Lost skiers should pay for their own rescue
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
A few weeks ago, a man was killed by an avalanche near the Revelstoke Mountain Resort while skiing out of bounds. While the loss of human life is always a serious event, I find it difficult to conjure up any kind of real sympathy in situations like these.
When someone ducks the ropes, it’s a conscious decision, not an accident. There’s no gray area. There’s no, “Oh, I thought I was still within the boundary.” For those unaware of the lingo, “poaching” actually means “to go out of bounds.” Resorts take special care to ensure that proper signage is in plain sight and impossible to miss. At the risk of sounding completely redundant here, the decision to leave patrolled areas is made knowingly and willingly. In any other circumstance, this generally indicates that the individual is aware they are responsible for his/her actions, so why should we regard these incidents any differently?
Taking responsibility can mean many different things. Sometimes a simple admittance that one was at fault is sufficient. However, in this case, taking responsibility should primarily be in the monetary sense. Rescues cost money. A lot of money. While some resorts charge their patrons to an extent, the bill is often picked up by the government. And as we all know, “the government” equal’s the common man’s tax dollars. What I’m saying is that those who are in desperate pursuit of fresh snow should have to foot the bill if they need help.
Of course, there’s a downside to this proposed change. The argument that is most commonly brought up is the fact that people may be afraid to call for help or even try to be found if they can’t afford it; it’s believed that this financial fear could lead to many unnecessary deaths. Another possibility is that friends and family members might try to stage a rescue of their own to avoid the fee. The result of this could be dozens of unqualified searchers bumbling over dangerous terrain, which, ironically, might lead to more losses.
My response to these concerns? So what? Honestly, I’m not trying to be callous here, but why should taxpayers have to watch their hard-earned dough go to waste on bailing out some selfish moron? And if someone gives the usual spiel about how you can’t put a dollar amount on a human life and cost shouldn’t even be considered, then why would people think twice about having to pay for their own rescue? Their lives are priceless, right? Why is it perfectly normal for citizens to go into debt for various purchases like cars, houses, or even more trivial items like couches and televisions, but the thought of spending a dime on their own lives is considered utterly ridiculous? Get your priorities straight.
Adding to this, in case it’s been lost in the kerfuffle, we’re talking about skiers and snowboarders, here. They spend untold amounts of money each year on rides to and from mountains, gear, passes, and sometimes lodging. It’s a bit of an expensive hobby. Obviously not every winter enthusiast is rolling in cash, but if they can manage to pay for the luxury of hitting the slopes on a consistent basis, then they aren’t exactly scraping by in the poor house, either.
To those who manage to continue stubbornly holding onto their belief that public funds should be spent on saving human lives without so much as a second thought, I have to say that I completely agree. However, I’d much prefer that money be spent on people who deserve that care; $100,000—a figure commonly exceeded by rescue operations—would be a welcome sum to any hospital budget, for example. Given the choice between spending an exorbitant amount on a few self-centred risk takers or making lasting improvements to our healthcare system—which would aid an untold number of people—I don’t think anyone in their right mind would take any time to settle on the latter.
Final note here is that, in their self-absorbed quest to find pow and/or avoid gapers, these people place not only themselves, but, more importantly, their rescuers at risk. Search and rescue teams, despite their training, can also fall prey to the unpredictable dangers of nature. If thrill-seekers have no regard for their own lives, they should at least consider the impact they’re having on others’.