Two skiers face fines of up to $1,000 after ducking a rope Tuesday and skiing in a closed area at Crystal Mountain, resort ski patrol director Kim Kircher said.
It is the first time Crystal has pushed for charges to be pressed under a 2011 law that states it is a misdemeanor for people to use closed terrain at a ski area, she said.
“We want to send the message that we are serious about closures,” Kircher said.
A resort employee saw the men duck the rope about 11 a.m. and enter an area known as Southback. The steep terrain was loaded with fresh snow and the ski patrol was working on avalanche control by using explosives, Kircher said.
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The first explosion was about 100 yards above the skiers and triggered an avalanche that wasn’t large enough to reach the skiers. The second triggered a much larger avalanche adjacent to the skiers.
“They were very lucky,” she said. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if they had skied over the lit shot or, more likely, they’d been caught in an avalanche.”
The ski patrol caught both skiers but only after one tried to flee, Kircher said.
We want to send the message that we are serious about closures.”
Kim Kircher, Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol director.
“By the end of the day, both were repentant,” she said.
RCW 79A.45.070 states, “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if the person knowingly skis in an area or on a ski trail, owned or controlled by a ski area operator, that is closed to the public and that has signs posted indicating the closure.”
One of the skiers was a Crystal Mountain employee who had called in saying he couldn’t work, she said.
“He’s now a former employee,” Kircher said.
“It’s important that people know we aren’t giving any special dispensation to anybody for this,” she said. “… If an area is closed, it is closed for a reason.”
Crystal Mountain officials plan to submit information on the incident Friday (Feb. 10) to the U.S. Forest Service and King County prosecutors.
“We just need to make sure all of our I’s are dotted and our T’s are crossed,” Kircher said.
She hopes the incident raises awareness of the importance of respecting ski resort closures.
“We are not trying to save the powder for ourselves or something like that,” she said. “We want to get people out there. It’s the compaction of having the skiers on the slopes that really mitigates the avalanche hazard.”
Crystal also introduced new uphill travel rules this season for skiers who hike or ski up terrain. The new rules prohibit uphill travel in Southback at all times and anywhere in the resort when avalanche control is taking place.