Out-of-bounds skiers may face arrest
While snowboarders and skiers at El Dorado County resorts have been making headlines the last few weeks for deliberately venturing into closed areas, exhausting search and rescue resources and winding up in jail, resorts and law enforcement on the North Shore are reporting a fairly uneventful season so far.
“It hasn’t been too much of a problem around here,” said Cpl. Dave Lade of the Nevada County Sheriff’s office. “I, myself, have never cited anyone for such an offense like that, nor do I think anyone in my office has.”
However, should the situation arise when a person intentionally skis or boards into off-limits terrain at Boreal, Soda Springs, or any other resort under Lade’s jurisdiction, he said he would have absolutely no problem writing the offender a citation.
“It really can affect a lot of people when [boarders and skiers] pull bonehead maneuvers like this,” Lade said. “If a search and rescue is required, it eats up a lot of money and resources, not to mention puts other people’s lives in danger. If a search goes on long enough, they’ll even call in people from other counties to help, using resources from up and down the state.”
If the person happens to be from another county, their county of residency is actually expected to foot the bill.
A group of missing snowboarders was arrested Friday after deliberately entering a closed, avalanche-prone area at Heavenly Ski resort. On Dec. 22, three missing snowboarders were arrested after being found in a closed, avalanche-prone area at the nearby Sierra-at-Tahoe resort.
Although incidents of such negligence are more frequent at the larger resorts in Placer County, Lt. Keith Shannon of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said he receives less than one call a week from resorts claiming to have apprehended someone in a closed area.
“Most of the time, people get themselves into trouble because they are unfamiliar with the area or are inexperienced. A lot of the time people end up in closed areas accidentally, and rarely are people cited,” Shannon said.
A little over two weeks ago, a San Francisco skier was safely rescued after spending the night on the backside of Squaw Valley USA. The man claimed he had no idea he was skiing out of bounds due to poor visibility and ended up nearly three and a half miles from the Squaw Valley Ski area boundary. The man was not issued a citation.
Only if someone refuses or is unable to provide identification are they taken into custody.
“We’re not looking to populate the jail with people who like to ski,” Shannon said.
Toby Baird, public relations manager for Northstar-at-Tahoe, said the resorts aren’t out to prosecute people either.
“We’re not trying to catch people, but if people intentionally ignore boundary signs and then need to be rescued, they are breaking the law and the sheriff’s department will deal with them in the manner that it feels is appropriate,” Baird said.
Things are a little different at resorts like Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl, which are located on federally owned land and face mandatory “open-boundary” requirements. If an area is closed at one of these resorts, it is due to safety reasons such as avalanche-prone terrain, and people caught in these areas are subject to penalization at the resort’s discretion.
“All we can really ask is that people be smart and that they are educated somewhat in wilderness survival,” said Bill Hudson, sales manager for Sugar Bowl.
Hudson said he believes if people are breaking the law and costing taxpayers money, then they should be held liable.
“The publicity from these incidents could be a positive thing because it might make people think before they do something like this or at least realize the dangers involved,” he said.
Shannon said skiers and boarders need to stick with familiar territory and heed warnings.
“While it’s technically not illegal to ski ‘out-of-bounds’ in the wilderness, it is illegal to ski in deliberately ‘closed’ areas. Those signs are really for your own safety,” Shannon said. “When looking at the fact that you could lose your life, it’s hardly a consequence if can’t ski on one small part of the mountain.”