Vermont’s Plague of Lost Skiers

Here in Vermont, where ski areas are having a killer year because of all the snow we’ve been getting, some clueless skiers have almost been getting killed.

There’s a rash of people skiing out of bounds and getting lost.

In this image from Vermont's Bolton Valley Resort, a skier crashes through trees. This was on an established slope at Bolton. Other skiers go out of bounds at resorts and get lost. Not to mention cold.

According to today’s Burlington Free Press, seven skiers in just the past couple of days have gotten  lost in the woods, just near one resort, Killington, of course

At least 14 skiers have gotten lost in Vermont this winter.

The trouble stems from the popularity of backwoods tree skiing. This is when people ski or snowboard through thick woods, narrowly avoiding trees, rocks, gullies and whatever else is in the way.

Everybody’s looking for a thrill, I guess.

Many ski areas, most notably Jay Peak, offer tree skiing. And some parts of Vermont, like Underhill State Park on the western slopes of Mount Mansfield, are popular with tree skiers.

But that’s not enough for some people.  So they cross ropes that say “Do Not Cross” and head off into the woods, instead of the established ski trails at ski resorts in Vermont and elsewhere.

Many of these people, and they’re usually young men, get in over their heads, get lost, and have to be rescued.

Now that everybody has cell phones, the thought seems to be: “Just call 911 and they’ll get me.”  But good luck finding any of these kids in the dark. And cell phone batteries die. Plus, cell phone coverage is beyond bad up in the mountains.

So these people get to spend subzero, dark nights in waist deep snow, waiting to be rescued. Sounds like a fun night out, no? Maybe we should just leave them there and really teach them a lesson.

This also has to be pain in the butt for rescue crews, who I’m sure also don’t want to spend subzero nights waist deep in snow in the middle of nowhere.

So far, nobody has died alone in the dark and the cold up in the Vermont mountains this winter. Good, because that wouldn’t exactly  be a cheerful way to go, would it?

I wonder how much it costs to find these people? I wonder how many people have to pay a fee for being found?

Me, I like winter sports. I snowshoe sometimes, and like heading off into the woods. But take it from me, go on established trails, where there are other people. And let people know where you’re going.

Because given a choice between spending a 20 below zero night warm and dry watching “American Idol” in my living room, or freezing to death on some dark, cold mountain, I’ll think I’ll put up with “American Idol.” Even if the singing is atrocious.

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