Sun Peaks won’t seek to recover costs from seven skiers and snowboarders who had to be rescued after venturing beyond boundaries over the holidays.
The ski resort will, however, ask the skiers to use their experience to educate the public about the risk of skiing out of bounds when unprepared.
Most of the rescue costs were borne by Kamloops Search and Rescue, not the resort, said Darcy Alexander, general manager of the resort. Therefore it made no sense for Sun Peaks to seek compensation on its own account.
It’s also backing donations to the local SAR organization, which is supported by volunteers and receives some funding from the provincial government.
“We want everybody to be safer,” Alexander said. “In each case, Sun Peaks staff conducted an immediate search to utilize daylight, staff knowledge and proximity to the search area.”
Alan Hobler, manager of Kamloops SAR, said most of the four searches were concluded in relatively short order, but one took 21 hours, demanding a lot of resources.
“Most of our costs are labour, which were free because we’re all volunteers,” he said. “So that’s a huge savings for the province.”
The province compensates volunteers for meal and travel costs, but they cobble together resources, including grants, fundraising and donations, to meet other costs, he said.
“We do OK,” Hobler said. “We definitely rely on sponsors and donations.”
The resort’s policy for rescue costs is the same for most B.C. ski areas: it will seek to recover costs when asked to use its resources in a search outside of ski area boundaries. Such incidents are assessed individually.
“The message we want to convey is to respect ski area boundaries,” Alexander stated in a news release. “Sun Peaks itself is the second largest ski area in B.C. and has ample challenging and exciting terrain within the ski area boundary. For those that choose to go into British Columbia’s backcountry, these rescues demonstrate the critical importance of being prepared with training, knowledge and appropriate equipment.”
Sun Peaks Resort participated in four separate rescues during the holiday period, including a particularly busy day that saw two simultaneous cases.
Last Friday, two sisters were reported missing and were found several hours later, while an American woman who was reported missing the same afternoon wasn’t located until Saturday morning.
Shortly after those rescues were wrapped up, Sun Peaks suggested it was considering billing the skiers and snowboarders for the resources the resort used to find them.