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Cool reception for out-of-bounds skiing bill in hearing - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Cool reception for out-of-bounds skiing bill in Vt. legislative hearing

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

It started in December-- the rescues came one after another. Fifteen in all, involving more than 50 skiers and riders who left a resort and got lost out of bounds. The epicenter was Killington and Pico-- what some call a "topographically challenged" area and easy for inexperienced skiers and riders to get bogged down.

"The comments I've heard from people about this-- it's the taxpayers' dollars that are being spent for this and they're kind of outraged," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

From criminal charges to imposing fines up to $500, Sears' Judiciary Committee is weighing the best course of action to deal with scofflaw skiers.

"I don't think people are not going out of bounds because they're afraid they're going to get charged for the recovery. I think they're going out of bounds because it's fun," Sears said.

While ski areas have in the past occasionally billed individuals for their rescue, Vermont State Police and other agencies continue to be adamantly against it despite having a law on the books for 20 years that allows them to do so.

Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn: If we start imposing criminal sanctions or significant fines then people will stop and think twice before calling in and that's completely opposite of what we want to get the message through.

Sen. Dick Sears: Basically you believe the bill is unnecessary.

Keith Flynn: We do.

Ski industry officials also agree the bill is unnecessary and would also inhibit backcountry users-- one of the fastest growing segments in the industry. A proposal to have skiers purchase annual rescue cards-- something done in Colorado-- was also quickly dismissed as unmanageable. For lawmakers, the consensus for now may be to take an approach used in neighboring New Hampshire and in Oregon where collection of fines is based on a standard of recklessness or negligence, something the Vermont statute does not have.

The bill does not appear to have legs this year. Public Safety officials say that since an aggressive public information campaign started at the beginning of the year, there's been only one rescue.

Related Stories:

Rescued out-of-bounds skiers could face fines under Vt. bill

PSAs aim to educate out-of-bounds skiers

What lures skiers out of bounds?

Vt. backcountry rescuers swamped with calls for lost skiers

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