As tempting as it may be for Northeast powder hounds to venture off into the backcountry in the wake of several large snowstorms, public safety officials are warning skiers and snowboarders of the dangers of heading out of bounds. Nine Vermont skiers went missing and had to be rescued over the past two weeks alone.
The Vermont Department of Public Safety has warned that skiers and snowboarders without proper backcountry experience put not only themselves in danger but also search and rescue crews. A skier got separated from friends on Wednesday and was found six hours later, just before midnight, according to the AP. He was found waist deep in snow, suffering from hypothermia and dehydration, a half-mile from Mount Snow resort. The department had to roll out a 40-man rescue crew, snowmobiles, and a helicopter.
On February 1, two skiers went off the backside of Killington and had to be escorted out by ski patrol on snowshoes. And on February 10, two cross-country skiers at Prospect Mountain took a shortcut and got lost. They took shelter in a cabin, but the deep snow made it difficult for rescuers to reach them.
“[Off-trail skiing] becomes a problem, particularly with the snow as deep as it is now,” Neil Van Dyke, the department’s search and rescue coordinator, told the AP. He said many people aren’t fully prepared for a trip out of bounds. Backcountry skiers and snowboarders need to know where they’re going and carry a map, compass, extra layers of clothing, headlamp, and water. Some common mistakes Van Dyke sees are people heading out alone without a cellphone and crossing the rope on their last run of the day when they’re at greater risk of getting lost in the dark. “If you’re going to have a backcountry adventure, the idea is you start early in the day when you have plenty of daylight,” he told the AP.