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The cost of a search and rescue mission for a ski resort - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The cost of a search and rescue mission for a ski resort

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"It was really tragic. This was a young 22-year-old man that really didn't do anything wrong," says Neil Van Dyke, a search and rescue coordinator for The Department of Public Safety.

Van Dyke was part of the search party for Brett Cohen, a UVM student found dead on Stowe Mountain. Van Dyke says Cohen was doing everything right, but officials say this is not always the case. They say many skiers and snowboarders get lost when they go out of bounds or venture into areas they aren't familiar with. It happened recently at Bolton Valley.

"Our own crew was able to find them and get them out but while that was happening, Stowe mountain rescue, Colchester Technical Rescue and the state were getting all their people here, coming from Chittenden County to help make this rescue," said George Potter, the president of Bolton Valley. "So one person lost can effect a large number of people."

Potter says all that manpower can cost a lot of money, which the resort usually pays for.

"We have not charged anyone to date. That said, if this was to continue, we would have to. The problem with not charging people is that they don't take it as seriously as they should," Potter said.

While each situation is different, Potter shared with us the potential cost of a search for a mountain:

  • Large snow grooming machine -- $165/hour
  • Small snow grooming machine -- $85/hour
  • Snowmobile -- $45/hour
  • Individual rescue personnel -- $30/hour

For perspective, one hour of one person on a snowmobile can cost more than a ski lift pass at Bolton for the day.

Keith Chase, who works for Bolton Valley and was the ski patrol director for 25 years, says while the resort does eat the cost, it is never their main priority.

"If somebody's life is at risk, money doesn't matter at that point," says Chase.

Jay Peak officials tell WCAX News they have already charged two lost skiers this season, about $1,000 apiece. But that only covered 75 percent of the total rescue costs.

When the state gets involved, their costs for search and rescue is built into their yearly budget. They say over the last three years, Vermont State Police overtime costs for search and rescue average just over $51,000.

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