Columnist loses job for mocking students |

Columnist loses job for mocking students

ASPEN – An Aspen Times columnist has been fired from her job as a snowboard instructor at Snowmass after mocking her students and their parents in a recent column.

In her Jan. 1 column, Alison Berkley described one student as a “”fat retarded kid” and “”whale boy,” and said students’ “”ultrawealthy” parents “”think I’m a miracle worker because their brain-dead kid actually got excited about something besides video games for the first time since the day she turned 13.”

Later in the column, the 33-year-old Berkley wrote: “”The real reward comes at the end of the day when the kid from hell has a really hot dad who loves me because his little monster actually likes snowboard school. … He has no idea it’s the sport that his kid loves, or even being outside all day surrounded by mountains so beautiful that even a comatose eighth-grader can appreciate them.”

Berkley’s telephone number is not listed. She did not immediately return an e-mail request for comment Friday.

Times editor Mike Hagan said he planned no changes for Berkley’s column, titled “”The Princess’s Palate.”

“”The princess is basically an alter-ego she has adopted for this column,” Hagan said. “”It’s intended to be a little edgy and play on the stereotype of the Aspen trust-funder. This one, I just think she pushed the wrong buttons, but her job here is definitely separate from her job at the Ski Co.”

The Aspen Times is owned by Colorado Mountain News Media, which is also the parent company of the Vail Daily.

Skiing Co. senior vice president David Perry said Thursday that Berkley had been fired from her job at Snowmass, but that he could not comment further on personnel matters.

The column also prompted reaction from other instructors.

In letters to the editor of The Aspen Times, Weems Westfeldt, director of operations for Ski and Snowboarding Schools of Aspen, and Snowmass ski school coordinator Susan Muenchen said Berkley’s column did not represent how ski snowboard instructors feel about students and their parents.

The column came after The Aspen Times and Colorado Mountain News Media reached a confidential settlement with a woman who lost her job as a Snowmass Village town planner after the newspaper identified her as an anonymous source in a story about a real estate development.

Carolyn Poissant filed a lawsuit Dec. 8 accusing the newspaper of negligence and outrageous conduct.

In a story about “”back-room negotiations” between the Aspen Skiing Co. and developers, the newspaper identified her by job and gender. Poissant, the only female planner in Snowmass Village, was fired a week later.

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