Currently, Western Maine lacks the resources to efficiently evacuate a sick or injured skier from much of our backcountry terrain. Mahoosuc Mountain Rescue (MMRT) is asking for your help in rectifying this situation by helping the team acquire a lightweight rescue toboggan .
Background: Throughout the country, backcountry skiing has been seeing major growth. In Western Maine this growth is being fueled by an increase in resort side-country skiing, creation of glades in backcountry areas, and an active online community. Industry experts expect this year to see a sharp rise in backcountry use as a result of the pandemic combined with restrictions on resort based skiing.
Much of the increase in use in our area is expected to be with new backcountry skiers and riders. While any level skier can find themselves in need of assistance, novice skiers can be expected to be more reliant on outside resources in the event of an emergency.
In Maine, backcountry search and rescue falls under the jurisdiction of the Maine Warden Service (MWS). MWS relies on a network of volunteer groups like MMRT to carry out SAR missions, 24/7, 365 days a year. Like many groups, MMRT has no consistent outside funding, receives no reimbursement, and relies on volunteers often using their own equipment along with a small amount of team owned gear.
As we are currently equipped, MMRT can get anywhere any backcountry skier might find themselves, and evacuate that person to safety. But the process would be slow, and likely involve snowshoeing in with a heavy non- winter specific litter managed with ropes. This is slow and labor intensive.
MMRT is in the process of improving this process.
Planning: Typically speaking, rescues of this type involve multiple agencies and organizations. For example, MMRT has made a plan with Sunday River, for off property incidents, that involves Sunday River Ski Patrol, MWS, and Oxford County Regional Communications. Other agencies that might be involved, depending on the incident could include Bethel Fire, Bethel Rescue, and Newry Fire.
We are in the process of emergency action planning with the agencies responsible for rescue in Rumford. As winter activity continues to develop in Bethel Community Forest, we will adapt the existing plans accordingly.
In most instances, the best way to evacuate a sick or injured backcountry skier or rider is by accessing the victim from above with a rescue toboggan, and skiing downhill to an extrication point with motorized transport. This could be snowmobile, ambulance, or helicopter.
MMRT is in the process of designating access points for areas with a high likelihood of an incident. The focus now involves Bethel Community Forest and and Black and White Glade. Both areas include high quality skiing with ski area access. Organizations involved include MMRT, Mahoosuc Land Trust, Granite Backcountry Alliance and Inland Woods and Trails. MMR is working with both MWS and rescue organizations within Oxford county to pre-plan snowmobile access points, and promote inter agency cooperation for rescues.
To do this well, we need better equipment. We are in the process of purchasing a Cascade Extreme 350 toboggan and appropriate accessories including a snowmobile hitch. This sled is light enough to be carried by one or two people using frame packs, and is specifically designed for this type of rescue. Whenever possible, MMR will use snowmobile access to get above the victim, and ski the victim to an access point. In many cases, this will be possible with as few as 1 or 2 rescuers.
Our total cost for this rescue gear will be $4,370.
Any assistance you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
- Kara Constantine
- Paul Duclos
- Stuart Crocker
- GREEN DRAGON
- Benjamin Wigren
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