Patrollers track out-of-bounds ‘poachers’


News staff writer

April 5

Brandon Backman had just returned to his Hood River home from 10 hours of ski patrolling at Mt. Hood Meadows Saturday evening when his cell phone began ringing. It was the assistant director of ski patrol Mel Toney.

“Brandon,” she said. “Someone is indeed stuck in White River Canyon. When can you get back up here?”

Backman grabbed a burger and two other patrollers at the Trillium Cafe, then raced back up the mountain to join four other patrollers in what would become a six-hour search for a 20-year-old snowboarder who had ducked beneath Meadows' southern boundary ropes and ridden into White River Canyon.

They found him at 11:50 p.m. as he was building himself shelter for the long, cold night in front of him.

“He was cold, wet and tired,” said Ryan Forbes, Meadows ski patrol director. “He made a mistake. He had no idea where he was.”

Patrollers had escorted him out of the forest by 2:05 a.m. (daylight savings time). They finished their paperwork by 4 a.m., just three hours from the beginning of their next shift and just eight hours from their second White River Canyon rescue of the weekend.

That victim was a 14-year-old snowboarder who had contacted Meadows ski patrol by cell phone from White River Canyon.

These represent two most serious incidents this week in which ski patrollers have cited or warned skiers and snowboarders – they call them poachers – who have ducked the ropes and headed out of bounds after riding the ski area’s chairlifts.

Most poachers last week dropped into White River Canyon to the south, which is always illegal; or they dropped into Heather Canyon to the north, which is sometimes illegal.

Many were young males. But some were older.

In all, Forbes estimates he and his patrollers have cited or warned at least 25 skiers or snowboarders this week alone for disregarding the ropes in pursuit of powder.

“It started when we started getting good snow,” Forbes said. “People do not understand the risk they are taking with avalanche hazard, with creeks and rivers that are open. They really don't have a clue. Hardly any of these folks have equipment for the backcountry or the knowledge to be there.”

Earlier this week, Forbes said two people dragged themselves out of Heather Canyon in a state of hypothermia.

“We are ramping up with a zero tolerance for this,” Forbes said. “We are not tolerating people blatantly disregarding the rules.”

Meadows can charge a minimum $1,000 fine anytime it has to send patrollers on an out-of-bounds rescue. Hood River County can add another $500 penalty for a violation of county ordinance 140, which bans using chairlifts to access the backcountry. Forbes said Meadows will cite the two rescuees, but did not disclose the amount.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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