‘Sting’ slows Vail riders
By J.K. Perry Daily Staff WriterLimited visibility on Vail Mountain slowed riders down on Saturday, but a yellow jacket and ski patroller “sting” made certain people slowed down in congested areas.
“We’re trying to take it down a notch in the more skier heavy areas,” head ski patroller Julie Rust said just above Chairs 3 and 4. “Mid-Vail has never been known for it’s lack of people.”About 40 patrollers scattered across the mountain in high-congestion areas waved their arms and poles to slow people down. They shouted at riders sliding a bit fast to make more turns. They called it “Sting Day: Don’t Get Stung.”Their presence alone made a statement, patrollers said.”People notice and slow down,” Rust said. Not slowing down can mean losing a one-day pass, one day of a multi-day ticket or a punched pass for season-pass holders. A second violation for a season-pass holder means no riding for a week. A third spells losing the pass for the rest of the year.Just a few riders had passes pulled on Saturday, Rust said.
“It’s not about busting people,” Rust said. “It’s about everybody going at the appropriate speed in the space they are in.”We want people to have a real big awareness they’re not the only ones out there. You’ve got to take care of each other.”Skiers and snowboarders will see “Sting Days” periodically throughout the season, particularly on weekends and holidays. On Saturday, patrollers got positive feedback from people coming down the mountain. The riders were pleased with the patrollers’ presence.”It’s safety,” snowboarder John Natalie said. “Especially for kids. The mountain is so big. If you want to haul ass, you can go somewhere else. You don’t want people getting hurt.”
“Where I’ve seen them they’re in good positions,” skier Michael Crofton said. “We definitely need them where runs funnel and high speed can get crazy.”At the Northwoods funnel near Chair 11, Brian McCartney and Brice May peered through the blinding snow at riders coming down the mountain. The poor visibility caused by the snow naturally slowed people down.As early season marches along, McCartney said he hopes the number of people asked to slow down will decrease.”If I said we had 98 contacts (today) and next week we have 50 contacts, that would be ideal,” said McCartney, vice president of mountain operations.There are still those contacts who don’t appreciate the patrol’s speed checking.”Every once in a while people look at us like we have three heads. It’s those people we need to explain our expectations to,” McCartney said.
Not explaining those expectations can be injurious.”We educate people when the right time to stretch out is, and when not to where the consequences can be horrific,” patroller May said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14622, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vail, Colorado