Undercast below Mount Washington

Do you know who pays for finding, rescuing and transporting an incapacitated backcountry user in New Hampshire from the backcountry to a hospital? The injured person? The injured person’s insurance? The tax dollars of the people of the state of New Hampshire? The citizens of the United States through the federal government’s funding of the National Guard? The discussion that has ensued (see the comments following the Union Leader’s article) after the recent helicopter rescue of a backcountry skier on Mount Washington suggest that many people do not know the full answer to this question. In this article I will attempt to inform people about how search and rescue (SAR) is funded in New Hampshire. I believe the current system of funding is unfair. It places a cost burden on some backcountry users, while giving others a de facto backcountry rescue insurance policy for free. In particular, I think backcountry skiers and hikers need to pay more money upfront to help cover the costs of their potential rescue. As an alternative to the current backcountry SAR funding system, I propose an insurance system modeled on the Carré/Carté Neige system in the French Alps. Sold by the state of New Hampshire, it could be purchased for various durations of time, and would only cover transport from the backcountry to the hospital. In particular, it would not cover medical expenses.

The Status Quo.
Currently, under New Hampshire state law, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHF&G) is tasked with the job of “conduct[ing] search and rescue operations in woodlands and inland waters and to provide security at the sites thereof…” (NH RSA 206:26 Article XII). If a backcountry user becomes incapacitated from acting in a “negligent” manner, the state can recover the costs of the SAR operation from the individual (NH RSA 206:26-bb).


Otherwise SAR for an incapacitated backcountry user who did not act “negligently” is funded by a $1 surcharge on the sale of various sporting licenses and registrations (NH RSA 206:42 and NH RSA 270-E:5 Article II(b)). There are no other provisions in New Hampshire state law for recovering the cost of SAR operations from an incapacitated backcountry user who did not act negligently.

Problems with the Status Quo
There are numerous problems with the language and the mechanisms of this funding system, and I will attempt to address them individually. First, and foremost the word “negligent” is undefined in NH RSA 206:26-bb. This is a serious ambiguity built into the system, and should be clarified immediately, even if nothing else in the law is changed. The problem is that what one person might consider calculated and routine, another might consider grossly negligent. Consider for example the case of Scott Mason, a 17 year old who went missing for 3 days in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire in April 2009. When found, he was in good health, and was moving under his own power. While Mr. Mason believed he was well prepared, and not in need of rescue, the state of New Hampshire deemed his actions negligent and sent him an invoice for the costs of his search. The invoice has since been dropped, but could be brought up again at any time (see here).

The second problem with the current system, is that there is no clear method for backcountry skiers and hikers to pay into the NHF&G’s SAR fund. The fees are entirely sourced from the sale of various sporting licenses and registrations, none of which are applicable to backcountry skiers and hikers (NH RSA 206:42 and NH RSA 270-E:5 Article II(b)). Even if a backcountry skier or hiker wanted to pay into the SAR fund there is no method for them to do so.

Finally, the current system is confusing, counterintuitive and inequitable. Few people appear to understand how NHF&G SAR operations are funded. As noted above, the discussion that ensued (see the comments following the Union Leader’s article) following a backcountry skier’s helicopter rescue on Mount Washington indicated many people are uninformed on the issue. A common misunderstanding seems to be that people think that New Hampshire taxpayers are the first in line to foot the bill of a helicopter rescue. Not only does this make it clear that people are misinformed on this issue, it suggests that people are extremely confused by the current system. But why are they confused? I think it’s because the system in place is counterintuitive. Indeed, it doesn’t make sense to a lay person for an incapacitated backcountry skier to be rescued by NHF&G using funds from the sale of licenses sold to boaters and other sportspeople who may not even own skis. Furthermore, the entire proposition smacks of inequity. Why should one group of backcountry users subsidize a rescue fund for other backcountry users? The answer is that they shouldn’t have to, and this is the precise reason why the system for funding NHF&G SAR efforts needs to change. All backcountry users should be paying into a fund up front to cover their potential SAR costs.

Carré Neige
In the United States a system whereby one pays a fee (often called a “premium”) upfront to protect against losses in the future is called “insurance.” The funding system for NHF&G SAR operations might already be classified as insurance, however unlike a traditional insurance policy where one pays a premium to cover only his or her own future losses, in the case of NHF&G SAR, one group of people are effectively paying the premium to cover the losses of many. In my opinion, the simplest and most effective way to fix the inequitable and counterintuitive elements of the NHF&G SAR funding system is to bring all backcountry users into the pool of fee payers. In other words, New Hampshire should offer every backcountry user an option to buy an insurance policy to protect against the cost of a rescue should they become incapacitated.

The idea of buying insurance to cover against the cost of rescue not without precedent. In the French Alps, a popular insurance policy called Carré Neige (PDF file) protects recreational skiers against the cost of a mountain rescue and repatriation–or getting the insured back to their homeland–if they cannot do so themselves. It does not cover any medical expenses incurred at the hospital. Oftentimes, Carré Neige is purchased for a single day from a ski resort as an upgrade to a lift ticket. The cost is approximately $3.64/day (2€70/day), and is available at a significant discount if purchased for longer periods of time. The so called Carté Neige is the name used for the policy when purchased for an entire year, and costs approximately $47.28 (35€).

New Hampshire Backcountry Rescue Insurance/Carré Montagnes Blanches
The state of New Hampshire should sell a backcountry rescue insurance policy modeled on Carré Neige. For the purposes of this discussion I will call this proposed policy the Carré Montagnes Blanches (CMB). If purchased yearly it will be referred to as Carté Montagnes Blanches (CtMB). The policy would cover the costs of SAR operations performed by NHF&G. It would cover the costs of moving an incapacitated backcountry user from the backcountry to the hospital. It would not cover the cost of medical expenses once the incapacitated backcountry user was safely transported to the hospital. It would not cover the cost of SAR operations for a backcountry user who became incapacitated as a result negligent actions (assuming the word “negligent” is clarified by the New Hampshire legislature). Those backcountry users who become incapacitated and who do not own a CMB policy would be responsible for the cost of their rescue. Since currently the fee paid by other sportspeople through surcharges on their licenses and registrations is $1 (NH RSA 206:42 and NH RSA 270-E:5 Article II(b)), I propose setting the cost of the CMB at $1/day. At this rate there should be no reason for anyone with enough leisure time to roam the mountains to not own the policy. To avoid a potentially dreadful situation where someone doesn’t call for help because they did not know about CMB/CtMB, there could be a 5 year grace period while people learn and understand the new system, and how it should fit into their outdoor activities. During the grace period the first rescue of any non negligent backcountry user in need of assistance would still be free, even if they did not purchase a CMB. For people interested in coverage over a longer period of time than a day, the ratio of the cost of Carré Neige to Carté Neige (35:2.7 which is approximately 13:1) could be preserved for the ratio of the cost of the CMB to the CtMB. Doing this would make the cost of the yearly policy (the CtMB) $13. The policies could be sold online, at popular trailheads (e.g. Pinkham Notch, Crawford Notch), at gear shops, ranger stations, etc. It should become the “right thing” to do in the mountains of New Hampshire. Just as one checks if their ski partner’s avalanche transceiver is “beeping” before heading into the backcountry, the checklist should also include: “got your CMB?”

To get an estimate on the amount of money this could raise for the NHF&G SAR fund, consider that approximately 35,000-40,000 people per year visit the terrain on Mount Washington for which avalanche forecasts are produced. If half of these backcountry users purchase a CtMB policy, that would raise more than $225,000 per year. If we then count all the policies that hikers, fishers, boaters, hunters and other backcountry users might purchase, CMB/CtMB could easily raise over a million dollars per year. Perhaps it doesn’t fully fund SAR operations, but it raises money for a vital service of the state which is currently funded in a confusing and counterintuitive manner.

While this article is neither the time nor the place to do calculations of hard numbers, the above estimates are telling of how much potential there is for a better system. Something should change. In my opinion, it is time to reform the way NHF&G SAR is funded. It is time to remove the confusing and inequitable status quo. It is time to give backcountry skiers and hikers a chance to be more responsible members of New Hampshire’s mountain community by allowing them to pay a fee that goes directly to the NHF&G SAR fund. The big question is though: is it time for backcountry rescue insurance in New Hampshire? Leave your comments on this matter below!

Read about/contact the author/photographer:   Greg

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  1. Doremite
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 2:54 pm  

    Nice quick work on the research of the status quo. I like the idea and would happily pay into the fund as long as the fee was modest and would hope to hell I would never be in a position to benefit from it. What gets me is the attitude expressed by many that if someone gets hurt in the bc, it’s their own gosh darn fault for being there. Experienced or not (“Negligent” or not) I don’t think SAR teams with the equipment to help should just stand by to save money – no one will even know how inexperience or negligent the distressed might be at the time the call for help comes in. They have to respond and under the current system the chances of collection for the rescue even if NH wanted to pursue reimbursement are slim to none. Sounds easy enough to fight a negligence charge and who is to say the rescued can even afford the reimbursement if found “negligent.” State sounds sol to me. At least you’re proposing a way to build a fund to cover such rescue costs funded by those who will benefit from the help. Like your work.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 3:03 pm  

      Thanks for chiming in D. I couldn’t agree more with your belief that it would gross (and perhaps grossly negligent?) for an equipped SAR team to standby for fear of cost. I hope I didn’t suggest that I want to change the delivery of SAR services at all (although perhaps by following some lines of reasoning that originate at my ideas it does…). I’m targeting the funding mechanisms. Again thanks for reading and for the comment!

  2. StuckinJersey
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 3:15 pm  

    Much needed sir, good write up. Mason, a young cat made a lot of mistakes in my mind (going alone, off trail, etc..) and had a bad ankle when found, so I can see the argument on both sides of the coin. Then again it comes back to he was 17 and man some states would be rich with all the stupid negligent things I did back then. The article comments remind me of when K started charging folks for rescues after 4 PA cats got lost off the backside and a big search ensued. There really needs to be something put in place, since a court or government shouldn’t be making the call for negligent or non-negligent actions or even another slider for that point. I picked up my brother in Rutland on Sunday and we skied the Ammo on Tuesday (day before the accident), it was good sliding but firm underneath, really wouldn’t have taken much to pick up speed if you slipped. I like you thinking MR. Keep it up.

  3. Doremite
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 3:20 pm  

    My comment was more aimed at the responders to the UL article that were more concerned about what the rescue might cost (and WHO is paying for it!!!!) than the safety of the distressed. Who really gives a sh*t if the extra $x you paid for a boating license went to fund the aid of someone hurt and in need of help? That said your funding suggestion better links the funders of SAR to the potential recipients of SAR’s services and is arguably more equitable.

  4. Kul45
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 4:06 pm  


    Thanks for your contribution. Part of me thinks that such an insurance offering would be great. On the other hand, realistically, given this country’s anti-regulatory climate, the insurance premiums would quickly become unaffordable. Secondly, although not a tax, it would act like a regressive tax and be more of a burden on lower income people–I’m assuming that in order to be financially feasible it would apply not just to backcountry skiers but also to hikers. Given the inherent ambiguity in the term “negligence,” the most sensible solution is for taxpayers to pay for all SAR. Distributed over the general population, the cost of SAR is negligible and income-sensitive. Moreover, SARers generally dislike the idea of injured skiers/hikers delaying calls for help because of a fear of financial liability. One reason is that a later call often puts the SARers in greater danger. Two further points:

    (1) The cost of a helicopter rescue is generally zero, because the National Guard uses it for training. The exception is when the National Guard is otherwise occupied (as was the case in Scott Mason incident).

    (2) Scott Mason could only be described as negligent by ignorami. Certainly his plan was ambitious. But, not only was he fit, well-prepared, and well-supplied, but he spoke with staff at the AMC’s Pinkham Notch center about his plans. His descent into the Great Gulf, where he encountered snow and streams deeper than expected, was recommended to him by the AMC folks at Pinkham Notch. I do think his original plan was overly ambitious, and I think his decision to descend into the Great Gulf was poor. Nevertheless, neither action can be described as negligent, except by those who do not understand the meaning of the word.

    Great post, Greg!

    • Greg
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 8:25 am  

      Just wanted to respond to this. I feel like we could get into another discussion here about Scott Mason’s negligence and non-negligence, and I’d like to try to steer us away from that. To do so I want to make it clear that in the context of this discussion, I–as the author–am not voicing my opinion on the negligence or non-negligence of Scott Mason in April 2009. I merely am trying to use his case as an example of the incredible difficulty that the use of the word “negligent” in NH RSA 206:26-bb without clarification poses. You have valid points for why he might be considered non-negligent, but the fact is that New Hampshire still deemed him negligent. Therein is the only proposition I’m trying to make by bringing up Scott Mason.

    • Kul45
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 9:28 pm  

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to turn it into a Scott Mason discussion. I should have made more clear my thinking, which is an extension of your, namely, not only is the definition of “negligence,” vague, but the arbiters of “negligence” may or may not have sufficient familiarity with the context to accurately assess the question. The current system lacks transparency and accountability.

  5. Doremite
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 4:13 pm  

    Good point on it being regressive but I took this as a voluntary contribution so not to be forced on those with less means. Given you don’t have to “register” as a bc user as you must to, say, have a boating license I don’t see how this could work unless its voluntary. Not sure how much you’d ultimately raise, but certainly more than their raising from bc users now.

  6. Greg
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 4:34 pm  

    Guys: thanks for the thoughtful and well written comments. I really appreciate it. My main goal is really to get a discussion going, and it seems like it’s started. I really should get comment editing figured out for you non-admins on FIS so that you can fix or tweak your contributions to the disucssion.

    I for one have that power, and after reading your thoughts have amended my writeup just a little bit. First, I clarified that I think it’s important that CMB/CtMB be priced extremely affordably which would hopefully be $1/day. Second, I added the idea of a grace period for installing CMB whereby one still could have have a free rescue (basically enjoy the “free ride” system currently in place) even if they forgot or did not know about CMB. I’m sure there will be more tweaks that I will want to make, but I’ll try to stop myself at that.

    @ the realistic part of Kul, perhaps your concern could be partially laid to rest if the CMB/CtMB was viewed more as a subsidy of an essential state service rather than an honest-to-god insurance policy backed by an insurer interested in profit making.

    Thanks all for commenting.

    • Kul45
      wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 7:42 pm  

      I oppose any and all recreational user fees for public lands, because, however minimal they might be, they remain income discriminatory–always in principle and often in fact. Moreover, I cannot stand personal recreational use of public lands being treated as a business.

      In order for insurance to be cheap, fair, and financially viable, it needs to be mandatory. If it’s voluntary, then many of those likely to need it, will be the same ones who don’t purchase it. If it’s voluntary, what happens if it does not fully fund the actual cost of rescues? Etc., etc.

      Taxes, taxes, taxes. People love to complain about them but, provided they’re progressive, i.e., the more you earn, the more you pay, they are the simplest, most equitable way to fund public services. Rescues on federal lands can come out of federal taxes; rescues on state lands can come out of state taxes.

      I am impressed, however, by the serious consideration you have given this question. I do not think it a bad proposal, I merely think that taxes are an even better solution.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 8:33 am  

      I hear you Kul. Your principle that fees for public land use are income discretionary were-and-are loud and clear in my thought process. However, a very realistic hurdle here is that we’re discussing a situation in New Hampshire; the tax-free zone (sort of like the blog-free zone). This is a proposition for a compromise.

      If this were Vermont I think we’d be all set with a tax based backcountry rescue “insurance”… in fact I’d like to know if Vermont already has this figured out via a tax solution.

    • Kul45
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 9:23 pm  

      Don’t most of the SAR incidents in New Hampshire occur on federal lands, i.e., National Forests?

      Of course, excepting the National Guard helicopters, the SAR teams are not federal, I presume.

      I appreciate Jonathan’s contributions re: the cost of rescue versus the NHF&G income. It hardly surprises me. What it does suggest, however, is that NH’s current “anti-negligence” fines are less about balancing the books and more about social conditioning. In other words, the authors of the policy are trying to train hikers to behave and/or think in a certain way.

  7. Porter Haney
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 4:37 pm  

    Strong work, G. I can tell this article comes from the long lineage of letter to the editor writers.

    Also, I can imagine New Hampshire would never adopt anything with a French name, but that’s another argument all together.

    As for the article itself, I agree in essence. The users using the rescue service should also be the ones paying for the rescue service. Executing that basic idea, is where I can see inefficiencies occurring. Who would you propose administer the insurance. DRED?

    • Greg
      wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 4:46 pm  

      Us? FISurance? ;)

      Seriously though, I really don’t know Port. In theory this is all about collecting a revenue stream, forwarding it to the NHF&G SAR fund, and then logging who has an insurance policy. It’s a glorified excel task, but one which needs to be marketed so people know it’s on the books. To collect money and log a name and a date, I bet a savvy web developer could do it for less than $10,000.

      The real problem would be making the idea legislation. Changing all those RSAs I quoted to reflect the new reality of a revenue stream which comes from CMB, and in which people without CMB/CtMB must pay for their rescue (modulo the grace period suggestion) won’t be easy. But that’s why I’m blogging and not running for office!

    • Porter Haney
      wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 5:45 pm  

      Another thought.

      When people pay for things, they tend to feel the need to use them. For instance you have a medium severity injury, broken ankle type of thing. You’ve paid your couple bucks for the week so you can have a rescue. Instead of hobbling your way out, like you would’ve normally done, you decide to call in the chopper, because you figure you’ve already paid for it.

      Lots of folks wouldn’t do this, that’s just not who they are. But, I can see the number of rescues going up, because people feel entitled to the service after they’ve paid.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 6:05 pm  

      You are right Port. That’s a problem. It’d be interesting to know if Carre Neige has problems with this, or if a different mindset exists in Europe.

      That said, we’re already having problems with things like this here in the United States right now.For example people buy a PLB and push the button at the first sign of trouble. So people are in a sense already using what they paid for, but they haven’t paid for the rescue… just the PLB. Maybe we should get people pointing money at the rescue first.

    • Porter Haney
      wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 6:57 pm  

      Here is another thing that comes to mind.

      Anyone else heard of XSI? They are an extreme sports insurer, based in Utah. They basically extend coverage solely, or beyond your existing provider, to cover all injury expenses related to accidents in extreme sports. Here is a link to their coverage page – http://blog.xsi-now.com/product-info . Still only $1,500 of air ambulance coverage, but you get a lot more with you $29.50 per month than just air ambulance.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 8:28 am  

      Good idea Port, but I’m more in the camp of Kul with the thinking that the solution to this problem should be more of a tax than a full-on-insurance-as-a-business. You should see his comment in response to me above.

  8. Allen Taylor
    wrote on April 16th, 2010 at 8:12 pm  

    Here is the system Colorado has in place. Sounds like they cover SAR flights but not medical flights. It sure is affordable though. I would be happy to pay more if it would cover medical flights as well. I would also support some sort of minor penalty for activating SAR when it is not necessary. The guidelines for this would have to be very clear for it to work. I would not want people to be scared to call SAR under any reasonable or slightly questionable circumstance. It is my experience on ski patrol when help is free and available you get a good deal of people activating it when (in my humble opinion) it is not necessary.

    From Colorado State’s website:

    Purchase a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) Card

    Why Buy a CORSAR Card?
    Colorado residents and visitors are well served by dedicated volunteer search and rescue teams, but mission costs are often in the thousands of dollars. By purchasing a CORSAR card you are contributing to the Search and Rescue Fund, which will reimburse these teams for costs incurred in your search and rescue. Funds remaining at the end of the year are used to help pay for training and equipment for these teams. Anyone with a current hunting/fishing license, or boat, snowmobile, ATV registration is already covered by the fund.

    The CORSAR Card Is Not Insurance
    The card is not insurance and does not reimburse individuals nor does it pay for medical transport. Medical transport includes helicopter flights or ground ambulance. If aircraft are used as a search vehicle, those costs are reimbursed by the fund. If the aircraft becomes a medical transport due to a medical emergency, the medical portion of the transport is not covered.

    Purchase Card
    The CORSAR cards are available for $3 for one year and $12 for five years, and can be purchased at over 300 retailers in the state. You may also purchase cards online. Please visit one of these links:

    1. Purchase Card Online With Credit Card
    2. Purchase Card From a Vendor – List of Vendors

    For the cost of the card, you have helped ensure that trained and well equipped search and rescue teams will respond should you become lost or in need of rescue. Furthermore, volunteers will not have to incur undue expense due to your emergency.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 8:14 am  

      Allen that’s a good example. Thanks for putting it into the discussion. I agree, that if CMB could take it a step further and provide medical transport, it might be ideal. CORSAR sure is cheap!

  9. Jonathan Shefftz
    wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 9:53 am  

    “Consider for example the case of Scott Mason, a 17 year old who went missing for 3 days in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire in April 2009. When found, he was in good health, and was moving under his own power. While Mr. Mason believed he was well prepared, and not in need of rescue […]”
    – More like fair health, and moving slowly toward the Mt Washington summit, with uncertain capacity to make it back down from the summit to a trailhead under his own power. Also, the SAR effort was approved by his parents. (I even happened to have dinner with his father at the AMC one night while Scott was still missing, and he definitely approved of the extensive SAR effort.)

    As for the broader public policy implications, annual F&G costs (using whatever joint cost allocation methodology they’re applying) over the 2002 through 2007 fiscal years were just under $144,000. By contrast, for the most recently ended fiscal year, annual F&G revenues plus transfers in from another state fund were over $25 million. So SAR costs chew up about half of one percent of annually recurring monies available to F&G. And F&G closed out the 2009 fiscal year with an Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance (i.e., money sitting there for no specific purpose) of almost $4.6 million.

    • Sam
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 10:19 am  

      Jonathan –

      I have no reason to doubt your figures, or Allen’s for that matter, however to avoid regressing to the level of the comments section of a NH newspaper that will remain unnamed, I think it’d be very helpful for everyone to cite their sources from this point forward. It’ll help us have a more informed and constructive debate, plus it’s just good academic practice.

      Thanks to everyone that has commented so far, it’s nice to see that are readers are thoughtful, educated, and creative.

  10. Jonathan Shefftz
    wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 11:01 am  

    Status of Scott when meeting up with SAR team: numerous sources at the time (no time to look up all that now), plus watching the video of his walking gait during the transfer to the waiting ambulance

    Father’s approval of SAR effort: long conservation with father over dinner, April 27, 2009, AMC PNVC (if facing the serving area, section of tables furthest to the right, and either the table closest to the serving area, or one in from that, and on the bench on the side closest to the serving area – yes, it was a memorable dinner, especially since I started talking with him about his son *BEFORE* I realized it was his son…)

    F&G SAR Costs: “State of New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Performance Audit Report January 2008″ http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/lba/PDF/FG_2007p.pdf

    F&G revenues & fund balance: NH CAFR http://admin.state.nh.us/accounting/FY%2009/CAFR%20FY09.pdf

    Financial calculations: me – http://jshefftzconsulting.com/Municipal_Finance.html

    BTW, any calcs for an insurance system need to account for collection costs – more specifically, most likely the very high collection costs:
    “The Park Service spent about 26 percent of its fee expenditures on fee collection activities compared to about 17 percent in the Forest Service.”
    The report later details how USFS does not account for private vendor fees and discounts, with an example of a $5 pass of which the USFS ever sees only $4 (and then of that $4 some amount still has to go to administering the fee program, etc.).
    So the true USFS figure might very well be closer to the NPS figure, i.e., for every dollar you pay a dollar to drive into a National Park, 26 cents of that dollar just went toward collecting that dollar from you, and now only 74 cents are actually available to help that park and other parks (80/20 split).
    By way of contrast, the IRS collection cost is about half a percent:
    (In other words, for every dollar you pay in taxes, half a penny went toward getting that dollar from you.)

    • Greg
      wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 7:09 pm  

      Thanks Jonathan! Need to digest all that you’ve wrote before replying intelligently, but as I wrote to BK, this isn’t about Scott Mason. This is about the fact that the word “negligent” is ambiguous. I’d be happy to discuss Scott’s case somewhere else with you. I have a very strong opinion on the matter that I have tried very hard to keep out of this article.

  11. Rob Rox
    wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 5:22 pm  

    This is a discussion long overdue. Thanks, Greg, for seizing the moment in such a constructive manner.

    I guess an optional charge for SAR support could be appended to the basic fee if the relevant statutes permitted it.

    Let’s see how this discussion goes, how the ideas coalesce and then see about discussions with legislators.


  12. skimtwashington
    wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 6:27 pm  

    I also oppose user fees for public outdoor lands. However, insurance I am not opposed to. A small yearly fee would not kill anyone. The price of an extra couple beers after your trip? With all the regular visitors that come visit , even a tiny fee from these regulars if not one time users, would make a huge dent in the cost of the state.

    As someone who once needed some minor assistance years ago, I was grateful for the professional services and that help was around. And if it means equip and personnel, and their training will be available, updated equipment and more prepared- I’m happy to give toward that. What I certainly don’t want, is to be paying reimbursement of thousands of dollars for MY OWN SAR- should I be so unfortunate. Regardless of being negligant or not, the state can make it policy to charge. If that policy is not clear who (me?) might pay- Then I want insurance-especially if it’s as cheap as a CORSAR card mentioned in above post!.
    National Healthcare should pay for all services for everyone at the place where you receive it(hospital, Dr’s office)….but you may need to be responsible for getting yourself there, even if you’re in a gully.

  13. Jonathan Shefftz
    wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 7:37 pm  

    “[…] this isn’t about Scott Mason. This is about the fact that the word “negligent” is ambiguous.”
    – I completely agree with you on that point.

    Good overview of the recent regulatory change here (i.e., “reckless” > “negligent”):

    Interesting article here:
    “LAST YEAR, THE NEW HAMPSHIRE FISH AND GAME Department, national forest, AMC, and other groups assisted in 164 incidents, about 75 involving injured or lost hikers. Search and rescue missions in 2007 cost the state $150,000, plus thousands of volunteer hours. About $42,000 of that was spent aiding people who were later deemed “negligent.” Under a New Hampshire law that took effect in June, hikers who fall into that category and refuse to pay rescue costs can lose their licenses to drive, fish, and hunt. The definition of “negligent hiker” may be open to interpretation, but [Todd] Bogardus [search and rescue leader with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department] says he knows one when he rescues one. If a mountain outing goes awry in the Whites, he gets called – in the dead of night, in rain and snow, in temperatures cold enough to freeze skin in minutes. “It’s my job,” he says flatly. “When there’s no explanation for an accident other than fate, those are hard to explain. But it’s frustrating when somebody was aware of a substantial danger and disregarded it. Something that was so avoidable.” For example, he says, hikers who do not tell anyone where they are going, ignore weather reports and admonitions from rangers, or knowingly lack adequate clothing, food, water, and survival gear.”

    Also, funny reference here in a google books link (so you know where the tinyURL points to):

    Overall though, I’d rather pay $25,234.65 and live than pay $3,175 to die:
    (Amazingly, this “school” is still in business — the FAQ has no mention of this incident, but does specify that sunglasses are *NOT* allowed. In the desert, really.)

  14. Cliffy
    wrote on April 17th, 2010 at 8:32 pm  

    Great discussion and thoughtful input, thanks. I agree 100% with the premise but having worked in and around state and govt for some time it seems the more practical an idea…the harder it seems to put into motion. But I hope this catches the right persons attention and becomes a reality at some point. But I would sadly miss the UL comments after every incident….

  15. ed sanborn
    wrote on April 18th, 2010 at 9:08 am  

    Greg, saw in the ul coments that dalton was using the new salomon at boot and had the toe lugs pull out of the boot.have you heard any new info on this as i got a pair of the boots and have been using them a lot. as for bc insuance, i’m all for it. in my 30 plus years of being in the bc i have not needed it but have been on lots of rescues and i do see a need.great discussion….ed

  16. Jonathan Shefftz
    wrote on April 18th, 2010 at 11:46 am  

    Ed, are you using the boots with the alpine downhill sole blocks or the “Tech-compatible” alpine touring sole blocks?

    • Anonymous
      wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 7:32 am  

      i have the pebax 12 with the rocker at sole. have been using it with an alpine binding for work on the mountain but i have a 2nd generation freeride for climbing. was thinking about upgrading to a dynafit but mat not if there is a boot issue. the boot is a 120 flex and skis great. and real light too

    • ed sanborn
      wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 7:34 am  

      forgot to input my name ed

  17. robrox
    wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 12:40 pm  

    Hey Ed!

    It’s just this one model of compatible boot from Solly with what appears to be a design issue. The other makers have been selling thousands of boots that have been used over many years without the particular problem that seem to have been a factor here.

    Burly lines and high-performance skiing don’t seem to present problems for the Tech fittings of the BD, Dynafit, Garmont and Scarpa boots made for burly lines and high performance skiing.

    Others can suggest which of the Tech bindings are suited for burly lines and high performance skiing…or for meadow skipping, etc.

  18. powhounddd
    wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 12:55 pm  

    Excellent discussion on here, ‘good’ timing. But I notice the longer URLs inputted are automatically edited and then the links are broken — would it be possible to edit or repost the links guys, using tinyurl or something like that?

    Thanks for the well-thought-out opener Greg.


    • Greg
      wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 2:08 pm  

      Looking into it now D…

    • Greg
      wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 2:58 pm  

      It’s all straightened out now D. I think any link should work now… no shortening is done at all. It may run off the page, but it will always work if you click on it

  19. Jonathan Shefftz
    wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 1:05 pm  

    Ed, your Quest boots should be fine to use with alpine downhill bindings and with non-“Tech” alpine touring bindings (i.e., other than Dynafit, Onyx, and various exotic Euro rando race bindings). But definitely hold off on upgrading to a Tech binding until Salomon issues the redesigned AT sole blocks.

    • ed sanborn
      wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 1:54 pm  

      do we know exsactly what faled on the boot, did the sole pull off or did the pin holes pull out

  20. Jonathan Shefftz
    wrote on April 19th, 2010 at 1:59 pm  

    Essentially both: unlike every other “Tech”-compatible boot, the Quest “Tech” interface seems to lack a steel bar connecting the two divots (or at least the bar is easy to bend severely), plus the interface is not surrounded by plastic but instead located at the junction of the plastic & rubber. So forces exerted on the interface during normal use are acting to pull away the rubber from the plastic, but the seal between the rubber and plastic is mainly what’s keeping the interface in there (along with this little kind of metal hook that seems designed to latch onto the plastic).

    • robrox
      wrote on April 21st, 2010 at 12:31 pm  

      It would be interesting to see the close-up photos of the falied fittings and the photoes taken as the boots are taken apart for evaluation.

      I suspect that we will have a long wait on both counts, as it would be prudent to carefully assemble a team of qualified experts to examine the boots. In the end there should be ample evidence, but for now we wait.

      Nevertheless, the design should be examined and any requisite lessons learned.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 22nd, 2010 at 9:11 am  

      JS: Thanks for all your helpful input! It’s really invaluable to the skiing community to have someone as the dynafit guru in our midst.

      RR: I too would like to see this. I would also like to know more about the design process of the Salomon Quest Boot, as well as a report on what went wrong. Unfortunately I think the best we will get–at least in any sort of reasonable timeframe–will be our observation as to whether or not the boot stays on the market.

      I have heard some rumblings from BD who, according to the discussion that has ensued above (I’m quoting JS actually), do not use Dynafit manufactured “Tech inserts”, that they went to extremely great lengths to ensure their Tech inserts were safe and interfaced well with the Tech system.

      Only time will tell if there will be more compliance/standardization with the Dynafit Tech system

  21. Kingsley
    wrote on April 21st, 2010 at 8:21 pm  

    I like the general idea. Verbal thresholds are always vague and subject to interpretation. Better would be a per use system, with adequate deductibles to mitigate the moral hazard risk (‘I’ve got insurance, I’ll launch the waterfall!’). In general I think it’s better for those who are subject to the benefits & risks of an activity to fund the insurance rather than the general public who could easily become embittered by the politics involved.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 22nd, 2010 at 9:13 am  

      Thanks for the input Kingsley. You clearly have a better handle on these types of setups than I do. You hit the nail on the head though with this one: “it’s better for those who are subject to the benefits & risks of an activity to fund the insurance rather than the general public who could easily become embittered by the politics involved.” That’s exactly what I’m going for with all of this.


    • Greg
      wrote on April 22nd, 2010 at 5:54 pm  

      Thanks Jonathan. Next issue on FIS: the broken man that is TC and the failure of Salomon…

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