Following incidents of lost skiers at a number of Vermont ski areas in recent weeks, on Friday, Feb. 13, the Vermont State Police and Department of Public Safety issued a public reminder to skiers and riders about the dangers of skiing/riding out-of-bounds, especially during a period of extreme cold.
With a recent three- to four-foot accumulation of new snow, off-trail skiing conditions are attractive to some skiers/riders. However, at most ski areas, venturing off-trail is discouraged, for safety reasons. Not only can a skier become lost and trapped by going off-trail, but search and rescue teams can also face dangers during the search for a lost skier.
Recent temperatures in Vermont have reached well below zero with severe wind chills. The danger associated with departing from marked trails during periods of harsh cold like these is extreme, and should be strongly considered by anyone thinking of skiing/riding off-trail this weekend or any time.
Police have reported 12 separate incidents of lost skiers for the 2014-15 ski season as of Friday, Feb. 13, six of which have occurred since Feb. 1.
Feb. 1 —Killington: two skiers became lost after skiing off the back side. Ski patrol snowshoed in to escort them out.
Feb. 3 — Bolton: a backcountry skier had a problem with his binding and called 911 for assistance, as he was having trouble moving due to very deep snow.
Feb. 7 — Weston: two cross-country skiers left a marked trail and got lost.
Feb. 9 — Killington: lost skier directed of woods by ski patrol via cell phone.
Feb. 10 — Woodford: two cross-country skiers at Prospect Mountain tried to take a shortcut, got mired in deep snow, one broke their ski binding. Found shelter in a cabin. Rescuers had a very difficult time reaching them due to deep snow.
Feb. 11 — Mt. Snow: a skier got lost in a gladed area, ended up stuck in waist-deep snow and could not move any further. The individual was hypothermic when located.
Suggestions for skiers/riders to consider:
If you’re planning to leave the trail, start early in the day. Allow plenty of time for your adventure.
Watch the weather. Temperatures are predicted to be extremely cold over the next several days, with wind chills in the minus 20 to minus 40 range at times. Some outdoor events this past weekend had to be cancelled due to safety concerns with cold temperatures.
Do not ski off-trail unless: you are familiar with the area, have a map and compass, and have the appropriate clothing, food, water and equipment for the weather and environment, including extra layers of warm clothes, headlamp, first aid kit, whistle.
Never ski alone.
Deep snow, while great for skiing on slopes and groomed trails, has made it very difficult to travel through remote terrain, and challenging for rescuers to operate as well. Several skiers have ended up abandoning their skis and trying to walk through deep snow.