Ski team assists mountain rescue

Members of the University of Vermont women’s nordic ski team, a local outfitter and forest rangers teamed up on a backcountry rescue of a woman with a serious leg injury on Dix Mountain Saturday.

Julie Rheaumb, 30, of Montreal, Quebec, was snowshoeing with a group up a slide below the summit of Dix Mountain when she slid and injured her ankle that morning.

A member of Rheaumb’s party used a cell phone to call for help and reported the injury to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s dispatch center in Ray Brook.

Seven forest rangers responded along with a state police helicopter. While some were sent in on foot, Forest Ranger Kevin Burns flew in the helicopter and was lowered near the slide by a fellow ranger operating the helicopter’s hoist.

While on his way to the location of the injured snowshoer, Burns encountered Vinny McClelland, who owns The Mountaineer gear store in Keene Valley, with members of the UVM nordic ski team and McClelland’s brother Scott. McClelland, whose daughter Janey is on the ski team, and the group were recruited to assist in the rescue.

When the group reached Rheaumb, Burns splinted and stabilized her lower leg. He created a makeshift sled from ski poles, ski skins, a harness and rope to keep Rheaumb’s leg elevated. The group worked together to get her down the slide to a clearing.

“(Burns) stabilized her and organized the nordic skiers to help haul her down to a landing zone, and they hoisted her out of there,” McClleland said. “Kevin Burns did a great job. He’s a good guy.”

McClelland said his group had been skiing the slides on Dix Mountain and were below the snowshoers when they found out about the injury. He said the team from the Burlington, Vt. college had recently wrapped up its season with a third-place finish in the NCAA championships at Middlebury College on March 9 and were having a fun end-of-season outing.

“It was full-on winter conditions up there,” McClelland said. “It was powder skiing.”

McClelland said the injured woman was roughly 5 or 6 miles in the woods.

“It’s a long way in there,” he said. “I’m glad we didn’t have to haul her out.”

Instead Rheaumb was taken out of the woods by helicopter and transported to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for medical evaluation and treatment.