Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — Lawsuits and Skiing Robots

Post by blogger | October 22, 2009      
Backcountry Skiing News

It’s old news now that a rescue group in Canada is being sued for an allegedly botched rescue. But I bring up this subject because I’ve seen quite a bit of buzz lately about how rescue groups are growing frustrated because the Canadian government isn’t coming up with liability insurance for them. All well and good, but I don’t understand a couple of things. First, I find it hard to believe that rescue groups in Canada have been operating all these years without some sort of liability protection. More, my understanding is that anyone can sue anybody. It’s the outcome that counts. Thus, people getting their climbing harnesses in a bunch over this seem to be over reacting. In other words, what’s changed? Perhaps the lawsuit just jogged people’s awareness? If so, great, but no need for panic. More here.

The subject of ski helmets is always worth some brain cell involvement. In other lawsuit news, a family in Ohio is suing doctors who they claimed killed their brain injured son to harvest his organs. The young man had hurt himself in a snowboard accident. The article isn’t clear on whether a helmet was in use or not. But I can see possible public service adds coming out of this sad incident. Something like, “if you don’t want your organs harvested, wear your helmet.”

I’ve always admired “adaptive” sports such as sit skiing. Beyond that, it’s one thing taking a lift up for your vertical when you don’t have the use of your legs, but getting vert under arm power is a whole different game. That’s why paraplegic climbers are indeed a breed apart. Whether they’re yarding up El Capitan by doing pullups the whole way, or pushing a sled up a mountain with arm power alone, these guys are radical. Check out this recent Kilimanjaro climb by a guy with a hand powered quad.

Lastly, I thought we could all use some inspiration from the skiing robot.


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11 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — Lawsuits and Skiing Robots”

  1. Nick October 22nd, 2009 9:57 am

    Ha! my first touring set up was pretty similar to the one described in the dynafit ad. nordica 150 plugs and salomon 916s with trekkers. I have yet to take the dive and get dynafits, but its on the to do list. For now naxos and dukes are a pretty big improvement over what i started on.

  2. Tuck October 22nd, 2009 10:08 am

    I rode a lift in Vermont with a fellow who had just come from skiing at Stratton. He was commenting on how someone had told him that he had a $30k/year membership in something that basically allowed him to leave his car where ever he felt like it, and have valet come by and park it for him. The next logical step, this fellow thought, was a service that would ski your skis for you, so you could stay warm in the lodge and point out to your fellows that the nice pair of skis coming down the mountain were yours.

    Stratton Ski Robot, coming soon… 😉

    (No, I have no idea if any of this is accurate, but it was pretty funny…)

  3. Lee Lau October 22nd, 2009 10:22 am

    Some SAR groups in Canada has liability insurance. Some SAR groups in Canada did not. Liability insurance is not cheap and is a bit of an administrative PITA and that’s probably why many SAR groups didn’t get it.

    As for “anybody being able to sue anybody”. Yup you’re right. That’s never changed. However, if you have liability insurance, your insurance company then provides lawyers to battle other lawyers. Think of liability insurance as paying for lawyers just in case – or mutual assured destruction but with lawyers instead of nukes.

    As compared to the US, Canada is not litigation prone. There was an old unwritten rule that SAR was never sued. That’s probably why some SAR groups took a chance on not getting insurance. Canadian’s are just risk-takers that way.

    The Gilles Blackburn lawsuit (represented by Whistler’s own ambulance chaser -Nancy Wilhem-Morden is the first lawsuit in Canada against a SAR organization for events related to the rescue; upsetting the old unwritten understanding.

    Obviously not a good thing.

  4. Lou October 22nd, 2009 10:42 am

    I’m pretty sure the way it works here is that SAR is part of the sheriff department, and are thus under their liability umbrella or at least are covered in the same way any other branch of the government would be covered…

  5. Jordan October 22nd, 2009 10:59 am

    Hey Lou,
    While the Mountain Rescue in Aspen is directed to act by the sheriff’s department, they do maintain their own separate entity, supported financially by fund raising and donations. That said, Garfield county is completely different and we all know about that controversy there. What the sheriff is doing over there will no doubt cost him several good volunteers. I know that made it an easy decision for me as to where to join.

  6. Caleb October 22nd, 2009 11:06 am

    My last time up Denali there was a group of Russians leading two paraplegic climbers up to 17k camp via the rescue gully using fixed ropes. One of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Still not sure if they summitted, but wow.

    Loving that Sweetgrass/Dynafit promo. Those guys at Sweetgrass have been changing the game. I saw Signatures last week, a nice break from loud music cliff hucking.

  7. Eric Steig October 22nd, 2009 2:46 pm

    I guess I’m old fashioned, and I can’t blame Dynafit for their promo video, but I think it’s a bit sad that the theme always has to be “I used to downhill ski and then discovered my leg muscles.” What about those of us that got into backcountry skiing from a love of mountains, and used to do all this stuff on soft, low-cuff leather boots and cross country skis? The revolution has been in both directions! And more that latter than the former, I’d say.

    But it won’t sell as many bindings I suppose.

  8. Lou October 22nd, 2009 3:22 pm

    Eric, good points, keep speaking up!

  9. Col October 22nd, 2009 4:08 pm

    How about the “I used to be a backcountry snowboarder… until I tried to follow a 70 year old on dynafits” story? My leg muscles were shouting “Wait, I want that!”

    Now I’ve got another season or two of ski practice before I can go back to ski my old lines! It’s well worth the learning curve though. Even a splitboard cannot touch a good touring setup on a deep, short, flat slope between pitches. That being said, I’m not convinced skis will ever touch the feeling of laying over sideways arcing one edge through deep pow.

    I agree that it’s really the love of the mountains and snow that drives us uphill and down.

  10. Mark W October 22nd, 2009 10:44 pm

    That robot carves quite precisely. And good for the guy who climbed Kilimanjaro with his arms. Great story. The Dynafit video was alright, but not spectacular.

  11. RandoSwede October 23rd, 2009 9:11 am

    Seems that “It’s all about the down” rings a bit hollow now…

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