Winter Park Resort not likely to charge for out-of-bounds rescue
Skiers at Steamboat Ski area that want to risk venturing out of bounds into the backcountry could now be charged up to $500 per person if they need to be rescued.
The policy is new this year, and the ski area hopes it will deter inexperienced skiers from going places they do not belong.
Though Steamboat Ski Area and Winter Park Resort are both owned by Intrawest, each resort has their own out-of-bounds policies. Winter Park’s policy is not set to change in the immediate future.
Steve Hurlbert, Director of Public Relations and Communications at Winter Park Resort, said as of now Winter Park does not have any similar intentions: “There are no plans at the moment to implement any out-of-bounds rescue policy at Winter Park” Hurlbert stated. “It’s a bit more of an issue at Steamboat due to some nuances of their terrain, but currently the system we have set up, which is a partnership with the Sheriff’s Department and Grand County Search and Rescue, works well.”
Greg Foley of Grand County Search and Rescue (SAR) said he disagrees with charging for rescues.
“The issue with Steamboat announcing that you could be charged for rescue is that the public will consider financial implications while deciding whether to call for help, Foley said. “By delaying the call it could mean that their emergency situation becomes more dire. It also could result in increased danger for rescuers.”
Foley said there is a common misconception that a victim will be billed for SAR, but in Colorado, none of the volunteer SAR teams charge for service. The cost of SAR is primarily borne by the volunteers who do not receive any compensation.
“We believe that financial liability should not be a determining factor when there is a backcountry emergency, Foley said. “The Steamboat policy fuels this misconception that we have been trying to educate the public on.”
Foley said another item that is largely misunderstood is the Colorado SAR Fund that is subsidized by hunting and fishing licenses, off-highway vehicle (OHV) permits and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card. Many mistakenly believe that this is some sort of insurance, Foley said.
The COSAR card will not reimburse an individual that is the subject of a SAR mission for any costs incurred by that individual for medical or other expenses. The card is meant to reimburse the local Sherriff’s office and other agencies for costs involved in the rescue.
In 1987, the Colorado State legislature established a SAR Fund to assist any agency or political subdivision of the State of Colorado for costs incurred in SAR activities involving persons holding hunting or fishing licenses; vessel, snowmobile, or OHV registrations; or a COSAR card. according to the Colorado SAR Board website.
The Search and Rescue Fund provides a means of reimbursing costs when search and rescue missions are conducted for persons licensed to hunt or fish or those using registered equipment such as snowmobiles or boats, or holders of the COSAR card. Moneys for the fund are provided by a 25-cent surcharge on hunting and fishing licenses, vessel, snowmobile, and OHV registrations as well as two-thirds of the cost of the COSAR card.
According to the SAR Board, the growth in popularity of hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, climbing, camping and other activities not requiring licenses or registration means that many users are not vested in the fund. Thus, the Sheriff cannot be reimbursed for the costs incurred for that SAR mission. The COSAR card is a means to voluntarily participate in funding the cost of missions, training, and equipment for SAR in Colorado. In the event that a cardholder is lost or injured in the backcountry, the county Sheriff can be reimbursed for the costs of a SAR mission for that person.
The COSAR card costs $3 for one year or $12 for five years and can be purchased at some local stores, or at dola.colorado.gov/sar.
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