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Warning Announcements Aimed at Wayward Skiers

Local radio listeners can expect to hear messages about the dangers of skiing out of bounds, but it’s unclear if the message will reach those who need to hear it.

This winter, Vermont State Police have responded to 48 “lost” skiers, with the skiers becoming lost after deliberately leaving the trail. The subsequent rescue efforts have been a drain on state police resources — costing the department 47 officer hours — and on taxpayers’ wallets.

Last week, officials from the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Tourism and Marketing, the Vermont Ski Areas Association and Killington Resort held a conference call to discuss solutions to a dangerous, expensive and preventable problem.

Out of that meeting came the idea to record a public service announcement, recorded by the Department of Public Safety, to air on radio stations around the state. The PSAs will stress preparation more than penalties, said Capt. Don Evans, assistant field commander with the state police.

“People are going to do this (ski out of bounds) and all we can do is tell them, ‘If you’re going to do this, this is how you do it safely,’ ” Evans said.

The radio message could be paired with displays at the ski areas of the gear needed for back-country skiing, Evans said, which is a different sport from riding groomed trails and requires items such a shovel, food and water.

“The question is, how do we reach the reckless youth who keep going out of bounds and need rescuing?” asked Parker Riehle, VSAA president, who was optimistic the message will reach those who need to hear it.

Nearly everyone who has needed rescuing this winter has been young, from out of state and riding on a day pass. Whether that demographic will be listening to local radio stations prior to hitting the slopes remains unclear.

“It’s another tool in the box to help promote safety,” Riehle said.

With 46 of the 48 lost skiers, nearly all of the rescue calls have come from visitors from Killington and Pico. It remains unclear what efforts those ski areas are making to keep their guests safe and on the trail.

Officials at Killington Resort could not be reached for comment.

josh.ogorman@rutlandherald.com