CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Two rescues within one weekend atop Sugarloaf Mountain taxed local rescue agencies, causing the mountain and local fire department to initiate a new policy of billing people who go out of bounds.
From now on those rescued from out-of-bounds areas will be charged for the costs and will be banned from the mountain until their bills are paid, Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Scott Nichols said Friday. Nichols is also the security director for Sugarloaf/USA.
The amount levied will depend on the episode, the time required and manpower needed, Nichols said.
“Of course, rescuers will go up and do what they have to do to bring them back to safety, but when it’s all done and everyone is safe, they’ll receive a bill,” he said.
Four of nine lost snowboarders recently rescued after leaving ski resort boundaries in an area known as the Backside Snowfields have paid for their rescues, Nichols said.
Five snowboarders rescued by Sugarloaf Ski Patrol and Carrabassett Valley firefighters on Friday, Feb. 26, were billed $460 each for the five-hour effort, Nichols said. Four have paid the assessment.
A search for four other snowboarders two days later put rescuers on the mountain Sunday night as 5 inches of snow fell, temperatures dropped to 22 degrees and winds reached 30-40 mph. The effort was put on hold late Sunday night and resumed early Monday morning, when the four were safely brought down by mid-afternoon Monday.
The second group of snowboarders was charged $2,000 each for the rescue, a higher amount because of the number of hours and people involved in the rescue, Nichols said.
Those involved in the rescue were Sugarloaf Ski Patrol, Carrabassett Valley police, Carrabassett Valley and Kingfield firefighters, ambulance personnel and the Maine Warden Service.
Following the rescues, resort officials said they intended to make examples of the snowboarders and would henceforth hold all skiers and boarders accountable when they failed to heed signs warning them of the mountain’s boundaries. The areas are marked with orange disks or orange and black closure ropes.
More than 60 inches of snow had fallen on the mountain in the days before the rescues. The Backside Snowfields where all nine were riding before they went out of bounds offers a “wilderness experience for experienced skiers and snowboarders,” according to the resort’s Web site.
“An excessive amount of signage has gone up there since,” Nichols said.