GILFORD, New Hampshire — Officials at Gunstock Mountain Resort and the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department are joining forces to combat a rash of equipment thefts that have occurred since the beginning of this years ski season.
Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin reports that 49 theft reports have crossed his desk since Gunstock’s opening day, up alarmingly compared to prior seasons. “It’s obvious there is some organization to these thefts beyond what we normally see” remarked Wiggin, and it’s frustrating to us and to Gunstock that guests of the resort make it so easy for the thieves to do their work. Gunstock General Manager Greg Goddard echoed Wiggin’s concerns. “We offer a free ski and snowboard check every day and night we’re open so we can look after guest’s equipment while they’re not on the slopes, but many people choose not to use it. Nor to they take the time to lock their equipment to a rack or put it in a secure place. I can’t tell you the number of times a guest has said they lost their board while they went in to use the restroom or to get a cup of cocoa.”
According to Goddard, a typical snowboard thief will dress up in full snowboard clothing, including boots, thus blending in with the hundreds of other people milling around the base area. They scope out the board they want, wait for the owner to leave it unattended, then just pick it up like it’s their own and carry it out to the parking lot. Some of the bolder thieves will come back two or three times a night to snatch boards.
Wiggin and Goddard are working on a three pronged approach to the problem ??вЂњ Encouraging the public to register their skis and snowboards, educating them to check or lock up their equipment when it’s not in their sight, and stepping up security and surveillance at the resort.
“Registration, or at least recording serial numbers and keeping the sales receipt, is important because it’s very difficult to convict a thief and recover a stolen pair of skis or a snowboard if the owner can’t positively identify the equipment as being theirs,” says Wiggin. “A brand and color isn’t good enough because so many skis and boards look alike. I’ve got a whole evidence locker full of stolen equipment that we can’t track back to an owner.” Gunstock will be developing wallet sized registration cards that guests can use to record serial numbers and other information about their equipment. That way they’ll have the information handy if needed.
Gunstock is doubling the size of its bag check room, and will be decreasing the basket rental fee to encourage more usage. Goddard also promises to increase the visibility of the free ski and snowboard check through better signage, maps, and more public address announcements, but insists people need to take responsibility for their belongings. We’ve been doing announcements all along, but hopefully we can better educate people not to leave their equipment laying around. You wouldn’t leave your stuff under a table at the food court at the mall and go shopping. I don’t understand why you’d feel it is any more secure here,” laments Goddard. “People seem to have developed a false sense of security that someone at the ski area is going to look out for their stuff if they leave it unattended.”
“We have had a number of successes catching thieves” says Wiggin, and we will maintain a presence at the resort in an effort to catch future perpetrators. Ski and snowboard theft is a felony offense, and we intend to make an example of anyone caught stealing equipment from Gunstock. We will prosecute to the full extent of the law. However, unless people start taking better care of their belongings, the problem will persist.