Regarding cost, yes thats true. We need to make it a widely known that the ten essentials are, uh, essential. I mean I guess the ten essentials arent that expensive, but it would be excellent if the kind of people who get rescued by SAR thought before they left "I better not go, i don't have all the ten essentials yet."
About training, the public perception is that you need no training to go on a hike. SAR groups are doing a good job of getting rid of that notion, but i guess there's only so much they can do. We the community should help change the public perception to that you do actually do need to know what you're doing when you go into the backcountry. Specifically, anyone attempting a hike should know map and compass navigation, basic overnight survival skills (staying warm and dry, treatment for hypothermia/wilderness first aid) and decision making skills. Personally I learned these skills firstly in Scouts then more as an adult in the army as a paratrooper, then even more in professional guide training. Obviously I dont expect everyone heading up Elk to be a former paratrooper and professional guide, so how do you all think the masses should be educated? Outdoors shops offering basic wilderness courses would be a good idea, but I think maybe most of these complacent people would think "I don't need to spend money on that, I can walk in the woods no problem." It'll be tough to convince people they need training.
People rescued within shouting distance of Grant Narrows parking lot. Map and compass, basic paddling skills and hypothermia prevention and treatment would have resulted in SAR not being called out. Also, people lost in a regional park with obvious wide trails everywhere. Basic navigation training needed.
People lost due to snow. If they knew what they were doing they would have known there was snow at that elevation.
Disclaimer for this is I'm not in SAR and don't know the exact details. But I think that most people are themselves to blame for the trouble they are in.
All in all for this, hiking should not be looked on as a low-barrier, easy entry activity. You need the right training and equipment. I don't know how we can spread this though.
For snowshoeing, i can provide personal insight. Last year I was the snowshoe guide at a local ski resort. Granted, we didnt have enough snow to actually do anything. But I agree with the idea that ski tourers and backcountry skiers are definitely more experienced and competent than snowshoers. I guess it's because skiers go more places than snowshoers. No one snowshoes the garibaldi neve. Also, ive noticed that people who do an activity for the sake of an activity are generally more competent. Backcountry skiers are in search of mad pow, snowshoers are in search of nice photos for facebook. Less rescues on Slesse than eagle ridge because climbers are looking for awesome rock, and hikers on eagle ridge just want to walk their dogs.