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To Foil Ski Or Snowboard Theft, Check Them In Or Lock Them Up

The snowboarders at 49 Degrees North have got it figured out.

“They carry big ol’ chains, and chain ‘em to the deck rail,” says the ski resort’s general manager, Denny Burmeister. “They’ve got some chains out there that’d hold logs on a truck.”

While that may seem a bit extreme, snowboarders throughout the region are learning that it’s not safe to set a board in the snowbank while heading into the lodge for a warmup. Snowboards are the hottest new target for thieves, with most area resorts reporting far more swiped snowboards than skis.

“All year long we’ve had maybe one set of skis stolen, maybe two,” says Don Walde, president and general manager of Lookout Pass Ski Area. “But I bet we’ve had five to 10 snowboards stolen from the area this year. That’s a lot for us.”

Really, it’s never been safe to leave expensive, top-of-the-line equipment sitting out in the open. We’d never leave a bike that way at a mall. But skiers and snowboarders often feel left without options when they’re cold, wet, and ready to go in - and the boards aren’t allowed in the lodge.

Silver Mountain and Schweitzer have recognized the problem by providing their guests with free skicheck services. Whenever heading into the lodge, you just exchange your skis and poles or board for a numbered tag. Trade the tag for your gear when you come back out.

Schweitzer still sees plenty of thefts from customers who don’t bother to use the ski-check (or who lose gear from their cars): 85 last season, and 21 so far this year. The check is generally well-staffed and lines move quickly; there’s just no good reason at all not to use it.

Schweitzer is cracking down on thieves with an aggressive anti-crime program this year that includes video and full prosecution.

Even Silver, with its gondola-only access, is not immune. Snowboards “seem to be what gets lifted more here,” said marketing coordinator Bea Koepke.

Lookout has a ski-check on weekends only, with the $1 fee benefiting a Silver Valley baseball league. At 49 Degrees, the ski corral costs $2 for all-day, in-and-out privileges, and operates weekends only.

Mount Spokane has no ski check service, and probably won’t be offering any because of cost. But its security guards have had great luck watching for suspicious characters (they use a Washington State Patrol profile of the typical ski or snowboard thief) and chasing down thieves when the theft is reported promptly.

Last year, Mount Spokane had 26 reports of stolen skis or snowboards. Thirteen were recovered.

“That’s a real good number, we think,” said Tom Henderson, head of security.

But it’s not good enough for those on the wrong end of the numbers. Ron Rickel’s 14-year-old daughter lost her brand-new snowboard from outside the lodge the day after she got it for Christmas. “This just makes me sick,” Rickel said. “She only used it for four hours. I can’t afford to buy a new one.”

Henderson and other area resort officials say skiers and boarders need to protect their gear. Here are some of their tips:

Use ski-checks whenever they’re available.

Separate skis. Put one in one area, another far away. It may not be foolproof, but it’ll at least slow a thief down.

Keep the gear in sight. Either set it where you can see it, or use the buddy system: you watch your friends’ gear while they go in to the bathroom, they watch yours.

Bring your own lock. Ski shops like Hayden Lake’s Ski Shack offer ski and snowboard locking systems that screw into bindings or wrap through or around the gear, ranging in price from $15 to $25. Some of the snowboard locks, like the Aunt Mabel system, double as leashes.

Lyle Corey, a ski technician at Ski Shack, says even a regular bike lock is a good way to keep a thief from picking your gear. “If you’re going to an area that doesn’t have a free check-in, use a lock,” he says.

Rickel is convinced. “We’re going to be equipped with those, my whole family is. We’re going to be definitely locking up our stuff, for sure.”

Limo to Lookout? Lookout Pass ski area is offering an unusual package: two days skiing, two nights lodging, a drink and limo service from motel to ski slopes for Mom, Dad and two kids, all for $199 or $249 (depending on motel).

This is the friendly little ski resort whose latest radio ads ask where else would you find all three of the resort’s owners in the parking lot on Saturday morning, helping you park your car? Where else, indeed? For information, call (800) N-IDA-FUN.

To the extreme: Fans of Warren Miller’s ski films are familiar with the exploits of extreme skiers Scot Schmidt and Kim Reichelm. But would any dare to take an “Extreme Adventures” skiing clinic from the two?

They’re offering just that Feb. 9-13 and March 9-13, both at Crested Butte, Colo., a resort with endless steeps, chutes, and cornices, great Colorado snow and a fun, funky town.

The adventure includes lodging slopeside, all-day clinics with video, airport transfers, most meals, parties and more for $1,095 double occupancy or $1,365 single. Organizers say this is the only time Schmidt will share his extreme-skiing expertise. Information: (800) 992-7700.