In the snowy mountain environment, somebody who doesn’t show up as expected could be drifting out of consciousness upside-down in a tree well someplace. So rescue personnel don’t wait 24 hours to respond to ‘missing person’ reports like the detectives you see on TV…we start right away!
Unfortunately, lack-of-planning could send us out on a false-alarm ‘wild goose chase’ that leaves us out-of-position to respond when a REAL life-threatening crises arises. You don’t want to be THAT person, do you?
Please don’t ever hesitate to contact us if you think someone is in danger (Our emergency number is 360-663-3064. Program that into your cell phone!) but here are some things you can do to be more self-sufficient when you’re simply separated:
1) Make a plan for when & where you’ll meet-up if separated, and stick to it.
2) Keep cell phones and ‘family’ radios:
a) With you,
b) Charged up, and
c) Turned on—unless you have a definite battery-saving plan to turn them on either:
1) as soon as you become separated or
2) at regular intervals such as on the ½-hour, every 15 minutes, etc. if separated!
Make sure you share phone numbers or agree on frequencies ahead of time! At the very least, agree to voice mail or text message each other if you have service you can check remotely.
3) Pay attention to your companions! If you ask Patrol to go looking for a young adult snowboarder named Josh dressed in dark colors on a busy weekend, we’ll find hundreds of ‘em! Make a note of each others’ appearance: type/brands of equipment, colors of clothing, first and last names, etc.
4) DON’T MOVE THE CAR! This is the most common judgement error we see. Instead, leave a note with the time and where you’ll be. Agree where to look for a note on a snow-covered car if you get separated.
5) Put your note and a pencil in a plastic bag—we have ‘em at Ski Patrol if you don’t have your own–so your companions can also leave YOU a note if it turns out you’re chasing each other around the ski area base. And be specific–don’t say “we’re in the restaurant” or “bar”, say “lower level food service area in lodge” or “restaurant above the Snorting Elk”.
6) Ask the Lift Operators if you can use the white boards at the bottom of lifts and tell your companions to look at the white boards if you become separated. This won’t work on a busy Saturday if all 8,000 people try at once, but it’s a back-up plan if other things go wrong. Include the TIME, so your message can be erased after adequate time passes!
7) Parents, PUHLEEZE talk to your kids about the possibility of becoming separated. Tell ‘em about tree wells and the importance of not venturing off into the forest alone. Make a “family plan” about how/when/where you’ll meet back up if separated. If you’re sending them with other families, let the adults know whether your kids are timid or adventurous, whether they like to stick to the groomed trails or head off into the trees to explore. And tell them to speak up if they hear others shouting their name….this is a circumstance where you’ll want it to be OK to talk to strangers!
Funny story…..a year or two ago, a couple of guys were skiing the trees next to Exterminator on a deep, deep powder day, heading down for lunch. They got separated and the last thing one remembers was hearing the voice of the other shouting something that sounded like “Help! Help!”
Ski Patrol, Ski School Instructors, Lift Maintenance mechanics–everybody got called in to help make multiple passes looking for someone who might be upside-down and suffocating. Eventually, the “missing” guy was found sitting in the bar enjoying a cool pitcher of beer, wondering why his friend was taking so long, and what all the hubub was. It turned out that what his friend thought were cries for help were actually him shouting his intent to hang a hard left turn to have lunch at the Snorting Elk Cellar. He was shouting “ELK! ELK”. Thankfully, that one had a happy ending!