Breckenridge ski pass frauds see spring break uptick
Ski pass fraud cases in Breckenridge typically spike in the month of March, and this year has been no different: There have been at least 23 court summonses issued to people allegedly using passes not belonging to them so far this month.
That accounts for nearly half of the 50 total ski pass fraud cases reported to the Breckenridge Police Department since the ski season began last November.
Police spokeswoman Colleen Goettelman speculated that the routinely higher March totals might be related to the high number of spring break vacationers in town.
“It could also be because we’re toward the end of the season, and people don’t care as much if they lose their passes for loaning them out,” she said.
On March 9 alone, five ski pass fraud summonses were issued in Breckenridge.
Overall, however, ski pass frauds are down significantly this season. Pass frauds over the same period from November 1, 2015, to March 14, 2016, totaled 135, roughly two-and-a-half times as many violations that have occurred this season, according to police statistics.
That reflects the wide variations in enforcement of a town ordinance that relies on resort pass scanners noticing fraudulent pass users and reporting them.
When they do, resort security contacts the suspected parties and typically calls the police, who go to the mountain and issue a ticket.
Fines for ski pass fraud range broadly, but can be as high as $2,650, according to an official at the Breckenridge Municipal Court. The severity of the fine is up to the discretion of a judge and typically centers on how cooperative — or uncooperative — the suspect was with police.
An average fine, the court official said, is around $400. By comparison, an adult pays $859 for an Epic Pass, which grants full access to mountains owned by Vail Resorts.
Displays on the scanners used by pass-checkers show a host of information for each ticket scanned, including the age of the pass-holder and a large photograph. Employees are also given a cash incentive to report fraudsters, similar to how many bouncers at bars are given bonuses for confiscating fake IDs.
In a February pass fraud incident documented in a police report, a scanner reportedly asked a man for $10 on suspicion that he was using someone else’s pass, citing the bonus that pass-checkers receive for reporting fraud suspects to resort security.
Sometimes, reporting pass fraud suspects can be dicey. In what was described as the “most rude pass fraud situation yet this year,” a man reportedly shouted repeated obscenities at pass scanners and was very uncooperative with security and police officers.
In another incident in January, a woman who appeared to be in her early 20s allegedly attempted to use a pass that belonged to a woman in her 50s. Security followed the woman and the man she was with to their car, and they proceeded to jump a curb and take out several traffic cones in order to circumvent a parking lot security gate.
While skiers and snowboarders passing off other people’s passes as their own is the more common type of fraud, another stems from scammers selling bogus lift tickets on Craigslist to unsuspecting tourists.
Several such cases have occurred in Breckenridge and Vail this season, prompting police to warn visitors to only purchase lift tickets through vetted sources, such as Vail.com.
In one case, Vail police said, an individual sold around $2,000 worth of lift tickets via Craigslist and then reported the credit card used to purchase them as stolen.
The buyers of the tickets were then flagged down for insufficient payment shortly after the resort opened.
“The Vail Police Department and Vail Resorts would like to remind everyone that ski lift tickets and season passes are non-transferable, meaning they cannot be resold, loaned or gifted,” police said in a news release.