In a snow season marked by killer avalanches—13 dead in the U.S., including 10 skiers or snowboarders who were “out-of-bounds”—an icy issue has sparked a heated debate: should there be tougher legal consequences for sneaking away from groomed slopes to make fresh tracks in unpatrolled areas?
In December, two Colorado snowboarders ducked out-of-bounds at a ski resort and into an area with live explosives set for avalanche prevention. Their punishment? Revocation of their ski passes by the resort, for just two weeks.
When a New Mexico snowboarder ditched resort slopes on New Year’s Day and then became lost in an out-of-bounds wilderness, he triggered a dangerous and expensive rescue. Ski patrollers finally found him at 2AM, hypothermic and lying in the snow. His punishment? Possible revocation of his snowboarding pass by the resort for an undetermined number of days.
“It’s not smart behavior, and it’s not responsible behavior,” said one of the rescuers, who risked his life to find the errant snowboarder.
But it’s definitely controversial behavior.
The deaths of 13 avalanche victims in Canada this season--including an out-of-bounds snowboarder and a skier—have prompted the government to consider for the first time legislating penalties for rogue skiers, boarders, and snowmobilers. A new national discussion about the slippery slope of responsibility quickly turned shrill.
“Time to bill idiots for rescue,” blared an editorial in a Canadian newspaper, which bluntly took to task rogue skiers and boarders. “As long as we have a moral imperative to save these numbskulls from themselves, there’s no reason they shouldn’t pay dearly for the cost of our kindness.” A typical out of bounds rescue is expensive, with searchers, backup help, and frequently a helicopter.
But a Canadian official says forcing rule breakers to pay for their own rescues might backfire. “People may not call (for help) if they think their family is going to be faced with a huge bill,” he explained.
Tell us what you think: Should skiers and snowboarders be held responsible when they break ski resort rules, even if no harm was done? Should rogue skiers and boarders have to pay for their own rescues?