New Wrinkle in the skiing out of bound’s odyssey. Douglas County Nevada law prohibits it, even though US Forest Service says it is not illegal.

Man skiing out of bounds, missing & SAR goes looking for him. When he shows up, he is issued a ticket for violating an out of bounds skiing law in Douglas County, Nevada.

A skier a Tahoe NV resident, ducked a rope at Heavenly Ski Resort and ski out of bounds. When he did not come back after two hours, and the resort had closed his friends called the sheriff’s office.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s office and Douglas County Search and Rescue (SAR) team started a search. Four hours later, the missing skier contacted the sheriff’s office and notified them he was OK.

Soon thereafter, the sheriff’s office met the individual and issued him a ticket for skiing out of bounds. Bail was $640.00.

Nevada has a Skier Responsibility Code, which specifically allows counties to enact their own codes if they do not conflict with the Nevada state skier responsibility code. Consequently, Douglas County has added to the responsibilities with its code, which affects Heavenly.

(How the civil requirements and prohibitions are applied from a criminal code is confusing.)

The main difference between the state statute and the county ordinance is the skiing out of bound’s section.

9.08.030 Skier duties

11. A skier, having used a ski lift or surface lift of a ski area, must no ski under a manmade barrier that is designed to prohibit a skier from entering a closed portion of the ski area or from leaving any part of the ski area. For the purpose of this section, a barrier may be designated by roping off an area. Any skier that violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor.

In this case, based on the facts from various articles, the skier probably should have been fined ducking a rope by himself and disappearing for four hours.

However, several other news stories reported the US Forest Service side of the story which says skiing on US Forest Service land is not illegal. See the article in the local paper, The Record Courier: Skiing out of bounds is not a crime. It is a fairly well written article.

The article states that three people needed rescued after exiting through ski area gates.

Every ski area concessionaire’s contract I’ve seen requires at least one gate allowing access from the ski area to US Forest Service land. Consequently, the ski area cannot say the person violated any of their rules about ducking a rope or going out of bounds because it is required.

At the same time, it is legal to be on US Forest Service land unless the US Forest Service closes the land. So far, the US Forest Service only closes land to certain types of vehicles or for the land to recover. No winter closures have ever occurred to my knowledge.

California does have a statute that allows law enforcement to close land based on Avalanche risk. However, the actual authority to close US Forest Service land vests only with the US Forest Service. Here is the California Statute:

§ 409.6.  Power of peace officers to close area after avalanche; Unauthorized entry

(a) Whenever a menace to the public health or safety is created by an avalanche, officers of the Department of the California Highway Patrol, police departments, or sheriff’s offices, any officer or employee of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection designated a peace officer by subdivision (g) of Section 830.2, and any officer or employee of the Department of Parks and Recreation designated a peace officer by subdivision (f) of Section 830.2, may close the area where the menace exists for the duration thereof by means of ropes, markers, or guards to any and all persons not authorized by that officer to enter or remain within the closed area.

If an avalanche creates an immediate menace to the public health, the local health officer may close the area where the menace exists pursuant to the conditions which are set forth above in this section.

(b) Officers of the Department of the California Highway Patrol, police departments, or sheriff’s offices, or officers of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection designated as peace officers by subdivision (g) of Section 830.2, may close the immediate area surrounding any emergency field command post or any other command post activated for the purpose of abating hazardous conditions created by an avalanche to any and all unauthorized persons pursuant to the conditions which are set forth in this section whether or not that field command post or other command post is located near the avalanche.

(c) Any unauthorized person who willfully and knowingly enters an area closed pursuant to subdivision (a) or (b) and who willfully remains within that area, or any unauthorized person who willfully remains within an area closed pursuant to subdivision (a) or (b), after receiving notice to evacuate or leave from a peace officer named in subdivision (a) or (b), shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. If necessary, a peace officer named in subdivision (a) or (b) may use reasonable force to remove from the closed area any unauthorized person who willfully remains within that area after receiving notice to evacuate or leave.

(d) Nothing in this section shall prevent a duly authorized representative of any news service, newspaper, or radio or television station or network from entering the areas closed pursuant to this section.

So if you are not in California where the land was allegedly was closed, and you duck a rope to ski US Forest Service land can you be criminally charged? Yes. However, only if a specific set of facts have occurred, and this can probably never happen.

If the ski area boundary rope is on the boundary of the concessionaire’s permit with the US Forest Service then ducking the rope is not illegal. You can legally gain access to the US Forest Service land. However, the boundary rope must be on the US Forest Service land or right on the border.

However, ski areas do not place their boundary ropes on the US Forest Service land. The boundary ropes are always offset from the boundary. If you duck a rope and enter closed ski area land, then you have committed two crimes under most state statutes.

You have ducked a rope, and you have trespassed onto closed land.

More importantly don’t be an idiot. You ski or board out of bounds, that triggers a search for your butt; I hope they do find you and fine you. The hard-working VOLUNTEER men and women of county Search and Rescue units have enough idiots to find every year. Don’t add your name to their list.

See Tahoe man cited for skiing out of bounds

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