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It is possible to get onto Gore's XC trails via one of the glades (after a short uphill duck walk). However, if you don't know where you're going, and make a wrong turn (which is easy to do), you can exit the lift-served area at a location where it is very difficult to return. That's what these folks did. They were probably following other's tracks out of the glade, but they didn't know where they were going. I'm sure the ski patrol has already taken measures to prevent similar incidents.
CARRABASSETT VALLEY -- Sugarloaf management on Tuesday said it plans to bill the snowboarders who were rescued last weekendafter crossing warning ropes and boundary signs to reach the snowfields on the back side of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Four snowboarders, lost in steep terrain and hip-deep snow, were rescued Monday morning by the Sugarloaf Ski Patrol and the Maine Warden Service after spending the night in the elements.
In a similar scenario, several snowboarders got lost in the same area Friday night but were located and rescued several hours later.
Sugarloaf Ski Patrol and resort managers met Tuesday to discuss the extensive backwoods rescue operation that had to be mobilized and what it cost in dollars, material and manpower, said Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin.
"This is the first time we have charged for a rescue and it is our intent now to develop a policy," he said. "We are already putting up additional signage in the areas by the snowfields that will alert people they are leaving Sugarloaf property and will be out at their own risk and assessed the cost of a rescue.
"We are not saying there was negligence. We are saying the time has come to start charging people," he said.
The Sugarloaf Ski Patrol will determine whether the snowboarders were negligent and if so, whether their ski passes should be revoked, Austin said.
Several attempts to contact the snowboarders from Sunday night's rescue were not successful. The riders were Luke Poisson, 18, of Lewiston; Cory Koop, 18, of North Pole, Alaska; Malachi Belluscio, 19, of Keene, N.H.; and Aaron Nadeau, 15, from New Portland. Koop and Belluscio are students at the University of Maine at Farmington.
The names of the people who were lost Friday night were not available.
Over the next few weeks, the Maine Warden Service will compile the cost of the rescue and the decision to fine the boarders will be made by Commissioner Roland Martin and Col. Joel Wilkinson, according to Deborah Turcotte, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Dozens of emergency responders, ski patrollers, firefighters and police officers were involved, directly and indirectly, in the weekend rescues, said Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Scott Nichols. Nichols also is director of security at Sugarloaf.
Some came in on their day off, worked overtime shifts after long days, or gave up a day's wage to volunteer, he said.
"People who go out there are looking at the fun side and having a good time. They don't take into account the consequences of their actions," he said. "They slid down into a prohibited area and got lost and we had to mobilize our resources to rescue them. It jeopardized the lives of a lot of people. It was a negligent action. They made a conscious effort to do what they did. If the termperature had dropped, the outcome could have been terribly different."
Nichols said he went up the mountain in a Sno-Cat grooming machine Tuesday to look at the popular entry points used by snowboarders heading to the off-limits snowfields. He saw boundary lines clearly marked by ropes and orange warning discs.
"There are ropes everywhere. From where I was by the Timberline lift, the ropes were clearly visible," he said.
Austin said that while Sugarloaf and its sister resort, Sunday River in Bethel, have not charged people for rescues in the past, there is precedent at ski areas elsewhere in the U.S.
Carrabassett Valley Fire Chief Courtney Knapp said both weekend rescues mobilized mutual aid assistance from departments in Kingfield, Eustis and New Portland and several firefighters volunteered with their snowmobiles.
"We have not yet decided if we will be charging for the resources we used. I am still in the middle of tallying up our costs," he said.
The search Sunday night was focused at the 3,500-foot elevation mark on what's called the "back side" of Sugarloaf Mountain, a heavily-forested area with extremely steep terrain and ravines, according to a press release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The temperature that night was 22 degrees, with 30- to 40 mile-per-hour winds and nearly white-out conditions, officials said.
Throughout the night, the stranded boarders communicated with rescuers and with family members on cell phones until the batteries ran out. The rescue teams called off the search at about 11 p.m. because of worsening conditions after advising the teenagers how to hunker down in the snow, officials said.
Teams went out again at 5 a.m. and found the riders by late morning. There were no injuries but the teens were wet, cold and hungry, rescuers said.
At Gore, it wasn't a case of people getting lost off the XC trails. The point of departure was hundreds of feet above the cross country trails. And the six skiers lost, were actually in 3 or 4 separate groups depending on how you count. The circumstances for each group were all different.
We've been following the story closely, and the first entry below has input (comments) from some involved in the rescue: