One of our entitlements as United States citizens has almost always been government subsidized rescue. Other civilized countries may bill you — while some third world countries might just let you rot.
Reversing our usual North American munificence, the Vermont State Police recently billed four men for their backcountry skiing rescue near Killington Ski Resort. Is this a trend?
Over the years backcountry skiers in the U.S. have occasionally been billed for rescue expenses by government entities, and more frequently by involved private parties. For example, I got a bill from the ski area for my avalanche rescue in 1982 — and paid a trespassing fine on top of that (thanks D.B. for helping me out with that way back when). Conversely, I was also rescued from the backcountry in 1977 after a particularly idiotic out-of-bounds skiing misadventure — and paid nothing for that — other than being crippled for a year.
Perhaps it’s time for backcountry rescue insurance in the U.S. — but one suspects that many of those most likely to be rescued would not bother to carry such insurance. That is, unless the insurance is attached to something that makes it almost mandatory for most of the population. It then becomes a de facto tax — but is perhaps justified if rescues become more common.
Here in Colorado, everyone who buys a hunting or fishing license, snowmobile registration, or ATV registration pays a “rescue surcharge” that goes into a slush fund used to reimburse various entities for rescue expenses (otherwise known as CORSAR). While not technically “insurance,” our rescue fund has gone a long way to defusing the issue of billing backcountry skiing unfortunates for their extraction. Vermont is supposed to be an enlightened state — but perhaps they need to look at how we bumpkins out here in the flyover do things.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.