Cypress Mountain and charging for rescue

Cypress Mountain and charging for rescue
Picture credit Trevor Hawkins

Cypress Mountain has recently posted signage at the entrance to several backcountry trails that pass through the ski area regarding changes in the policy.

The most troubling of these signs is the following which states that anyone calling for rescue from any agency will be charged a fee of $1000 if any of their staff are involved.

Image used with permission of owner

The specific wording is as follows:

A minimum fee of $1000 will be charged if the West Vancouver Police, North Shore Search and Rescue, or any other agency request that Cypress Mountain assist in a search or rescue operation outside the ski area boundary.

On the well known backcountry forum, ClubTread, several people have pointed out that this policy blurs the lines on whether the rescue is free, or comes with a cost. It implies that there might be a fee if Cypress Staff are involved, but does not state whether this is normal, or exceptional. The charge is described as a “minimum fee” which brings the connotation of a charge for a service.

There is some indication from Cypress staff that the fee is a “deterrent” which it would most undoubtedly be – a deterrent to calling for help when help is needed.

This policy is misguided in the extreme.

People reading this policy may get the wrong impression that they will be charged for rescue, and may delay calling for help because of it. A delay in calling for help can mean the difference between a simple, daylight rescue, and a difficult, and riskier response at night. This means rescuers exposed to more risk, subjects at greater risk for hypothermia and other injuries, and a greater expense to the public, who is ultimately footing the bill.

As a side effect, delaying a call for rescue would also put Cypress staff at greater risk if the delay extended the rescue into night operations, and could also cost the mountain more in the long run.

Cypress Mountain would do well to notice that no SAR agency charges for rescue, and are against the policy for the reasons stated above and many others.

In fact, high profile SAR organizations such as the US Mountain Rescue Association, US National Association for Search and Rescue, and even North Shore Rescue, are against the practise – all claim it increases risk to the subject, to the rescuers, and results in worse outcomes for the subjects.

Corporate Citizenship

Cypress Mountain is a company whose goal is to make money, and rescues represent a cost, so they may have a right to create a policy where they “charge a fee” for any staff involved in a rescue. However, they seem to misunderstand the social license.

The harm that this policy creates is much greater than any benefit that the “cost recovery” it might represent. The “fee” does not function as a deterrent, and the attitude of Cypress Mountain is not that of a good corporate citizen.

Devoting time and energy to rescue hikers outside the boundary of their tenure can only be perceived as an act of mercy, and being a good member of the outdoor community. The fee not only endangers rescuers and subjects, it promulgates the culture of shaming the victims. Cypress should reconsider this position, and the general attitude of obstructionism present in the signage and barriers to accessing the park through their tenure.

When someone needs rescue through bad planning or bad luck, they must know that they can call for help – and if the mountain is perceived as being charitable in this respect it can only help improve their image with the inevitable media attention such a rescue can bring.

6 Comments on “Cypress Mountain and charging for rescue

  1. What happens with regards accident and liability coverage if and when Cypress Staff are used. Cypress staff are no longer volunteers so could not be considered PSLV or convergents so do Cypress carry accident and liability insurance for if and when they charge for their staff being used outside their boundaries ?

  2. Terrible idea by the mountain. I’m not sure what their goals are, but they certainly aren’t helping the SAR community. It is called the patrol area boundary for a reason. If you don’t want to send your patrollers out, then don’t. That is what SAR is for. But threatening to charge a fee in the same paragraph that you refer to North Shore Rescue is clearly trying to blur the lines.

    Question, If the mountain really feels that it has been negatively effected financially, would the proper recourse not be a bill to EMBC? For example, if a SAR team requested a ski hill keep a lift operating beyond its regular hours to facilitate movement of searchers then there absolutely is a cost to the hill. But how is this different than chartering a helicopter? or paying for the use of a private snowmachine?

    Looking at the clubtread thread, I would agree this appears to be part of general move to discourage public access to Crown land through their tenure. But that is another debate and for another forum. Whatever their motives are, the “minimum $1000 fee” for rescue needs to be removed from their signs.

  3. Whistler Blackcomb have been charging for rescue outside their boundary forever. While you can argue the “good coroporate citizen” approach, the reality is they have no responsibility for you outside their line. They are well within their rights to charge a fee, even if other agencies do not. This is not to say they always charge, but they can and do.

    • Rob; I understand they have the right to charge for their services, I explicitly stated so in the article. Without question.
      My assertion is that this policy is dangerous to the subject, to the rescuers, and results in higher costs for rescues both for the ski hill and the public who foot the bill.

      I’ll also point out that if their responsibility ends when you leave the boundary, then why state anything except just that? Why would they devote any resources toward rescue at all, and why not simply state that rescue beyond the boundary is the responsibility of the RCMP and the local SAR group?

      This “fee as deterrent” model does not work for SAR where rescue needs to be initiated by the subject.

  4. Great article. This is confusing for anybody who pays attention to news stories where SAR groups state that they will never charge a fee for rescue. I couldn’t agree more with you about these signs being a huge negative to the SAR community.

  5. This is another heap on the pile over the last few weeks. These signs are a terrible idea, I agree that it will only cause delay…and delay is not our friend. Speaking as a Sar Manager, time is our best friend and worst enemy.
    We need the public to call us as soon as possible and not be deterred by a possibility of charges. I admit there are people out there that deliberately do things and get into trouble. However there are those that have good intentions are prepared and still get in trouble by no means except an accident.
    To charge these people is ludicrous, and to make the public fear rescue is not the answer. I agree scott, if the mountain is worried about its precious income due to extra resources being used…submit your expenses to the command team and apply for EMBC reimbursement.
    We are Public Safety Lifeline Volunteers, we are here for one reason, to help in times of need and not to send out bills.

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