Avon skier expects a long road to recovery | VailDaily.com

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 http://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.

Sheriff’s Office seeks info in Beaver Creek hit and run

BEAVER CREEK — Authorities are looking for witnesses or any information about a skier-snowboarder collision that happened at Beaver Creek on April 8 at around 3:30 p.m. The collision took place underneath the Cinch Express Lift near the intersection of the Sheephorn and Centennial runs located just above the Spruce Saddle Lodge. According to the victim, 60-year-old Avon resident Jeffrey Kovacik, an unidentified male snowboarder collided with him. The snowboarder stopped and told Kovacik that he would call for help. He then left the scene and did not wait for ski patrol to arrive. Someone had made an anonymous call to ski patrol to report the accident. Police are working to track down the caller and hopefully gain some information, said Jessie Mosher, of the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. Beaver Creek Ski Patrol responded and provided emergency rescue aid before Kovacik was transported to a Denver-area hospital. Kovacik's friend and neighbor, Buz Didier, provided additional information on the accident, adding that friends and family hope someone will come forward with information on the incident. SKIER'S INJURIES According to Didier, Kovacik underwent neck surgery and is currently paralyzed from the neck down from the operation. Doctors said they expect some recovery, although they are not sure to what extent. He also suffered bleeding in the brain and a collapsed lung. He described the snowboarder who hit him as around 25 with long, scraggly brown hair and of medium build. "It's going to be a very rough recovery," said Didier. "There weren't that many people up there at the time. Maybe somebody saw something, or this guy has a friend who has a conscience, or maybe he'll grow up and come forward." The Colorado Ski Safety Act requires that all skiers control their speed and course, maintain a proper lookout so as to be able to avoid other skiers and, in the event of a collision, to remain at the scene and provide his or her name and address to an employee of the ski area. By failing to do so, you could open yourself up to criminal charges, said Mosher. If you think you may have any information about the suspects or this crime, call the Eagle County Sheriff's Office at 970-328-8500 or Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007 or 1-800-972-TIPS. Submit your tip online at http://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, 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 mwong@vaildaily.com.

Injured Beaver Creek skier returns home

AVON — Long after most people have stopped thinking about the previous ski season, Avon resident Jeff Kovacik finally returned home from his last time on the slopes. Kovacik was severely injured and paralyzed from the neck down in a hit-and-run accident while skiing at Beaver Creek on April 8. After the accident, he spent almost two months undergoing surgery and recovering from spinal cord, head, shoulder, elbow and knee injuries at Denver Health Medical Center. After being transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver for three months of intense rehabilitation, he was able to stand again. Kovacik was released from Craig Hospital on Aug. 28 and was welcomed back to the valley by more than 70 neighbors, local friends and well-wishers from Craig Hospital at a neighborhood barbecue celebration on Monday. "Everyone was amazed at Jeff's progress, hard work and determination to walk and come home again. It was a true celebration," said friend and neighbor Laurie Adler. CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION The Eagle County Sheriff's Office criminal investigation on the accident is still underway. According to Kovacik, a snowboarder collided with him while he was skiing underneath the Cinch Express Lift near the intersection of the Sheephorn and Centennial runs located just above the Spruce Saddle Lodge. Kovacik remembers the person who hit him saying that he would call ski patrol, and then left the scene. The snowboarder, who is described as having long, wavy brown hair and in his 20s, has yet to come forward. So far, there have been no new leads on the case, although authorities are working with Vail Resorts to continue searching for the suspect, said Jessie Mosher, public information officer for the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. "I'm hopeful we'll have some new leads," she said. "It's still an active investigation, so maybe we'll find something this ski season." Jeff Kovacik, his wife Jamilya, and their daughter Katrina, said they want to thank everyone in Avon and the surrounding Vail Valley for all of their support and well wishes during the past months. They also thanked the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, the Avon mayor and Avon Police Department for all of the hard work they have put into solving the case. The community can continue to support the family at an upcoming fundraiser for the Kovaciks. Details on the event will be announced soon. Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

Police release sketch of Beaver Creek skier collision suspect

BEAVER CREEK — The Eagle County Sheriff's Office has released an artist's rendering of a suspect who was involved in a skier collision on Beaver Creek on April 8. They are seeking any information that may lead to the suspect, who is described as being in his mid-20s with long, light brown, shoulder-length hair, with a stocky build of 200 pounds or more. He was wearing all tan and dark green camouflage snowboarding gear at the time of the collision. The suspect was last seen on Tuesday, April 8, around 2:45 p.m., on Beaver Creek Mountain underneath the Cinch Express Lift near the intersection of the Sheephorn and Centennial runs located just above the Spruce Saddle Lodge. The suspect is a snowboarder who collided with 60-year-old Avon skier Jeff Kovacik. He then left the Kovacik and did not wait for ski patrol to arrive on scene. Beaver Creek Ski Patrol responded and provided emergency rescue aide to Kovacik, who was later transported to the hospital with serious injuries, from which he is still recovering. Call Crime Stoppers If you think you may have any information about the suspect of this crime, then please 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 http://www.tip submit.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 the suspect involved, then you could earn up to a $1,000 reward from Crime Stoppers.

Cover band lawsuit settled for $40,000

VAIL ” A former local club owner reached a $40,000 settlement Wednesday with several famous musicians who sued him for allowing cover bands to play their songs at 8150. Steven Kovacik, former owner of 8150, called the settlement unfair. “I don’t think it’s fair for one show, are you crazy?” Kovacik said. Van Halen Music Company and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Patricia Bonham were all named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Feb. 16 that contended Kovacik allowed public performances of their songs at 8150. The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado, named Kovacik as a defendant. Bands like Lez Zeppelin, an all-female Led Zeppelin cover band who played 8150 Jan. 15, 2006, should be held responsible for copyright infringement, Kovacik said. “The band is touring, making money off of Led Zeppelin’s music,” he said. “Why should I be the one responsible to pay when Lez Zeppelin is the one playing the music?” That’s not how the law works, said Alan Stewart, manager for Lez Zeppelin. If stores or concert venues publicly play songs registered with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers ” even on a stereo ” they have to pay a licensing fee, he said. “The club owner should know that,” Stewart said. “He is just trying to spin the story. It’s a little bit easier for them to point to Lez Zeppelin, but they could point to any number of bands on their calendar.” ASCAP employs representatives to travel to malls and concert venues to look for those breaking the law and the organization sues hundreds around the country each week, he said. 8150 has closed. Kovacik’s lease expired and the building will be torn down to make way for the Solaris complex, he said. Kovacik has refused to accept a license offered to him many times by ASCAP, said Richard Reimer, an attorney for the organization. Kovacik said ASCAP never offered him a license. If it did, he would have paid the $5,000 dollars for one to avoid litigation, he said. “Do you think I would have let this go on for that long?” Kovacik said. “I’m not a complete and utter idiot.” Kovacik committed copyright infringement because he allowed bands to play 10 copyrighted songs Jan. 15 and 16, 2006, at 8150, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs were suing for as little as $750 per song and as much as $30,000 per song, plus attorneys’ fees, according to court documents. Kovacik allowed public performances of songs such as “Heartbreaker,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock and Roll” and “Black Dog,” written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and other members of Led Zeppelin; “Hot for Teacher,” written by Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth of Van Halen; and “You Shook Me all Night” written by AC/DC members Angus Young and Malcolm Young, according to the lawsuit. The defendants failed to obtain a license agreement from the plaintiffs or ASCAP, according to the lawsuit’s final judgment. Public venues that play ASCAP registered songs, which number in the millions, need to pay an annual fee for a license to do so. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

Everybody must get foamed

8150 brings back their foam party tonight at 10. DJ MLE is spinning the tunes, and uninhibited sorts can frolic in the foam. The last foam party was a big hit. “It was utter mayhem,” said co-owner Steve Kovacik. Foam pours down from the rafters all night long, filling the pit with five feet of foam. The pit takes up most of the dance floor. “You will get wet,” promised Kovacik. “It might be prudent to bring something to change into, something warm to go home in.” They will have heaters by the door to speed people on to dry warmth. No glassware is allowed inside the pit, so flip-flops and tennis shoes are fine for footwear. “There’s foam all night,” said Kovacik.

Businesses raise money for non-profits

AVON — Our Community Foundation recently distributed $9,113 to 42 nonprofit organizations that participated in the Eagle County Gives coalition. This donation was made possible due to a number of local businesses that contributed to an incentive fund to help nonprofit organizations build awareness and capacity though Eagle County Gives. Support for Eagle County Gives provides more than 40 local organizations the means to provide basic human needs, protect the mountains, and develop and protect the next generation. The incentive fund was created through the generous support of these businesses: • Beaver Creek Chophouse: $500. • Lark Burger: $334. • Blue Moose Beaver Creek $250. • Manor Vail: $1,500. • Blue Moose Vail: $250. • Ski Butlers: $950. • Bonfire Brewing: $800. • Vail Chophouse: $250. • East West Resorts: $564. • Kaiser Permanente: $2,000. • Other Support: $1,715. "These local businesses have played a huge part in bringing awareness to the Eagle County Gives coalition," Our Community Foundation Program Manager Susie Davis said. "Their support is a testament to the impact small businesses have in our community." Founded in 2010, Eagle County Gives is a coalition of more than 40 Vail Valley non-profits dedicated to strengthening the collaboration, fundraising capacity, and awareness of the non-profit sector that enhances the quality of life in Eagle County. The coalition strives to increase the awareness of the group's collective impact and has banded together to increase total local donations on Colorado Gives Day and year-round. Participating nonprofits collectively raised more than $825,000 on Colorado Gives Day in 2015. Our Community Foundation acts as the fiscal agent for the collaborative. Colorado Gives Day is scheduled for Dec. 6 this year. For more information about the Eagle County Gives coalition, or would like to support these efforts, contact Davis, Susie@ourcommunityfoundation.org or 970-977-1093.

Rock stars sue 8150

VAIL – Several famous musicians are suing a local business owner for copyright infringement for allowing cover bands to play their songs without permission.Van Halen Music Company, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Patricia Bonham are all named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that Vail business owner Steven Kovacik allowed public performances of their songs at 8150, the lawsuit says. Kovacik, owner of 8150, said he would not comment on the lawsuit. The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado, names Kovacik and a company named Big Snow Ball LLC as defendants.The plaintiffs alleged 10 counts of copyright infringement because the defendants allowed bands to play 10 copyrighted songs on Jan. 15 and 16 at 8150, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs are suing for as little as $750 per song and as much as $30,000 per song, plus attorneys’ fees, according to court documents. Anthony Juarez, an event coordinator who represents the local band initfortim-who opened for female cover band Lez Zeppelin at 8150 on Jan. 15-said he was surprised by the lawsuit. “Bands cover famous songs all the time,” Juarez said. “We cover songs sometimes.” The lawsuit contends that the defendants allowed public performances of songs such as “Heartbreaker,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock and Roll” and “Black Dog,” written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and other members of Led Zeppelin; “Hot for Teacher,” written by Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth of Van Halen; and “You Shook Me all Night” written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young members of AC/DC. The defendants failed to obtain a license agreement from the plaintiffs or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, according to the lawsuit. Conor Farley, a Denver attorney for the plaintiffs, did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday night. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

Development starting to pick up in Vail Valley?

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – For decades, Vail Valley construction projects flowed like water through a faucet. As soon as one project was finished, another was ready to break ground. Then the world’s economy fell off a cliff.Even as construction projects still hummed toward completion last year, local engineering and architecture companies were laying people off. The pipeline ran dry, or nearly so.Jeff Kovacik is the one-man crew at Eagle Valley Construction. Starting last year, his business got more and more sporadic.”It was steady, but I’d work two or three days instead of two or three weeks, then wonder what I was going to do next,” Kovacik said. “I’m just glad I know how to do a lot of different things.”Kovacik’s business has started to pick up, a little, this year. He’s booked solidly through May. Repeat customers are calling for remodeling projects or other work.At the moment, smaller jobs are what’s available to the construction companies in the valley that aren’t finishing up bigger projects.Much of Eagle County’s building permit activity is for smaller projects. The same is true in the town of Vail. The good news is that more of those permits are starting to come through those community development offices. In fact, Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said that both permits and building value are up this year to date over 2009.But that’s still a pretty low bar. Consider that in 2007, the value of building permits issued in Vail alone exceeded $500 million for the year. For the first quarter of this year, the value of permits issued so far is $6.5 million. The 2010 number is about half again higher than the permit value for the same period of 2009.”The pipeline was just empty,” Boles Construction owner Brad Foster said. While the local construction industry is getting by on smaller projects right now, there’s better – if not great – news on the horizon in the form of some bigger projects.The town of Vail will start work this year on a new fire station in West Vail, and work will start this year on new housing at the site of the Timber Ridge apartments. Both of those projects are being managed by general contractors from out of the area, but Ruther said he expects local subcontractors to get quite a bit of work.Vail has also put out requests for proposals for initial design and engineering work on a 56-unit affordable housing complex in West Vail on the site of the former Wendy’s. There’s a job coming this year for renovations to the Lionshead parking garage.In Avon, East West Partners has started design work on a set of townhomes adjacent to the Westin Riverfront Resort. Company partner Chuck Madison said it’s smaller projects like townhomes that will come back first as the broader economy starts to recover.”Hotels are usually the last thing to recover,” Madison said.Work on the townhomes will probably start next year, Madison said, depending on pre-sales and other factors.Farther downvalley, the Colorado National Guard expects to start work next spring on a roughly $35 million project at the Eagle County Regional Airport. That project will replace the existing buildings at the High Altitude Aviation Training Site with a new, modern building better suited to the base’s mission of training helicopter pilots in the tricks of mountain flying. Looking farther out, there are a couple of good-sized projects in Edwards just starting through the county’s approval process, including one called the “Edwards Village mixed use and affordable housing” plan. As the name implies, that project would put a combination of commercial and residential building on a couple of sites – one roughly behind the Edwards Corner building (where the Marble Slab Creamery is), and one roughly behind the Edwards post office and fire station.A bigger potential project is the Eagle River Meadows proposal on the old B&B Excavating gravel pit.Both of those projects, though, wouldn’t start before 2012, if then. Developer Rick Hermes believes he can break ground on an ambitious, roughly 2,000-unit project at Wolcott by 2013 or so.And then there’s EverVail, a more than $1 billion project in Vail. No one is sure when that might break ground. Until those bigger projects get to the point of hiring contractors, Foster said his company will have to get by the way it has been for more than a year now.”Our idea is to generate a lead that turns into a project,” he said. “We’re calling past clients, using any sources we can. “But when the developers are back and kicking out projects, we’ll be back, too,” he said.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

Bar scene can be rowdy, locals say

VAIL – David Dean thinks that police and bar bouncers should keep a closer eye on the fights that break out both inside and outside Vail bars. Dean, Vail resident for three years, usually tolerates the violence, but sometimes it concerns him, he said. “It bothers me when you just want to go out with your girl and a fight breaks out,” Dean said. Assaults, harassment and other criminal behavior are an unpleasant part of nightlife in Vail bars, local residents like Dean say. Police ticketed and arrested more belligerent bar patrons in 2006 than in 2005 thanks in part to a program where bar owners have cooperated with police to report crimes in bars, said Detective Sgt. Craig Bettis of the Vail Police Department. The 2002 Halloween beating death of 36-year-old Cody Wieland in Breckenridge shocked Vail Police and prompted them to start the Safe Bar Program in 2005, Bettis said. That year, police investigated 27 reports of crime in Vail bars, and reports increased to 33 in 2006. Those crimes included assault, disorderly conduct and trespassing, he said. Crimes occurred most often at the Sandbar, which had eight reports in 2005 and 14 in 2006, Bettis said. Those crimes often occurred during a weekly promotion called “White Trash Wednesday,” when the Sandbar serves cheap beer, he said. Police increased their presence at the Sandbar and asked the bar to hire extra security to help prevent crime, Bettis said. Police have gone “above and beyond” in helping the Sandbar quell the crime, said Dan Van Brummelen, general manager at the Sandbar. He described business at the Sandbar this season as “a real tough winter.””It seems like people drink more and more and more,” Van Brummelen said. “I drank in high school and in college, but it just seems like more and more.” Van Brummelen thinks that drinkers should take responsibility for themselves, he said, but Vail Police have enforced excessive alcohol service in the past. Police ticketed former Club 8150 owner Steven Kovacik for sale to an intoxicated party Oct. 27 after a severely intoxicated 38-year-old man drank there during a Jagermeister promotion, Bettis said. A woman reported the stumbling man, and police said they found him barely coherent and wearing a Jagermeister hat and carrying a Jagermeister keychain. His blood-alcohol content registered at 0.391 at the police station, Bettis said. Kovacik was arrested April 22 for failing to appear in court for the incident, said Vail Police Sgt. Dan Torgerson. Kovacik paid a $200 bond and was released, Torgerson said.Kovacik would not comment on the incident before he attended court, he said. Fights abound after bars close, and the Vail Transportation Center and Vail Village are the main battlegrounds, local residents said. Vail resident Jon Turner was waiting for a bus at the Vail Transportation Center when a man punched his friend after an argument, he said. Police came to the group’s aid but did not catch the suspect, Turner said. Dean sees some kind of altercation every time he goes to the bars at night, and he thinks the competitive nature of people who live in and visit Vail is responsible. An unbalanced ratio of men to women adds to the problem, he said. In 2000, Vail’s population consisted of 58 percent men and 42 percent women, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Reasons for fights might include anything from to a glare to trash talking, the locals said. “Someone walks by, someone says, ‘What the hell are you wearing, you look like a gaper,’” Turner said. Where people drink more, more fights occur, Turner said. Cheap drink specials, like those at White Trash Wednesday, lead to more fights in Vail, he said. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.