Purpose of snowmobiles on slopes questioned | VailDaily.com

Purpose of snowmobiles on slopes questioned

Veronica Whitney
Vail Daily/Dominique Taylor This snowmobile was parked by the Golden Peak race arena finish area on Thursday. The Colorado Ski Safety Act requires that snowmobiles operating at ski resorts have an operating taillight and headlight and an orange fluorescent flag six feet above the snow.
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Reports from eye witnesses about what happened on Golden Peak Sunday morning are conflicting. Stamp was warming up for a race when she collided with a snowmobile driven by a Vail Resorts race crew employee. While the collision is still being investigated, some parents insist they didn’t notice anything unusual about snowmobiles that day.But other parents, who didn’t see the collision but watched some of the skiers warming up before the race was canceled, say the two snowmobiles operating around the race course were going too fast and negligence could have been a factor in Stamp’s death. “Something has to be done to regulate snowmobiles on the slopes and if Vail is the lead ski mountain in the United States, they should take the lead in implementing it,” said Stuart Roberts, whose four children were on Golden Peak last weekend skiing with Stamp. “We allow our kids to do something risky,” Roberts said. “I don’t need an 800-pound snowmobile jeopardizing them. There were 200 kids in that race.”Stuart Roberts and his wife, Lulu, said the snowmobiles in the race arena were going at least at 20 mph with no sirens on, contrasting initial Colorado State Patrol reports that said the snowmobile was moving at about 10 mph with the siren and lights on. “It is feasible for a race to be put on without snowmobiles,” said Jeff Gibbs, of Steamboat Springs, whose son, Alex, was skiing behind Stamp when the collision happened and is an eye witness.

“Snowmobiles can be a helpful tool when they are used in a prudent fashion. That wasn’t the way I felt they were used in the weekend,” Gibbs said.Snowmobile proceduresVail Resorts officials declined to comment on the accident or their snowmobile procedures on the mountain and on race courses.”The investigation into the circumstances surrounding this tragic accident is ongoing and therefore it continues to be inappropriate for us to comment any further,” said Kelly Ladyga, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.In the past years, Steamboat ski resort, has been working hard to eliminate unnecessary snowmobile traffic, said Doug Allen, vice-president of mountain operations.”We have reduced the number of snowmobiles from 57 three years ago to 28 now,” Allen said. “We would very much like to reduce all snowmobile traffic on the mountain because of the noise and the inconvenience for the skiers.”Snowmobiles are not allowed on course during races or in areas where skiers are warming up, Allen said.

“We would notify the personnel to stay out of the race course and the warm-up area,” Allen said. “The athletes also need to know where the warm up area is so they don’t encounter a snowmobile. During the meeting before the race, the coaches and athletes are informed of where the warm-up area is. It’s a two-part program.”Siren controversyAs for sirens, Allen said, snowmobiles at Steamboat don’t have any.”The Colorado Ski Safety Act requires us to have an operating taillight and headlight and an orange fluorescent flag six feet above the snow surface,” he said. “I’m not aware of any manufacturer that provides a snowmobile with a siren.”At Steamboat, snowmobiles are used for, among other operations, lift maintenance and by ski patrol to transport injured skiers, and on a limited basis by on-mountain restaurant crews, Allen said.”Each department has to provide me a list of personnel to operate three vehicles,” Allen said. “Each person who rides a snowmobile here has to go through a three-hour training session.

“Our unofficial maximum speed limit is 20 mph. In the presence of any skier they have to go as slow as possible to negotiate the hill they have to climb,” Allen said.Andy Wirth, president of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club – of which Stamp was a member – was watching his sons race on Sunday in Vail. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in how the race was managed, including the snowmobile traffic, he said. Though he agrees that a ski race can be operated without snowmobiles, Wirth said they are very useful.”Every race I’ve been to I’ve seen snowmobiles used on the race course before the race, during the race and after the race. It comes down to judgment and procedures,” he said.Stuart Roberts insists there should be corridors for the snowmobiles and they shouldn’t be on the race courses.”This will be pursued until something good comes up,” he said. “This shouldn’t be forgotten. This was a young, beautiful, vibrant girl.”Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or vwhitney@vaildaily.com.