Fines, bans might help

It seems like a no-brainer to charge out-of-bounds skiers for the time and effort required to rescue them. Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple.

Search and rescue spokesman Alan Hobler says his group doesn't charge for fear that it would prevent people from asking for help.

"We don't want to do anything that discourages people from calling for help early."

Another fear is that friends and family would launch a search, possibly putting their own lives in danger.

These are admirable sentiments from search-and-rescue groups, but with typical rescue efforts costing upwards of $10,000, something clearly must be done to discourage irresponsible behaviour.

Sun Peaks Resort is looking at sending bills to three out-of-bounds skiers who had to be rescued, but there may be more that all ski resorts could do. For example, the warning sign posted on the Sun Peaks ski area boundary says nothing about consequences for going out of bounds other than noting that you do so at your own risk.

A further warning that any skier caught out of bounds could face a ban from the resort for the season, or even life, would make people think twice about ducking through the rope.

The B.C. government could pitch in by passing a law that allows authorities to hit skiers with fines of up to $1,000 for going out of bounds - regardless if they need to be rescued. This has been done in Washington state.

Another step would be to simply pass a law against skiing outside of designated areas. This has been done in Alaska.

These types of laws would allow resorts like Sun Peaks to continue with awareness campaigns. But they could also point out the law of the land that we must all adhere to.

Would people who can afford to pay thousands of dollars for ski equipment and season passes be deterred by these measures? Maybe not. But there has to be consequences for irresponsible actions, and if they save a life or two they will be well worth it.

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