Wayward snowboarding becomes misdemeanor

Two ordinances set to be introduced this week in Douglas County deal with ducking on the mountain and dumping in the Valley.

One of the ordinances, which will become law Thursday, makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally travel out of bounds at a ski resort.

A misdemeanor carries a maximum punishment of six months in county jail and a fine of $1,000.

Tahoe Township Justice Court Judge Richard Glasson said the ordinance was modified to include snowboarders.

"The way the law sits now it doesn't apply to snowboarders," he said.

In fact, the ordinances are really updates of ones that have been in effect since 1994, said Michael McCormick, Douglas County deputy district attorney.

Before, the ordinance was designed for skiers. However, with the popularity of snowboarding, and the fact that many of the search and rescues have involved persons snowboarding out of bounds, it was time to bring something new to the law books, McCormick said.

Not only does the new ordinance include snowboarding, but it added snowshoeing, sledding or any other winter sporting activities during which a person travels the slopes of a ski area with the aid of a device.

Any person who skis or snowboards outside of a ski-area boundary assumes the inherent risks of the activity and is responsible for all costs arising out of search-and-rescue efforts made on his or her behalf, the ordinance states.

"Typical rescue efforts exceed $1,000, and may substantially increase if outside resources are employed such as aircraft search teams and specialized or auxiliary search-and-rescue teams," said Douglas County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Tom Mezzetta.

As of now, the sheriff's office is developing a formula which would require a person in need of rescuing to cover the costs of search and rescue.

It will likely be a graduated scale that would accurately reflect the costs incurred, whether it is the costs associated with a three-hour search and rescue or a three-day search and rescue, McCormick said.

Heavenly Mountain Resort, which lies in both California and Nevada, is the only ski resort in Douglas County. It has 15 chairlifts, and half of its terrain is on the Nevada side of the mountain.

A spokesperson from Heavenly was unavailable for comment.

Glasson said he rarely sees people in his courtroom being prosecuted for going out of bounds.

The skier responsibility ordinance 9.08 also allows ski resorts to bar a person in violation from its property.

The other ordinance targets people dumping items outside of thrift stores when they are closed. The lake portion of Douglas County does not have any thrift stores, but there are several of them in the valley.

"Too often, items that are unusable by the thrift stores are deposited during non-business hours, and the thrift stores are left with no option other than to expend limited financial resources to have the property hauled away and disposed of at the local landfill," Mezzetta said.

The first offense is punishable by a fine of at least $500. Repeated offenses can be considered misdemeanors.


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