Missing skiers rescued

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(Host) A total of 9 skiers went missing at the Killington ski resort this weekend before being rescued by ski patrol. The skiers, who were in three separate groups, all went off the trail in the same area of the resort. While no one was hurt ski area officials say tracking down skiers who venture out of bounds is a serious and costly problem.

VPR’s Nina Keck reports:

(Keck) Just about every day – weather permitting, back country ski enthusiasts head off the trails at area ski resorts to enjoy fresh powder or untracked terrain. Killington spokesman Tom Horrocks understands the appeal, but says unfortunately, many of the people who do this are not prepared for the consequences.

(Horrocks) “And when it’s snowing outside – especially the snow we received here at Killington the last few days – we’ve gotten almost 3 feet of snow. – if the tracks are there and you can see them, it’s obviously going to be much easier to follow them. And a lot of times people go out when it’s snowing. They follow the tracks of a more experienced skier who knows where they’re going. And all of a sudden those tracks are buried by the new snow and you have no idea where you’re going and that’s a recipe for disaster.”

(Keck) Horrocks says rescue efforts can be dangerous and costly. Setting up a state police command post, bringing in search and rescue personnel – many of whom are working overtime can add up to thousands of dollars. Horrocks says the ones who get rescued also get the bill. He says before anyone leaves a ski area’s boundaries they need to carefully consider the risks.

(Horrocks) “If you’re going to leave the boundary, you need to have the backcountry knowledge and survival skills associated with that. You also need to have the tools in case you do get lost in the back country. And the third thing is you need an exit plan.”

(Keck) Having a cell phone doesn’t hurt either, says Horrocks. He jokes that unlike many parts of Vermont’s back country, a cell phone tower on the top of nearby Pico Mountain provides skiers at Killington with excellent reception.

For VPR News I’m Nina Keck.

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