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May 10, 2014
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Avon skier expects a long road to recovery

DENVER — A month ago, Avon resident Jeff Kovacik was enjoying spring skiing on his home mountain of Beaver Creek. Now, it’s an accomplishment for him to wiggle his toes and fingers.

Kovacik, 60, was skiing at Beaver Creek on April 8 around 3:30 p.m. when he collided with someone underneath the Cinch Express Lift near the intersection of the Sheephorn and Centennial runs located just above the Spruce Saddle Lodge.

The person who collided with him told Kovacik he’d call ski patrol, then left the scene and did not wait for help to arrive. Authorities are still looking for the person, who Kovacik described as a snowboarder with long, wavy brown hair in his 20s.

‘Getting Better Every Day’

Kovacik had extensive neck, back, elbow and knee injuries, from which he is still recovering. Surgeries left him paralyzed from the neck down, and he said he hopes to eventually make a full recovery.

“I’m getting better every day,” said Kovacik from his hospital bed in Denver. “It’s slow, and doctors say I’ll stay here a couple months, maybe all summer. I think there’s a good chance (I’ll recover) but of course doctors don’t want to say yes or no at this point.”

The longtime Eagle County local owns a general contracting company in the valley and is the father of a 9-year-old daughter. He and his family have lived in Avon for 17 years. The Pennsylvania native has been skiing for 44 years, and he said he’s only been in one other skiing accident, and he was not hurt.

On the day of the accident, he said he remembers skiing down Red Buffalo. It was a balmy 50 degrees. The next thing he remembers, he woke up on the ground in the snow. The man he suspects hit him was standing in front of him.

“He looked hesitant and said, ‘I’ll get you some help,’” said Kovacik.

The man never returned and it is unknown whether or not he put in the anonymous call to ski patrol that Kovacik was down.

Outpouring of Support

Kovacik said he’s been surprised at the outpouring of support he’s experienced since his injury. He is now two weeks into physical therapy,

“Doctors say move your toe and Ill move it quarter of an inch, and they think it’s amazing. I guess I don’t find it that amazing. I want to do much more,” Kovacik said. “But at this point I’m being optimistic. I’ve heard some horror stories of people who are older and injured like this and have recovered 100 percent. And, of course, I would love to ski again.”

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office officials said there are no new leads on the case. Beaver Creek officials said that the resort has been cooperating with the Sheriff’s Office investigation. If you think you may have any information about the suspects or this crime, then call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office at 970-328-8500 or Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007, 1-800-972-TIPS, submit your tip online at www.tipsubmit.com or text a tip from your cell phone by texting STOPCRIME plus your message to CRIMES (274637). If your tip leads to the arrest and indictment of any suspect involved, then you could earn up to a $1,000 reward from Crime Stoppers.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at mwong@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated May 10, 2014 05:10PM Published Jun 18, 2014 06:55PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.