RUTLAND, Vt. -- Vermont State Police say they are looking to crack down on skiers who recklessly go off resort trails and become lost, prompting full-scale searches. Four Pennsylvania men who skied out of bounds last month at Killington and spent a cold night in the woods may be the first this season to get a bill.
More than three dozen rescue workers took part in the effort to rescue the men, which also involved a Vermont National Guard helicopter. The other rescue this ski season occurred Jan. 10 when a Virginia man skied off a closed trail at Killington.
"We do believe that we have to take a much more aggressive approach on these to get the message out that this kind of behavior is putting other folks' lives in danger in order to go find these folks," said Major James Baker, who oversees the State Police search-and-rescue team.
"I'm almost sure we're going to bill for the four individuals who skied out of bounds," Baker said.
Baker said he was reserving comment on whether State Police would charge for the Jan. 10 rescue until he reviewed more information.
He said a typical search and rescue for a lost skier may cost $5,000 to $7,000 in personnel expenses.
Vermont law states that a lost person who skis out of bounds is responsible for costs of a search and rescue. Typically, people who recklessly ski out of bounds are billed. Others who simply get lost by accident are not.
At a legislative hearing last year it was reported that most ski areas have policies on charging for rescues for out-of-bounds skiers, but they collect in only 20 or 30 percent of the cases.
Ski resort officials said skiing out of bounds is not an easy mistake to make.
At Killington, for example, many signs are posted along the trail, warning skiers against going out bounds, and trail maps talk about the danger of off-trail skiing.
"We can't keep all people from crossing and going into backcountry areas," said Tom Horrocks, a Killington spokesman.
"We have charged for rescues in the past, but for the past couple of years the Vermont State Police have taken control of them."
Neil Van Dyke, director of the volunteer Stowe Hazardous Terrain Evacuation Team, said his organization has concerns about billing for backcountry rescues.
"Our concern is that we don't want the ability to pay to become a concern for people who are in trouble in the backcountry," said Van Dyke, whose organization took part in the rescue of the four Pennsylvania skiers.