MORRISON, Colo. (CBS4) – A Longs Peak hiker in May cost search and rescue teams $41,000 to retrieve him from a mountain ledge.
This week, three ill-prepared teenagers — clad in just shorts, tennis shoes and hoodies — needed rescuing at 13,000 feet during a storm on Torreys Peak. Each Flight For Life helicopter flight cost $1,500 from a taxpayer fund.
And counties throughout Colorado spend millions searching for and rescuing missing or stuck hikers in several hundred missions each year. Clear Creek says it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars this year.
But officials say they’re unlikely to change their policies on charging hikers. Education, rather, is key to preventing the need to rescue hikers.
“I’m not into billing people,” Maj. Rick Albers of Clear Creek County’s sheriff’s office said. “To me, that’s part of our job.”
Some mountain town residents have mixed feelings about making hikers pay.
“You charge everyone for everything else,” resident Kayla Weichel said. “We have to have health care, car insurance, everything else. Why not charge them to be rescued?”
Resident Pat Maltese countered: “If you don’t rescue them, they may die. So I’m OK with paying for it.”
Volunteers run Alpine Rescue and raise their own funds. They say outdoor enthusiasts should buy a CORSAR card — short for Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue. Hikers can buy them at any outdoor sports store for $3. Proceeds fund rescues.