My husband, Gary, and I have been avid Vail skiers for 25 years. We look forward to our two weeks in heaven every year. I've long said that the worst day on the mountain out here is better than the best day on the mountain back east, and it's absolutely true.
Over the years, we've seen phenomenal conditions and not so much so, but we've always had a great time and felt safe on the mountain - until this season.
First and foremost, the obvious absence of Yellow Jackets has resulted in a dramatic increase in out-of-control skiers and snowboarders.
In the two weeks we've been here this year, we have only seen three Yellow Jackets, and they were all positioned in the same place at the same time: the final chute into Lionshead by the gondola last Sunday afternoon.
Not once did we see anyone of any authority at any of the "slow" signs anywhere else on the mountain in all this time. Instead, we saw skiers and snowboarders catching air and straightlining at breakneck speeds right past the "slow" signs.
It has been even worse elsewhere on the mountain. For the first time in decades, the sounds of skiers and snowboarders coming up behind us is often frightening.
In years past, there were signs at the bottom of the mountain detailing how many passes had been taken away from out-of-control skiers. Those signs have disappeared. Is that because there is no longer any presence on the mountain to identify those skiers and snowboarders?
Secondly, in my opinion, the new grooming restrictions have seriously negatively affected the skiing experience. I've read all the commentary and letters to the editor in the Vail Daily, and I understand why some may have supported the changes, but it's just not working.
Unless you're on the mountain by 10 a.m., there is no corduroy to be found. Especially with conditions as they have been this season. Host days we've been skiing runs that have been virtually skied off by noon. Not fun.
I'm not quite "old" yet, but I'm not a 20-something anymore, either. I'm a solid intermediate skier, but I don't bounce when I fall.
My husband and I have been looking forward to skiing Vail for many years to come, but I have to say that if safety is no longer a priority, we may have to look elsewhere. I've been told daytime grooming has been cut because of "potential" hazard. One episode in 50 years is not a strong case for this argument. And reducing the presence of Yellow Jackets is not only a real hazard, but it's a very real danger.
I love Vail - the mountain, the village, the restaurants, the activities, the shopping. But one place I don't want to visit, despite its stellar reputation, is the Vail Valley Medical Center.
I am hopeful that Vail Resorts will take a good, hard look at some of its current practices and make safety a No. 1 priority again by restoring the high-profile visibility of Yellow Jackets and grooming the mountain to its optimal level.
Cedar Knolls, N.J.