B.C. solicitor general considering fines for skiers who go out of bounds

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VANCOUVER - B.C.'s solicitor general has ordered his staff to study the possibility of fining outdoor enthusiasts who enter out of bounds areas at ski resorts and in the backcountry.
Such provincial action would be a Canadian first, observers suggested Tuesday.
John van Dongen said he has been prompted by recent cases, including 10 deaths in the province, in which skiers and snowmobilers were killed after either entering restricted areas or going out in questionable conditions.
"I am responding to what we have seen in the last month," van Dongen said.
The minister said it is too early for specifics on how the system might work - including what would be considered to be backcountry - and no new policy would be ready this winter because the idea requires a lot of discussion.
"This is a very high-level initial look," he said.
"Is it something that might add something we don't have today? I don't have the answer for sure, but I have said to people that I am willing to consider it, and initiated a discussion in this area."
Eight snowmobilers were killed in avalanches near Fernie last month while out in questionable conditions, and two men died in avalanches in Whistler after going into areas deemed out of bounds.
Last week, four skiers entered a forbidden area at Grouse Mountain, north of Vancouver, that was at risk for an avalanche.
The volunteer North Shore Search and Rescue team and RCMP went after them.
Grouse Mountain has banned the men from its slopes and is planning to bill them for the rescue.
But van Dongen said he does not believe in forcing people who break the rules to pay for rescue efforts.
"There's fairly strong evidence that that might be a deterrent to people calling for help," he said.
Jimmie Spencer, with the Canada West Ski Areas Association, said he was astonished at van Dongen's comments about introducing a fine, and urgently called the minister's deputy to request a meeting so, on behalf of his group, he could get a better sense of what was being considered.
"It is so foreign. I would have to see the reasoning behind it before I could offer an opinion," Spencer said from Vernon.
"It is not done anywhere I am aware of."
He said the idea raised many questions.
"What are you fining for? What law have you broken? It's such a deep and complex situation," Spencer said.
Some of Canada's high-profile skiers and snowboarders said they might support van Dongen's initiative.
Nancy Greene Raine, who won gold and silver in skiing at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in France, said that she supports the idea of fines.
"It's unfortunate, but I think we need that . . . if there aren't any consequences, people disregard warnings," said Greene Raine, recently appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"If you post a speed limit on a highway, and there are never any policemen around with radar guns, how many people do you think pay attention to the speed limit?"
Skier Ken Read, one of the so-called Crazy Canucks who is now the president of Alberta Alpine, supports fining people who go in closed parts of resorts - areas within bounds that have been actively cordoned off - but would oppose a fine for well-prepared skiers and snowboarders who embark on backcountry adventures.
"If you're following all the expected protocols . . . you've reported where you're going, you're in a group, and you've gone through all the checklist, then that's something that should be deemed to be a completely acceptable activity," Read said.
But with closed-off areas, fines may be appropriate, he said.
"That inviting slope may be there, but it's being savvy, being knowledgeable. . . . Nobody wants to see people getting killed, especially if it is preventable," Mr. Read said.
Ross Rebagliati, who won the first gold medal in snowboarding in 1998, agreed that a fine could help stop people from going into closed-off areas, but he would oppose fines on backcountry riding.
"In ski resorts, it's marked out of bounds for a reason. They have to try and maintain a certain amount of order out there," he said, making a distinction between closed-off areas and backcountry.
"One of the great parts of skiing and snowboarding is powder and fresh tracks. That's really what it's all about. They're really going to be walking a fine line," he said.

Organizations: RCMP, Canada West Ski Areas Association, Alberta Alpine

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Grouse Mountain, Fernie Whistler Vernon Canada France

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