Sheriff wants higher ski-safety fines
KEYSTONE – They tell gripping survival stories about pushing themselves to the limit as they spent nights in the cold and snow after getting lost, but Summit County Sheriff John Minor is not impressed with out-of-boundary skiers and snowboarders.In the past week he issued citations for Ski Safety Act violations, with $300 fines to two snowboarders who got lost outside Keystone Resort’s boundaries with violating the Ski Safety Act. He wants the fine to be more.Sam Mason, 20, spent Friday night lost outside Keystone Resorts’ boundary. Minor also issued citations, each which carries a $300 fine, to Mason’s companions who also allegedly ducked the boundary rope at the mountain.
“We have people now going into closed areas that might have gone into a closed area last year and they can’t handle it,” Minor said. “The snow is exceptionally deep… We heard reports during this rescue that there was eight feet of snow back there.”John Ryan, a snowboarder from Erie who spent two nights in November in the Jones Gulch area before rescuers located him, also was fined $300 last week.The Act was passed in 1979 and the fine hasn’t been raised since. Minor said he will lobby to increase the fine to $500.”($300) is still a significant amount of money, but this thing doesn’t hurt like it used to and it needs to hurt again,” Minor said.
Dan Burnett, a search and rescue volunteer for 25 years, said his group would support raising the fine, but he doubts it would keep boundary jumpers from going where they’re not supposed to.”There’s a developing culture of people that disregard ski area boundaries,” Burnett said. “Its very concerning because truly the safety of the mountain rescue people is jeopardized whenever we have to go into closed areas because they are closed for a reason. … Its kind of a human mentality to think, that sign, that rope closure doesn’t apply to me.”Although the Summit Rescue Group doesn’t charge people when they retrieve them from the backcountry, the rescue operations are can be stressful and costly for volunteers who often leave their paying jobs to work for free on a potentially dangerous rescue mission.And the costs to the county can add up too, Minor said.
The tab for a Flight For Life helicopter ride is about $1,000, which comes on top of food and fuel costs for emergency responders. Plus there are indirect expenses, such as ski areas diverting ski patrollers to help with a rescue operation, as Keystone did this weekend, Minor said.”I feel sometimes like the taxpayers of Summit County are subsidizing somebody’s foolishness and I don’t like that,” Minor said.Vail, Colorado