Ski instructor shot from lift with BB gun

Veronica Whitney

VAIL ” Matthew Bourke was teaching a ski lesson Monday when he saw someone pointing a gun at him from the chairlift, police say.

The incident happened Monday at about 12:15 p.m., when Bourke, 26, a ski instructor for the Lionshead ski and snowboard school was with his class of 12 children on a trail above Lionshead, Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Gianni Robinson said.

Reports indicated the instructor was standing on the Lion’s Way trail near Mid-Vail when he was shot with the BB gun.

“(Bourke) had observed a person on the chairlift hold out what appeared to be a rifle. So he dove into the snow in anticipation of being shot,” Robinson said. “He was afraid for his life when the firearm was aimed at him.”

Bourke did not return calls left at the ski school Tuesday. But Robinson said Bourke was shocked.

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From the distance, Robinson said, Bourke couldn’t tell the weapon pointed at him was a BB gun. One of the BB gun’s pellets hit Bourke’s left shoulder, but didn’t pierce his jacket. He told the deputy he felt pain in his shoulder, and he also suffered a large welt and bruise.

The shooting is believed to be an isolated incident, Robinson said.

“He’s dumbfounded,” Robinson said of the instructor. “He doesn’t have any idea who would try to hurt him. He said he has no enemies.”

Bourke told police the suspect, who is still at large, was a man on skis.

“What’s concerning is that we don’t have any leads or identity,” Robinson said.

Jen Brown, a spokeswoman for Vail Mountain, also said the shooting was very unusual and an isolated incident.

“We’ve made every effort to locate the individual involved based upon the description that was given. We will continue to work with the Sheriff’s Office,” Brown said.

Robinson said police were called about an hour after the shooting. “Anyone in a similar situation should call 911 immediately,” he said.

Bourke, who had noticed the suspect was on Chair 8, called the chairlift operator to tell him to stop the lift, Robinson said.

“By the time the chair operator stopped the chairs, it was too late, the suspect had already left,” Robinson said.

Vail Security and Vail Ski Patrol were informed but they were unable to locate the suspect. Bourke continued his class with the children until 3:30 p.m. and didn’t go to the hospital for treatment.

A pellet gun is considered a firearm, Robinson said.

“We don’t know what kind of weapon this was,” he said. “It was a short-barrel firearm.”

The suspect could be charged with aggravated second degree assault and the use of a deadly weapon, which is a felony that can carry a sentence of up to 16 years in prison, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at

Vail Colorado

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