety, loss control, regulatory compliance, and employment practices. He has been involved in creating many of the risk management, loss control, incident investigation, mountain safety, and terrain park guidelines used throughout the snowsports industry today. He currently serves as chairman of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) Risk Management Committee, the New Hampshire Tramway Safety Board, and ASTM’s F-27 Committee. Mark can be reached at

Michael has more than 20 years of experience in the aerial adventure business as a practitioner, builder, trainer, tour operator, and business consultant. He has helped design and launch 16 commercial zip line canopy tours and aerial adventure parks in North America, and consulted on more than 100 other commercial projects. He currently works as the managing partner of ArborTrek Canopy Adventures with tour operations at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in northern Vermont and Fall Creek Falls State Park in central Tennessee, and serves on the Association for Challenge Course Technology Board of Directors. Reach him at

1 Comment

  1. all your documentation, releases and waivers along with plans, policies, guidelines and procedures especially when written are more fodder for litigation

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