Otto Wiest
Vail, CO, Colorado

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January 30, 2013
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Vail Daily letter: Broke my wrist skiing over loose rock

It was not to so long ago when Bill Jensen came to Vail and he really took good care of our Vail Mountain and the skiing in Vail.

I remember quite well that one of the first things he did here was to send some Vail employees to the slopes with buckets to collect the rocks lying on the slopes. When the snow is low it is almost impossible for snow cats to groom and avoid breaking out stones from the ground. If you know this, no problem, you send some people after the grooming out to the ski slopes and take the rocks away.

But you have to be a skier to know this and if you care, you will want your ski mountain to be in shape.

Both things seem to be missing now in Vail, because the slopes have been really full of lose rocks and bare spots.

Instead we did get now a lot of little snow hills all over the mountain so that some young kids can practice freestyle skiing there. If they would take this snow from those funny gopher hills and put it on the bare spots at the slopes where it would be needed, that would be a better job.

In the old days - I talk about the first 25 years of Vail, as long as Seibert, Gillett and others skied at Vail Mountain - bare spots got well marked or repaired and loose rocks taken away because they are dangerous.

As Mr. Katz lives down in Denver, he does not know as much how his ski mountain up here in Vail is in shape.

I broke my left wrist in many pieces recently on Vail Mountain because I ran over a piece of loose rock in the size of a beer can. It was in the middle of the well-groomed Dealers Choice, a blue run. The rock was lying there with a little snow on it, so I couldn't see it and I also did not expect it there, as there was not a single bare spot around or other people. Would you expect to find obstacles like big rocks lying on the slopes of a ski resort what calls itself world class?

After over 60 seasons of skiing (I am also one of the real early Vail ski instructors) I would say that I know about what I am talking about. There are ski accidents you really don't expect and they are almost impossible to avoid. As a result, I broke my left wrist in many pieces and I am more then glad that the Vail Ski Patrol and even more the Vail Valley Medical Center did a wonderful job. What would be the value of Vail without this famous Steadman clinic? For me, this seems to be one of the most important parts of Vail.

Just to proof how bad this accident was, my repair is going to cost between $30,000 and and $40,000. No, that doesn't mean that I am complaining about the hospital costs, as I had perfect service there and a really excellent doctor who kept for me the full function of my left hand. Also, it took only 30 minutes to get from the place of the accident on Dealers Choice into the hospital.

The fact that the whole accident was not necessary at all and easy to avoid if the ski slope is in well maintained condition is why I'm writing this letter to the editor.

This demonstrates how dangerous skiing can be if the maintenance of the ski mountain is not done in a professional manner. Why do a lot of people say that skiing is too dangerous for them?

It is definitely the most stupid way to try to save money and to ruin skiing by cutting down maintenance if the snow cover is poor. That means eliminating icy slopes, taking out rocks, marking obstacles and repairing the bare spots.

I have tried out almost every major run in Vail the last couple of days.

Please bring Bill Jensen back as soon as possible and send all the well-qualified business people from Wall Street or somewhere else to Florida or Hawaii or maybe Aspen. At least I wouldn't miss them at all here in Vail.

Otto Wiest


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 30, 2013 08:52AM Published Jan 30, 2013 08:50AM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.