Found missing snowboarder prompts mountain safety concerns

As the successful search and rescue mission of a missing snowboarder comes to a close, many are wondering just how safe the mountain is.

Mt. Ashland General Manager, Hiram Towle, said the mountain is surrounded by miles of bamboo rope, separating what Mt. Ashland manages and what they don’t.

“It’s pretty much impossible to ski through without ducking,” Towle said, “so that’s why we call it ducking ropes and that is actually against the skiers responsibility code, which is law in the state of Oregon.”

That’s what led 27-year-old Eli Kepsel to be stranded in below-freezing temperatures for two nights, going past the boundary to get a snowboard that got loose and wasn’t on a leash.

“In fact the place that Eli left the boundary, there is a very solid bamboo rope line there that he did unfortunately duck to get outside the ski area,” Towle said.

There are some areas with open boundaries visitors can pass through, but staff said they’re clearly marked with warnings and only those with proper training should enter.

“”Generally it is for them to go explore,” Towle said, “but they are well signed, and people have a strong understanding of what that means when they go through the gate because the signage is quite clear.”

Towle said the ski area follows industry standard safety precautions, and gets inspected by both the National Forest Service and their insurance company.

“The only way to avoid these things is to make the right decision not to exceed the boundaries if you don’t have that type of skill,” Towle said.

He said it all comes back to personal responsibility.

“As soon as they leave that they need to take it seriously that they’re potentially putting themselves in harms way,” Towle said.

Towle said Mt. Ashland averages about two to three rescues a year, and hopes this one happening so early in the season gives an early message to those thinking of doing something similar to think twice.

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