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Rossland search & rescue teams kept busy with out-of-bounds adventurers

A Search and Rescue helicopter delivered two lost skiers to the Red Mountain parking lot on Friday morning. - Guy Bertrand
A Search and Rescue helicopter delivered two lost skiers to the Red Mountain parking lot on Friday morning.
— image credit: Guy Bertrand

A new chairlift on Grey Mountain brought new opportunity for misadventure at Red Mountain Resort last week after two American boy scouts skied out-of-bounds and spent a cold night in the back country Thursday night.

This was the second incident on Grey since the lift first opened to the public Dec. 20.

The first, was a group of 10 skiers from Washington who were lost on the back side of the mountain after slipping under the ropes Dec. 29.

“Both parties went by the ropes and ski area boundary signage and were totally out of bounds,” Don Thompson, vice president of operations and development at the resort, told the Trail Times Friday. “Today (Friday) our first priority was to find these young men and the file will be turned over to the RCMP.”

Other than cold feet, no injuries were reported on either occasion and all the skiers were airlifted to safety after Rossland Search and Rescue (SAR) deployed its team of skiers and snowmobiles to track and ultimately locate the missing.

“We had good results,” said Graham Jones, SAR director. “It can't get any better than bringing everyone home safe and sound,” he continued. “And our personnel is a little tired but otherwise in great shape.”

In the aftermath of the successful rescues, comes the paperwork that Rossland SAR must submit to the province to cover expenses the volunteer organization incurred while searching for the skiers.

“I put in expense accounts for what occurred here such as fuel and damaged or lost equipment,” said Jones. “That's as far as we go,” he explained. “Fortunately for all of us in this country, people who are rescued do not have to pay for the service unless it is something specific.”

Most SAR teams in the province are opposed to charging for searches, citing the potential cost might delay calls for assistance, a position Jones agrees with.

“It’s been in discussion for quite awhile whether people should be held financially responsible,”  he said. “Especially if they intentionally go out of bounds and put our members at risk as well,” continued Jones.

“Our perspective is that we take all precautions to bring our (SAR) people home in a safe manner as much as we want to bring those we are rescuing home.”

During both recoveries, a helicopter was summoned from Castlegar at $1,000 per hour.

The chopper costs are covered by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), located in Victoria, under the Emergency Management BC (EMBC) program.

The province reimburses recognized ground SAR groups directly and there are no restrictions who receives the life safety resources and the MOJ does not seek reimbursement.

However, missing or injured persons can and have been charged by ski hill operators to try to recover costs for ski hill resources that have been used in the search and rescue, according to a MOJ spokesperson.

The 16-year-old boy scouts from Pullman, Wash., were reported overdue Jan. 2 at 5:15 p.m. after they failed to meet with the rest of the 35-member troop, said Jones.

SAR was on the mountain at 7 p.m. but due to weather and terrain, called off the search at 10:30 p.m. and reconvened Friday morning.

“Part of their boy scout training would have told them to stay put, get comfortable and wait for daylight or in this case, assistance,” explained Jones. “After a little rest we were back at 7 a.m. and located them a few hours later.”

The teenagers were in good spirits and airlifted to the base of Red by 11 a.m. Friday, checked by paramedics, then reunited with their chaperones and troop.

Earlier in the week, two families with children ranging from ages six to 18 were extricated off the back side of Grey Mountain after skiing out of bounds and becoming disoriented around 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Rossland SAR was alerted to the overdue skiers at 5:30 p.m. that evening after an initial investigation by the Trail RCMP detachment determined the skiers were missing.

By midnight, the eight-member rescue team located the skiers after following a number of tracks veering off the course.

The following morning, the chopper was deployed to airlift the families and SAR team, four at a time,  to the base of Red.

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