Busted:Rescued backcountry riders get the shaft

California backcountry riders take note: the Los Angeles Times Valley Edition recently reported thattwo snowboarders were ordered to pay 7,000 dollars in restitution and were sentenced to two years’probation after they rode out-of-bounds at the Snow Crest Ski Area in the San Gabriel Mountains anddisappeared, touching off a massive rescue effort.

The two men-Claudio Maluje and Patrick Jenks-werelocated after more than 24 hours by a team that included about 65 volunteers and fire-departmentsearchers, not to mention a helicopter. Prosecutors argued the snowboarders should pick up the entire23,000-dollar tab for the rescue effort before the judge settled on his ruling. The snowboarders deniedthey purposely left the resort, blaming foul weather and poor signage for leading them astray, but a juryconvicted the pair this summer. “The lesson of this incident is, whenever people’s lives are being placedin jeopardy by your own intentional, illegal acts, it’s not going to be a free ride,” stated Deputy DistrictAttorney Bruce Warner in the Times article. “They are not criminals. But we couldn’t allow this to gounpunished.

The taxpayers of the county deserved to be recompensed.” Snowboarders are findingthemselves unintentionally aligned with hikers, rock and ice climbers, and other mountaineers in a fight toestablish fair and effective standards for dealing with the expense of backcountry rescues; rulings like thisone are setting precedents that may have a legal and financial impact on backcountry riders not only inCalifornia, but in the entire country.-E.M.