By Matt Kroschel
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – After years of ski patrollers responding to calls for help in the backcountry near the resort, Steamboat Ski Patrol is now warning riders they may face a $500 fee per person if they call for assistance.
The move is thought to be the first resort in Colorado to create a fee-based program for out-of-bounds rescues.
Ski patrollers told CBS4’s Matt Kroschel they routinely respond to calls for help outside of the bounds and that during busy times it creates staffing issues. They say the real goal is to keep people safe by encouraging them to stay on terrain they can handle.
“The increase in traffic has been dramatic,” said John Kohnke, Steamboat Ski Patrol Director. “A lot of people will come here to ski the powder, and there’s tons of powder inbounds, and they love the inbounds terrain … and what they’ll do (is) after a little bit of experience in the inbounds area … they look start to look outside the ski area.”
Steamboat officials have put up new signs warning people who use the backcountry near the resort that they could be charged $500 if they call for a rescue. Even though the backcountry is not patrolled, it’s the Ski Patrol who is usually the closest to answer the calls for help.
“Sometimes on a search we could lose a third of our patrollers that it might take on any given day depending on what the situation is to go in the backcountry; and they’re risking their life and limbs as well as the people we’re going after,” Kohnke said.
It’s the first resort to begin charging for out-of-bounds rescues in Colorado, and they hope the fee will deter inexperienced riders from even testing their luck.
“It’s not a moneymaking thing … we just want people to be responsible,” Kohnke said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, or you don’t know what it takes to go out there, please don’t go.”
So far nobody has been fined for a rescue.