If a skier runs into serious difficulty skiing beyond an area’s boundaries, someone will be along to help him. In the United States, this task usually falls to a resort’s ski patrol or, if he’s waaaay over there, to a trained mountain rescue unit. No matter that he got in trouble through his own idiocy; he will be rescued. There’s growing sentiment, however, to charge the person rescued for the cost. And it’s not unusual in the wild regions of western mountains for the skier to find himself charged with what amounts to trespassing and fined by the local courts. Insurance may cover injuries, but it doesn’t cover fines.

In Europe, there’s no question about who pays the piper. If you skid in a spray of snow into trouble outside the area, you do. It could prove a deadly shock to a skier’s pocketbook to discover that the helicopter sent to pluck him from the side of the mountain costs hundreds of dollars.

Ski areas mark their boundaries to indicate where their responsibility ends and to warn skiers that the terrain outside their control is not patrolled, is not maintained, and may contain very dangerous and unseen hazards.

I’ve been at areas where skiers foolishly chose to challenge the closed boundaries. If some enjoyed the experience and bragged about it, I’m also aware of two who didn’t. One was a skier rescued after 24 hours lying in a deep hollow with a broken leg. He was spotted by a helicopter. The frozen body of the other was found by a search party two days after he disappeared skiing beyond the boundaries.

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Who Pays the Piper?

If a skier runs into serious difficulty skiing beyond an area’s boundaries, someone will be along to help him. In the United States, this task usually falls to…