Vail arson had impacts at other resorts |

Vail arson had impacts at other resorts

Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY – The 1998 arson on Vail Mountain that destroyed Two Elk lodge and destroyed or heavily damaged several other buildings and lifts was accompanied by a veiled warning that hinted at future strikes against other ski resorts in the region.Taking credit for the fires, the Earth Liberation Front, also known as ELF, warned skiers to stay away from Vail Resorts-owned ski areas, suggesting that more attacks could be in the cards if the resort company didn’t back away from its path of what ELF characterized as unwarranted destruction of wildlife habitat.As a result, Vail Resorts boosted security at its resorts in Summit County as well. At the start of the 1998 season, for example, security vehicles were more visible than usual at the Keystone base area. Patrols were stepped up around the ski resorts, and some on-mountain facilities were staffed day and night.While a similar attack is not near the top of the list of present concerns, at least some of those security measures are still in place, including increased video surveillance at all four of the company’s resorts, V spokesperson Kelly Ladyga said.”The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority,” Ladyga said, adding that she couldn’t discuss any additional security measures.The Vail arson also had a direct impact on Summit County’s law enforcement resources, said former Sheriff Joe Morales, now director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety.The top concern at the time was securing the access routes to Vail’s “Category 3″ expansion area, now known as Blue Sky Basin. Since the main route to the area started on the Summit side of Vail Pass, the sheriff’s office was involved in that effort, Morales said.Morales said there were several other incidents of eco-sabotage, or vandalism, that were investigated while he was sheriff, including some tree-spiking, as well as damage to heavy equipment around construction areas at Keystone, as well as some equipment under contract to the Forest Service for work on public lands around Montezuma. Any imminent threat of a ski area attack has faded to the background, but it’s still on the radar screen, as is the potential for other types of eco-sabotage, Summit County Sheriff John Minor said.”Domestic or international terrorism is never off the radar screen,” Minor said.In the context of environmentally motivated attacks, Minor said local law enforcement officials take heed when there are activities in other parts of the state, or even in adjacent states. For example, after a series of arsons targeting SUVs at car dealers in California, the Silverthorne Police Department stepped up patrols around local dealers. Similarly, arson attacks against trophy home construction sites elsewhere spurred local authorities to try and better secure local construction sites.Vail, Colorado

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