Q: In cases like the snowboarder who had to be rescued after he skied out of bounds at the Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort, is he charged for the cost of the CHP helicopter and those who risked their lives to rescue him?
A: Officer Matt Causie, a paramedic with the California Highway Patrol’s Valley Division Air Operations, said some counties may charge for search and rescue operations, but the CHP does not bill the people it rescues.
The Valley Division Air Operations’ two helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft are based in Auburn and serve a 13-county area. They often are called upon to assist with searches and rescues in rural counties, as well as medical emergencies in which a ground ambulance can’t provide timely transportation.
“We get snowboarders and skiers in the winter, hunters in the fall, and hikers and mountain bikers in the spring and summer,” Causie said.
The CHP’s air operations, he said, are funded by motor vehicle fees and are intended to provide blanket coverage for counties that might not have their own air resources.
In the case of the snowboarder, a 32-year-old man from Los Angeles who went missing Feb. 21 after skiing out of bounds in the Heavenly Mountain area, Causie said, the CHP helicopter was called to assist El Dorado County search and rescue personnel.
The man was found in steep terrain. The helicopter crew lowered a search and rescue team member next to the victim to place him in a harness. He was then hoisted up to the helicopter and flown to the command post, where he was transferred to a ground ambulance and transported to a hospital.