Skiers disagree on snowmobiles on slopes |

Skiers disagree on snowmobiles on slopes

Veronica Whitney
Vail Daily/Dominique Taylor The Golden Peak race course where a Steamboat racer collided with a race crew snowmobile Sunday in Vail.

VAIL – After a snowmobile collision killed a 13-year-old Steamboat Springs ski racer on Vail Mountain last week, snowboarder Jeff Moore said he will be more careful around the vehicles.”I’m not too concerned and I don’t see them too often,” said Moore, 22, of Colorado Springs, who has been snowboarding for eight years. “But I can definitely see how when they are coming up the hill and someone is going down and they don’t see each other, that can be pretty dangerous.”John Ervin, 51, of Vail, who has a 13-year-old daughter, said snowmobiles are dangerous on the mountain.”I have passed several on the mountain since the accident happened and I noticed I haven’t heard any kind of siren or I don’t see the flags on them,” Ervin said. “I’d like them to make so much noise that it’s impossible to miss them.”Ashley Stamp was warming up before a race on Vail Mountain on Dec. 19 when she collided with a race-crew snowmobile heading uphill over a blind knoll on Golden Peak. The Eagle County coroner said she died from chest injuries.Resort officials told the Colorado State Patrol the snowmobile was traveling about 10 mph with its siren wailing. But Ashley’s teammates on the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club said the snowmobile was moving much faster and that no siren was sounding. The collision is still being investigated.While some parents of Ashley’s fellow racers said they didn’t notice anything unusual about snowmobiles that day, others said the two snowmobiles operating around the race course were going too fast and negligence could have been a factor in Ashley’s death.Citing the ongoing investigation, Vail Resorts officials declined to comment on the accident or their snowmobile procedures on the mountain and race courses.

‘They have to do something’But to Ervin, Ashley’s accident just shows that there’s a need to make snowmobiles even more visible.”If they have sirens on they should be louder. I would take the sirens they have on the snow groomers and put those on the snowmobiles and make the flag two or three times as big and make them completely obvious,” Ervin said.Setting a specific corridor for snowmobiles could also help avoid future accidents, Moore said.”People would appreciate that and respect the boundaries,” Moore said. “It will make it a lot more safe.”Buzz Schleper, the owner of Buzz’ Boards and Ski Shop min Vail Village, is the father of U.S. Ski Team member, Sarah Schleper, and a 13-year-old ski racer. He said snowmobiles shouldn’t be on the hill once a race has started.”The same thing applies for the mountain. It’s too hard to control,” said Schlepper, 53, who has been skiing since he was 6. “I don’t care what they do before the race starts or the lifts open. I hope that something changes.” Fernando Pena, 39, who comes with his family from Mexico to ski at Vail every year, said he’d heard of the accident, but he wasn’t too concerned.”(Snowmobiles) aren’t handled dangerously here in Vail,” Pena said. “They should have more lights and make more noise or move them somewhere else in a specific corridor.

“They have to do something,” he added, “but they shouldn’t be banned.”‘They are necessary’While he was skiing Sunday, Chris Douglas, 31, of Vail, said he didn’t see a lot of snowmobiles on Vail Mountain.”I’m not worried with them,” Douglas said. “A lot of the responsibility is on the skier, to be aware of where they’re going. Wearing headphones is pretty risky because you can’t hear what’s going on. “Special corridors for snowmobiles might help, but what do you do when ski patrol needs to get somewhere?” he added. “You have to have snowmobiles to run a ski resort.”David Floyd, 60, a former ski patroller for Vail who used to drive snowmobiles, said he doesn’t believe snowmobiles are a major risk.”They are necessary for running the mountain operations,” he said. “We were properly trained in safety. Vail Associates was always very responsible about that. “However, everyone gets a drivers license and not everyone is a good driver,” Floyd added.

Still, Ashley’s accident will probably change how snowmobile drivers are trained and may lead to restrictions, Floyd added.”They are a responsive company that will do something positive about it,” he said.==========================================Ski lawAccording to the 1979 Colorado Ski Safety Act, all snowmobiles operating on ski slopes must be equipped with a lighted headlamp, a lighted, red tail lamp, working brakes and a fluorescent flag at least forty square inches mounted at least six feet above the bottom of the tracks. =================================================Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or Vail, Colorado

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