March 2, 2012

Hang On To Your Gear!

Taos, NM - Great advice from Lee Fulmer at Taos Ski Valley Lost and Found Department:
Although gear theft is fairly rare at most ski resorts, it does sometimes occur. A more common scenario involves instances of mistaken identity, especially when rental equipment is involved. In either case, the name of the game is recovering the missing items as rapidly as possible so you can get on with your hard earned holiday.

I’m always amazed when skiers/riders come in to report missing gear, and are unable to provide accurate descriptions or specifications of their property. It’s really challenging to find something when you don’t know what you are looking for. Also amazing is the number of guests who report missing rental equipment, but can’t remember what they rented or from where they rented. The following are a few tips I’ve picked up while working several years in Skier Services and in Lost & Found at world-famous Taos Ski Valley.

To begin with, know your gear. When you purchase equipment, take a moment to record information such as manufacturer, model, serial number and other pertinent information, e.g. “Stokli Stormrider skiis, 178 cm with Marker Titanium 12.0 bindings” or “Never Summer snowboard, sn 1 154 07645454 with Burton Lexa bindings.” Take a good photo and keep it on your phone or ipod. Having this information with you when you take off for your favorite slope can greatly help in the recovery of missing items. You can “customize” your gear to make it easily recognizable. Colorful decals, stickers and tuning shop logos are usually free, easy to apply and are not quickly or easily removed without a scraper. Consider having your equipment engraved with your name and contact information. Sports equipment stores and resort rental shops can usually provide this service. If you are using rental gear, write your name on strips of masking tape and place one on both of your skis. Be sure to keep your rental contract with you as it contains information for positively identifying your rentals.

Distinctively marking your equipment has other advantages, such as facilitating quick and positive identification of items if they become lost or stolen. This can also help ensure you don’t accidentally pick up someone else’s equipment. Additionally, it serves as a deterrent to would-be thieves who know it will be much harder to sell or even use easily recognizable gear.

The next step to consider is how to secure your gear during breaks on the slopes. Almost all resorts have locking ski and board racks. Use them. A dollar or two is cheap insurance for your investment, and can save your vacation. If locking storage is not available, an old trick is to split up your skis. When skiing with a buddy, mix your skis into two unmatched pairs, or separate your own pair by putting one on one rack and the other one some distance away. Finally, there are several relatively inexpensive portable ski locks on the market which, while they can be cut, are a definite deterrent. Our resort ski shop manager Daniel Aguilar recommends a small combination cable system, such as the Burton Tether Lock or the Burton Cable Lock, both of which cost between $15.00 and $20.00.

Here are a few common sense recommendations for safe keeping of valuable personal items. First, if you don’t NEED it, don’t bring it to the mountain. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and even rings aren’t really necessary to snow sports activity and can get tangled in goggles, helmets and gloves and fall into the snow. Secondly, make sure your wallet, credit cards and keys are securely zipped in an inside pocket, preferably one you use for nothing else. Finally, don’t diddle with your gear on the chairlift. Secure your poles, keep your gloves and goggles on; and, if you can possibly do without it, don’t text, tweet or talk on your cell phone. Wait until you get to the top to make clothing adjustments or return calls.

So, if you’ve heeded all my sage advice and taken every precaution and still end up missing gear, here are a few suggestions to expedite its recovery. Almost every resort has some form of Lost & Found service, and this is definitely the place to start. Provide all the pertinent identifying information I’ve outlined above as soon as you discover the loss, and be sure to give your full, accurate and legible contact information. At Taos Ski Valley, Lost & Found activates an established protocol which immediately notifies several key departments to start a mountain wide search.

If you are missing rental gear, be sure to notify the shop you are using. If it is a case of mistaken identity, you may find the equipment has been turned in by the person who mistook it for theirs. Inquire at other shops in the area, as it may have been mistakenly returned to the wrong location.

The next action you take should be to retrace your steps, thinking about every possible location you have been with your gear since arriving. About one in ten of my customers do recover their own lost items, as they know best where they have been and what they are looking for. If you do recover your missing items, please take the time to let everyone involved know to call off the search. In our department, we keep files open for a minimum of 30 days. Closing a file allows us to spend more time looking for items that are actually still missing.

As I previously stated, theft at resorts is not a common occurrence. I sincerely hope you never have a snow-sport adventure ruined by having to deal with stolen, lost or missing gear. But if you do, maybe the information I’ve shared with you will help with the recovery and return you to the mountain as rapidly as possible.

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