Summit County skiers will pay avalanche rescue costs |

Summit County skiers will pay avalanche rescue costs

Nicole FormosaSummit County correspondent

The three skiers who triggered an avalanche in the Sky Chutes near Copper Mountain in April will pay $1,175.96 for the cost of the rescue operation.Edward Haupt, Chad McFarland and Michael McFarland all pleaded guilty on June 15 to violating the Skier Safety Act by ducking a rope at the Breckenridge Ski Resort to gain access to the backcountry terrain.They were fined $200 each and will also foot the bill for costs incurred by Flight For Life and Summit Rescue Group.”But for the rescue, Flight For Life wouldn’t have been dispatched that day, therefore they got charged for the startup cost for the helicopter,” said deputy district attorney Anne Francis. The figure also included some miscellaneous costs, such as gas. On April 6, the three men ducked a rope between the top of Peaks 7 and 8 in Breckenridge, to get on the west side of the Tenmile Range and gain access to the chutes, which are located on the back side of Peak 6.Michael McFarland triggered an avalanche as he skied down the “K” chute, just after 1 p.m. He was able to stop himself with his ski pole, but decided to call the Copper Ski Patrol and tell patrollers what happened.He informed patrol the group was fine, was resting just above halfway down the mountain and would call back the moment they were on the ground.About 20 minutes later, the skiers weren’t off the mountain yet, but McFarland was growing concerned that patrollers would call search and rescue because they hadn’t heard back from the group. So he called patrol back and said they were already down the mountain, although they were still about 400 feet above the valley floor.At that point, rescuers had already been summoned. While looking at the slide area through a telescope, Copper ski patrollers had noticed a second slide in the “Y” chute, saw tracks going in but didn’t see tracks coming out and grew concerned that the group had been caught in the second slide.Rescuers spent about two hours trying to access the slide area to search for the skiers while the Flight For Life crew scoured the area from above, the whole time wondering whether the group was safe.Though ski patrol had received calls that the group was OK, the caller reportedly did not stay on the phone long enough for rescuers to verify their exact path of travel.The helicopter eventually spotted the group in a cluster of trees at the base of the chutes.Michael McFarland and Edward Haupt were both employed as Copper Mountain ski instructors at the time of the incident.