With deep, fresh snowfall across ski country creating jingling cash registers and grinning winter enthusiasts, a serious problem has increased with the crowds, lost skiers and riders.
Last Sunday, the Vermont State Police and other rescue professionals spent a long day rounding up 10 skiers between the ages of 17 and 30 who were reported lost after skiing or riding out of bounds from the Killington and Pico resorts.
Police said all the skiers and riders were rescued.
But those 10 were the tip of the iceberg. Vermont State Police say that in the last two weeks, they’ve reported up to 45 lost skiers and riders, the highest number in recent memory for such a short period.
Officials say the deep powder and generally fair weather has lured skiers and riders off groomed trails and into the woods, where in a surprisingly short time, they’ve become lost.
At Bolton, Vt., last week, after the rescues of some guests, skier Matt MacDonald admitted to WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vt., “Sometimes you see some of the fresh powder and it’s just too hard not to go out there.”
Rescuers say all lost skiers this season have been found and returned without incident. Many attribute this to fair weather, cellphones and GPS devices, and the number of experienced rescue volunteers.
Some areas have billed individuals for rescues. Though a state law allows for billing for such rescues, Vermont State Police is reluctant to enforce it.
“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,” Stowe Mountain rescuer Neil Van Dyke said, “it can be a disincentive for people to call for help when they really need it, and ultimately cause worse outcomes both for people who are lost, and makes our jobs more difficult as well.”
Vonn set to return
Lindsey Vonn is set to return to World Cup downhill training in St. Anton, Austria on Thursday after an absence of more than three weeks because of an intestinal illness.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.