Think before you duck

Opinion piece on skiers getting lost and payment of search and rescue fees.

Here at Sun Peaks the pre-Christmas skiing was nothing short of epic and the powder fell for days, if not weeks, on end. While early season heavy snow sets a wonderful tone for our busy winter tourist season it can also lead some people to a place they never expected to be.

For many people the lure of fresh powder and uncut lines is so strong that they’ll forgo rational thinking when it comes to exposing themselves to the dangers of skiing out of bounds. Yes, there is fresh powder just beyond the boundary but does that make it OK to duck ropes to get at the stash? No. Ski area boundaries aren’t arbitrarily set; they’re put in place to keep skiers and boarders away from serious danger and within a controlled area in which they can enjoy their winter pursuits.

With the recent out-of-bounds rescues at Cypress Mountain and Revelstoke Mountain Resort, it seems that some people lose their sense of right and wrong when it comes to ducking ropes in search of powder. So, should people who intentionally go out of bounds and end up requiring rescue be charged for the cost of that rescue? I say yes. Others say no.

On one side you have the ski hills that incur extra costs to initiate these searches for lost skiers and boarders and on the other side you have non-profit search and rescue organizations (SAR), whose volunteers risk their own lives to help those in trouble.

The law does allow ski areas to go after offenders for costs associated with their part of a rescue but this rarely happens and if the offender doesn’t pay the bill it can then become an issue of civil litigation—if the person has the means to pay the bill at all. For SAR groups the law offers little assistance for them to bill for others’ stupidity that imperils their members.

While many SAR groups fear people won’t call for help if they know they have to pay, I feel that the best incentive to stop this is that if people know they’ll be hit with a huge bill they might actually use their brains before heading to a place they have no business being.

If you have no knowledge of the area you’re heading into, you have no avalanche experience or equipment and you have no idea how to get out of that area, then what are you doing there and why shouldn’t you have to pay for the huge costs involved of bring you out, dead or alive?

If you intentionally go where you know you shouldn’t, why should you not have to pay a price for it and if that doesn’t make you stop and think before you duck a rope maybe you should talk to the young lady who, before being rescued, spent a long cold night out of bounds being stalked by a cougar. All for a little powder. Think about it.

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