As an owner-guide, Jan Neuspiel speaks credibly when he says the popularity of backcountry skiing is growing by leaps and bounds.
As the founder of the Avalanche Bulletin and a veteran mountain man, he is credible when he says there is “an absolute peril” for backcountry skiers on Vancouver Island.
Of course, all the common sense and good advice in the world mean nothing to some powder-mad skiers seduced by the siren call from beyond the ropes and warning signs skirting ski resort boundaries.
The Mount Washington Alpine Resort, for example, has openings or gates marking spots where people are welcome to leave the resort’s property for backcountry skiing, although this doesn’t apply during times of avalanche control.
Neuspiel, a member of the Canadian Avalanche Association and Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, reminds powder hounds that even when backcountry skiing is allowed that doesn’t mean there’s no danger.
You can keep up to date by visiting islandavalanchebulletin.com.
Mind you, downhill skiing contains inherent risk, and some people crave the adrenaline rush that comes with danger.
That’s fine — except when your adrenaline rush has a heightened chance of costing taxpayers for your rescue and, more importantly, risking the lives of dedicated people whom you expect will come to your aid.
Skiers caught ducking under ropes to access the backcountry will lose their ski pass at Mount Washington. However, if they need to be rescued, they should foot the bill.
Our society has drifted from the rigid moral code and smothering societal conformity of the Victorian era, which is a good thing.
Drifting as far as we have, though, can lead to self-centred disregard for rules, responsibilities and regard for others.
Accountability for reckless and dangerous out-of-bounds activities should result in more than the loss of a ski pass.