For the week of February 17, 1999  thru February 23, 1999  

Know before you duck Baldy’s ropes

Ski at your own risk

Express Staff Writer

Ducking ski-area boundaries to enter the backside or out-of-bounds terrain off Bald Mountain is potentially dangerous and should be attempted only by those who are knowledgeable and prepared for high risk of avalanches.

"When you duck under a ski area boundary rope, you are entering a different world with respect to snow stability and rescue possibilities," the Ketchum Ranger District and Sun Valley Company stated in a recent press release.

"Lift-serviced, out-of-bounds skiing can give skiers a false sense of security, with many folks equating these slopes to slopes within the ski area, which are controlled for avalanche safety through a variety of means," said Sun Valley’s Ski Patrol director Bruce Malone.

While avalanche awareness and skill levels have risen steadily in the past few years among avid area backcountry enthusiasts, officials are reminding skiers that skiing out of bounds on Bald Mountain is no different than embarking on a backcountry ski tour from Galena Summit.

Skiers ducking under the ropes should be prepared to assess their chosen slope’s snow stability, as well as have the skills to enact their own rescue and evacuation if necessary, Malone said.

"The out-of-bounds skiing on Bald Mountain can be incredible, and we’re not trying to suggest that folks don’t head out to enjoy it," Ketchum District snow ranger David Gordon said.

At a minimum, anyone skiing out of bounds should be wearing an avalanche transceiver and be carrying a probe pole and shovel, the press release states. Knowledge of how to use those items is essential if any members of the party are caught in an avalanche.

The Sun Valley Ski Patrol, though almost always called on when an out-of-bounds rescue is needed, is not required to respond.

According to Malone, "when the patrol operates in the backcountry, it does so under the authorization of the Blaine County Sheriff’s Department."

Malone also noted that Sun Valley Company will bill the rescued individual for the patrol’s efforts in an out-of-bounds rescue.

"That charge is based on manpower and equipment used in the rescue, as well as costs associated with any avalanche control work that might be necessary to ensure the safety of the evacuation site," Malone said.

Skiers planning to head out of bounds should have a good idea of the snow stability before they duck under the ropes.

The Sun Valley Avalanche Center offers daily morning advisories.

Both Malone and Gordon also emphasized the difference between skiing out of bounds and skiing in roped closures located within the ski-area permit boundary.

"Skiing behind closure ropes within the ski area is against the law in Blaine County," Malone said. "In the interest of public safety, it cannot be tolerated."


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