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Skiing or Boarding out of Bounds - What are the Risks?

Every year we hear of skiers who ski out of bounds (Past boundary markers, fence lines and ropes). And every year we hear how they are rescued by local search and rescue, often due to a cell call. They are found cold, wet, hungry and scared. Normally they are not injured.

These skiers and boarders did so by choice. They knowingly went out of bounds to try to find a better run of untouched powder. So what is the difference between a skier or boarder going out of bounds on a ski hill verse a skier or snowshoer in the backcountry? There is a big difference, the backcountry is not controlled, or patrolled. When people venture into the backcountry it is up to them to evaluate the risks, pick the routes and take the proper equipment.

On a designated ski hill things are different, you are on private property (open to the public), the landowners are legally responsible to make the recreational area safe for you to use as you paid to gain access. They have ski patrol, medical support, and dangerous areas are marked and roped off to keep you safe from harm such as skiing or boarding over a cliff. They have avalanche control on the areas you are skiing or boarding. What you should realize is the managers of the ski hills are not trying to keep you from the good runs or excellent snow conditions. They design and build ski runs to give you as much access to the mountain as possible, the better the runs and experience the more you are willing to come back.

So what are the risks?

You face a number of risks when you travel out of bounds

  1. Firstly you risk getting injured…perhaps seriously.

  2. Getting lost and disorientated – especially in the late afternoon and after dark.

  3. Unable to get back due to steep terrain, deep snow, or impassible creek beds.

  4. Hypothermia (lowering of the central core body temperature), when you are active you perspire and when you stop that cools and your damp clothing does not insulate as it would if it were dry. Also you may be low on energy reserves from lack of food. When you start to shiver that is the early warning signal…when you stop shivering your body is not capable of warming itself and your mental ability to think clearly is diminished. If it continues, it will lead to unconsciousness, and eventually death.

  5. No Cell phone coverage. Everyone thinks that their cell phone is available and help is just a call away. Think again! Firstly cell coverage can be obscured by obstacles and you may not get a signal. If you drop or lose your phone it will not be available. Even if you get a signal explaining where you are may be difficult especially if you do not have a mountain map on hand.