Search and rescues for skiers and riders allured by the backcountry has been on the rise in the Northeast this season, with an abundance of snowfall that has drawn them to cross ski area boundaries, even without proper knowledge of their location or protocol. According to Vermont’s WCAX, Vermont State Police have claimed up to 45 rescues in the last two weeks alone, a number possibly that high thanks to crowded slopes during school vacation week.
“That’s the big issue,” Bolton Valley ski patroller Quinn Keating told WCAX. “Leaving the ski area boundary unprepared and unaware of where you’re going, without a backpack with supplies or friends with you is not backcountry skiing that irresponsible skiing.”
Here’s the kicker though. While the state of New Hampshire has been more vigilant in seeking compensation from such irresponsible skiers and riders for draining state resources, Vermont has been reluctant to charge skiers and riders despite a law on the books that allows them to do so. The theory is that the thought of having to pay for a rescue may deter a lost skier from contacting patrol in the event of an emergency.
“If there’s a concern in the back of their mind that there might be a big bill waiting for them at the end of the day, that can be a disincentive for people to call for help when they really need it and that can ultimately cause worse outcomes both for the people who are lost and makes our jobs more difficult as well,” Neil Van Dyke of Stowe Mountain Rescue told the station.
But with the numbers rising, there may have to be a different approach by the state. One search for a Bolton skier who got lost out of bounds last week took 35 searchers, including six state police. If the risks don’t come without some sort of liability, such incidents are only going to increase.