I started to write this as a comment in response to the other comments responding to Kim’s recent post about the guy who wouldn’t cough of the dough to reimburse Crystal for his after-hours, out-of-area rescue.
But then I thought it would be better to post as it’s own entry, hoping more folks might see it. This will make more sense if you read Kim’s post–and all the comments–HERE.
First, thanks to (most) everyone for the supportive comments. The incident occurred following a discouraging week for us, and it helps knowing others are on the same page with what we’re trying to do (keep people safe) so thanks!
A couple things I’d like to clarify:
Marcus ducked the ropeline marking our boundary with Mount Rainier National Park–the ONLY ropeline at Crystal Mountain that’s permissible to duck. (We have open boundaries at Crystal Mountain, except at the Kemper’s avalanche path Permently Closed Area.)
He then traversed south to Kemper’s, though down lower, not up in the most frequent avalanche starting zone–but still a sketchy place to be after a big snowfall. Park rules (laws, actually) prohibit our marking closures outside our boundary. However, our rule is that those who hike or traverse into a closed area are considered closure violators. That means ya’ gotta pay attention to where you are and where you’re going. Can someone get into a closed area accidently? Possibly. But part of outdoor ethics is taking personal responsibility to plan and prepare. In addition to knowing where you are and where you’re going, you should have the knowledge, skill and fitness to provide for your own safety.
(So regardless of rule-breaking that was done, what really felt low-down to us patrollers was that he waited until it was close to getting dark to go–alone!–into an area he couldn’t get himself out of, and then went back on his agreement to pay his rescuers’ after-hours wages.)
So we expect people to be self-reliant, but we know that sometimes things go wrong and we certainly feel an ethical obligation to help people in distress. We do it all the time. But are you willing to go into work at YOUR job and labor (for instance) all night between 2 super-strenuous days without getting paid because somebody made a poor decision and ignored your safety instructions? Are you willing to do it every month or so? Probably not, huh? Yeah, neither are we, most of the time.
And if you owned a business and you went to the trouble of buying a couple thousand safety signs, but had customers who ignored those signs and cost you a few hundred dollars every month or so, would you let them keep doing it without letting them know you expect them to share some of that extraordinary cost? Probably not, unless you’re a chump, right?
So we bill people who make careless decisions that cost the company money, even if they do so "innocently". That’s what "personal responsibility" is all about, and that’s why there’s rescue insurance.
Last year, a fellow named Mark Callaghan skied outside our boundary (perfectly legal to do) and got into some trouble due to an avalanche. (Read his story HERE.) He called us for help and we responded. Did he balk at paying the cost of his rescue? Not at all. In fact, despite having to cough up what must have been tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, he saw fit to contribute his own, and many of his generous friends’ money toward creating educational opportunities to help others avoid the kind of predicament he stumbled into.
THAT is the kind of personal responsibility Kim talked about in her post.
One commenter suggested that we aren’t authorized to search and rescue. And actually, we hear that fairly often from people who have some knowledge about search and rescue protocols but aren’t involved in the complexity of it all.
Crystal Mountain is a private company that searches for, and rescues people every day. Some of the "calls-for-help" come from inside our boundaries, and some come from outside. Some come to us via passers-by and some from the emergency 911 system. And we often work shoulder-to-shoulder with the Sheriff’s Office, and Forest Service and National Park law enforcement personnel on State search and rescue missions (we did it just last week!) both in and near our boundaries, as well as snowy places far from here.
The Forest Service gives it’s permitee business, some authority to bill people who cause those businesses certain regular and extraordinary expenses. Yeah, ski areas aren’t like the IRS–they don’t have authority to just garnish wages of people who owe money. But like any business in Washington, Crystal Mountain has authority to charge for services and to use the civil legal system to collect on unpaid bills. It’s a fairly common thing throughout the ski industry if you haven’t noticed. So don’t be tryin’ to pull none-o-that "you don’t have the right" business.
Should people delay in calling us to avoid getting billed? NEVER EVER!
First, we WANT to help people. We’re often able to coach lost people over the phone so they get themselves back to "civilization" without any extraordinary help from us. Waiting until the end of the day when it starts to get dark is never a good idea. If we get to you early before you’re in extreme distess, then it may be that only minimal help is needed and you won’t be billed at all. You can discuss all that on the phone.
For the record, the "I’ll just wait for the Sheriff" strategy is just silly. First, if Crystal’s resources truly aren’t used, then the rescuers will have to respond UP from highway 410 instead of using the lifts, right?. That means plowing the road….after getting Park permission to open the gate. Then the rescuers have to leave their regular jobs to drive up from various parts of Pierce County. Then they gotta skin or snowshoe up from the highway to wherever the victim is. Oh but wait, it’s getting dark and we’ve all seen on TV news how winter searches get called off at night for rescuers’ safety. So now you’ve been out freezing overnight waiting for search and rescue folks to climb up and find you without the benefit of following tracks. But wait, there might be avalanche hazard, so you’re also waiting for the Department of Transportation avalanche guys–who can’t do their work until daylight–to come down from someplace like Snoqualmie Pass to make sure the location is safe for searchers…….man, this is going to take a while! Good thing the taxpayers are footin’ the bill though, right?
My point is, Ski Patrols are happy to help and have the right equipment, skill set, organizational structure, and terrain familiarity to quickly find and extricate people in steep mountainous places.
Plan to provide for your own safety when in wild areas (cities too, right?) and be prepared for the consequences of any of your own carelessness, but please, don’t EVER hesitate to call for help!