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Vail Daily letter: Scary catwalks on Vail Mountain

Otto Wiest
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

After almost 20 years of full season skiing I finally got hit by another skier. No, I didn’t get hurt, but the man who ran into me didn’t feel so well. Might be he selected the wrong target.

The situation has many sides and that’s why I wrote this letter, even though I am afraid that it will not change anything.

The accident happened of course on a Saturday, which is the busiest day of the week on our ski mountain. It happened at a spot where it is almost impossible to avoid another skier. It was on the catwalk between Chair 2 and Bear Tree (Gitalong Road).



We stood at the entrance and waited until this dangerous spot was kind of empty, then I told the lady who was with me to go first so I could ski behind her to protect her in case a crazy skier would run into her. And then we started.

Halfway down, a kind of beginner who couldn’t turn or slow down came right from behind. Because I constantly look back and forward when I ski such places, I saw the guy coming and he looked pretty heavy and clumsy.



Normally, I would have left but in this case, I had to protect the lady in front of me, and I decided to be a hero. He promptly hit me from behind so hard that I jumped out of my bindings. As my bindings are on setting “8,” this may show that he hit me pretty hard.

First the guy who hit me fell down, then I fell down and finally we reached the lady in front of me, and she fell down. As I had worked as a bumper, she was luckily not hurt. Since my bones are well trained, I didn’t get hurt, either. But the semi-beginner behind me who ran into us asked for Ski Patrol.

I was really not in good mood after this happened and told the man that if he cannot control his equipment, he should stay in the beginner area or go to Ski School. He answered that he has been skiing for 20 years.



Well, if he skis for 20 years this way, he will probably never learn, although he should stop eating and drinking enough that his weight will get in better relation to his strength.

But I learned a lot. First of all it shows that at certain places on Vail Mountain it is almost impossible to avoid an accident.

Second, I cannot protect another person from being skied down from behind when I am on a catwalk. That proves that this people are right who simply stay at home at weekends.

Thinking about the whole situation, this accident did scare the lady who I was trying to protect. If she would have had a broken leg or something like that, she would have suffered a lot of pain or be handicapped for many years. As a result she will not go skiing for long time or maybe forever.

The man who ran into us did definitely not want to do that. This accident ruined his vacation in Vail, and he will not have good memories.

Why did it happen? No, it is not the fault of this skier. Let’s frankly say this is very simply the fault of Vail Resorts. Why? According to their intention, they bring with the Epic Pass more and more skiers to Vail. They talk of a limit of 20,000 skiers, but who proves that there are not 25,000 at some days? Vail Mountain on the north side is a collection of snowfields of different sizes, and those snowfields are connected by catwalks which are narrow and dangerous.

It is also a secret for many visitors to choose the right catwalk to get to the next snowfield. If you want to get down the mountain, there is only a small number of catwalks that lead you down unless you are able to do black runs.

The Riva catwalk at the end of Rivas is a madhouse every afternoon after 3 o’clock. The Gitalong Road where we got run down is an unsafe place to be all day long. The Lions Way, a little bit above what connects the chair 2 area with Born Free is a place where boarders and kids shoot through like bullets.

But there is almost no way to avoid those places unless you go down by gondola or chairlift.

What is the purpose of my letter? We have in Vail catwalks where you can count 50 or more skiers per minute! Is it really enough when Vail Resorts writes on the backside of a lift pass that it is our own responsibility to use Vail Mountain for skiing?

Most of the mountain allows the crowded weekends without problems, but at the critical points, it would be necessary to enlarge those catwalks to the size they need for 20,000 skiers.

Otto Wiest

Vail


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