I'm writing in response to a letter published in the North Shore News on Feb. 1: Make Out-of-Bounds Boarders or Skiers Pay for Their Rescue Costs. The never-ending debate has returned once again.
I am an avid backcountry skier, in fact I moved to the west coast of Canada to explore the mountains. I admit that I've made mistakes, but who hasn't. Through those mistakes I've recognized the need to become educated in backcountry travel. I've spent a lot of time learning from experienced mentors and instructors. And I've made a career in the North Shore mountains as a ski patroller and mountain bike guide.
If for any reason while on a backcountry trip something were to happen and I made a mistake and required help from Tim Jones and the folks at North Shore Rescue, I know they're there. Whether or not I'd be embarrassed is one thing, but I certainly would accept their help.
Let's explore the option of charging lost skiers and snowboarders for the cost of rescue. Suddenly I'm hesitant to call for help, I'm merely a ski patroller on a limited budget. If I could afford a helicopter I'd be heli-skiing right now. So instead of calling for rescue I call friends, and my friends would help me do anything. They'd come up and look for me and in the process maybe get lost or hurt themselves. Suddenly there would be five people lost. My friends aren't wealthy either, perhaps help is called and instead of allowing for rescue to help us we avoid the search teams. Who can afford rescue costs in today's tough times?
On a recent missing person call on a local mountain I was one of the patrollers on duty. A gentlemen had lost his buddy and, from the sounds of it, he was headed in the wrong direction. With only an hour left of daylight things were not in his favour. Our team needed one patroller by the reporting friend's side convincing him to stay put and that help would arrive for his friend. The attention of that patroller was fully focused on the reporting friend. We repeatedly explained that he and his friend would not be charged for the cost of rescue. It got to the point where we almost needed to physically restrain this person from looking for his buddy. He was no better prepared for the mountains than his friend was. Sadly, instead of assisting with the search or helping inbounds skiers (what we actually get paid to do), this patroller was unavailable because he was needed to discredit the notion of paying for the cost of rescue.
Brent Hillier North Vancouver