Stick up for your skis
But a nasty part of every ski season are the almost daily thefts of skis, snowboards and other equipment, whose owners have, like many us, left their gear in racks and out of sight while having lunch, going to the bathroom or buying lift tickets.”It’s a fairly common occurrence,” says Sgt. Rusty Jacobs, of the Vail Police Department. “I like to use the term “opportunists’ – most ski thefts occur because owners just don’t take the basic precautions to protect their skis.”Vail police take reports of stolen ski equipment almost daily, Jacobs says.Meanwhile, over in Summit County, police say last season 125 thefts were reported to Breckenridge police, totaling an estimated $59,575 in lost equipment. Statistics for this season are not yet available,Police suspect, however, that many cases of ski equipment theft go unreported.”There’s definitely been a slew of them this winter,” says Breckenridge Police Community Service Officer Josh Laverdiere. “And it won’t stop now. It will be here well into April and spring break. With the age groups we’ll have coming and the amount of people in town, there will be more theft.”Jacobs says just a little bit of security can foil ski thieves, who are neither sophisticated nor willing to spend a lot of time or effort on their crimes.He suggests using ski locks. There are a half-dozen varieties of ski and snowboard locks available at retail stores. Lock prices range from $10 to $20.”People who steal skis don’t usually have the means – or want to take the time – to defeat a lock,” he says.Skis and snowboards can disappear in a number of ways. People have reported their gear stolen from mountaintop restaurants and bathrooms, from base area racks, out of cars, off of racks – it’s not uncommon for a thief to take an entire ski rack off a car, even though the skis are locked into the rack.Some thieves just happen upon an opportunity and act on impulse, while others are out looking to steal, Laverdiere said. Thieves with a plan keep their eyes open for top-of-the-line, new gear and follow the owner. When the owner parks his skis or board outside a building, the thief watches, waits and then makes a move, Laverdiere said.”Even if you don’t realize it, thieves are watching your stuff,” he says.The problem has prompted police agencies to conduct occasional undercover sting operations using expensive gear donated by local companies.Ski areas offer lockers and check-ins, too, says Keystone Resort spokesman Mike Lee. For $1 or $2, guests can leave their skis or boards with resort staff and be sure the gear will be there when they return.At the least, police and resort staff say, keep gear in your line of sight. Lee suggests, when skiing in a group, if the stop is going to be a quick bathroom or water break, leave one member of the group outside to watch equipment.Once a snowboard or a pair of skis is stolen, the gear is unlikely to be recovered by police. One reason, Jacobs says, is that so many skis look alike and few owners know the serial numbers of their skis and snowboards.The Vail Police Department will register ski and snowboards. Police will record the make, model and serial numbers and give owners a Vail police sticker to let potential thieves know the gear is on file with law enforcement.”Very little stolen gear is recovered,” Laverdiere says. “But if it’s registered and the police somewhere else see that sticker, they’ll check the database and there’s a chance you’ll get it back.”The police and gear manufacturers also plan to do more educational outreach to let people know about ski and snowboard theft. Laverdiere attends ski swaps to distribute information and register equipment. He said future efforts will be aimed at visitors in an effort “to improve the guest experience.””It’s something a lot of people just aren’t conscious of,” Lee says. “But if you’re aware, you can take steps to avoid it. People just need to be proactive.”For skis that disappear, but aren’t necessarily stolen, there’s always lost and found, Jacobs says.”People go to apres-ski and forget their skis,” he says. “When we do our sweeps, we’ll pick them and bring them to lost and found.”Editor’s note – Reid Williams is a staff reporter with the Summit Daily News.
Among Vail’s volunteers, we tracked down Bob “Buckwheat” Buckley, Tony White and Brooke Franke Gagnon. They all said it was tough, that they loved it and suggested that if you try it you’ll love it too.