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Who should pay for backcountry rescues?
BANFF, Alberta — Spirited words are being expressed in the pages of the Rocky Mountain Outlook in the wake of an expensive helicopter rescue of snowboarders who left the Sunshine ski area to find powder.
Their rescue, located in Banff National Park, involved a helicopter and snowmobiles, and also involved threat to the rescuers. Winds were high and the terrain was tricky. In the end, all turned out well.
Or did it? Alvin Shier, in a letter published in the newspaper, notes that helicopters used in a mountain rescue costs $2,000 per hour — and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
"There's no question those in trouble should be rescued, but should the costs be borne by the taxpayers of the land," he asks. "It's long overdue that those taking part in extreme sports carry insurance to pay all costs if they need to be rescued."
Josh Briggs, writing the next week, finds that misleading and also philosophically uncharitable. In fact, those who pay park user fees pay for rescues.
But he also wonders about casting stones. "Personally, I am unwilling to judge one person as foolhardy and another as a victim of bad luck — accidents happen to good people with good intentions."
He adds: "One of the characteristics of our society is our provision of care regardless of the ability to pay or judgment on the worth of victims."
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