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A reckless heart is really the danger

There’s a popular current of thought that snow resorts should “ban” skiers and riders who go out of bounds, for fear they are costing taxpayers a lot of money when they need to be rescued from remote backcountry locations.

There’s a popular current of thought that snow resorts should “ban” skiers and riders who go out of bounds, for fear they are costing taxpayers a lot of money when they need to be rescued from remote backcountry locations.

But not every backcountry adventurer needs to be rescued. And charging them thousands of dollars for the rescue could discourage some from calling for help when they really need it.

When three skiers and one snowboarder slipped out of bounds at Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain resort earlier this month in pursuit of some fresh powder, for example, they were “rescued” even though they reportedly didn’t seek any help. In that case, the rescue — and subsequent ban from Grouse Mountain — was the resort’s way of driving home the point that it doesn’t want its facility used as an entry way to the backcountry.

In some cases, however, resorts have no such authority. All any resort can do is try to ensure there are plenty of signs warning adventurers of the potential dangers beyond the boundaries.

Backcountry adventurers are supposed to register with Parks Canada before they head out, but you’d need an army of wardens to enforce such a requirement.

There is one offence, however, that ski areas can and do clamp down on — skiing or riding in closed areas. Guests who enter a closed area are liable to have their passes yanked for the season.

Areas are closed because they either don’t have enough snow or have unstable conditions, including risk of avalanche. Knowingly entering one of those areas is an invitation for trouble, and a violation of the Alpine Responsibility Code, which requires skiers and riders to “stay off closed trails and closed areas.” When you purchase your pass in Western Canada, you agree to the terms of the code.

Snow resorts strongly prefer guests stay within bounds. The moment you slip under that rope, you are rolling the dice on conditions.

It’s too bad we couldn’t bill people for being stupid or reckless. Often, it’s the ill-informed and ill-equipped ones who are the cause of trouble. And everyone ends up paying the price for that.

 
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