Vail Daily letter: Skier safety problem demands attention |

Vail Daily letter: Skier safety problem demands attention

The “One painful step at a time” article featured in the March 8 edition of the Vail Daily highlights a large and growing skiing safety problem on Vail Mountain. Solving the problem will require a larger financial commitment by Vail Resorts to the problem of prevention, detection and apprehension of violators including: empowering all uniformed employees of Vail Resorts to revoke lift passes; substantially increasing the number of Yellow Jackets on the mountain, especially in high-risk areas and wherever there are the now meaningless “zero tolerance” signs; investing in strategically placed video cameras to record activity in high-risk areas; investing in long-range RDF readers/scanners to read the lift passes of fleeing violators; and increasing the number of Eagle County sheriff’s deputies patrolling the mountain on skis on major weekends.

I recently attended a safety seminar hosted by the Dartmouth Club of the Vail region which included a panel of leaders of Vail and Beaver Creek mountain operations and the Vail Snowsports School. Highlights included an astonishing assertion that “reported collisions” are trending down, which begs the question of how many are unreported and/or skewed to minimize the severity of the collisions. It also fails to account for the countless near-misses and unreported non-injury collisions. Another highlight was the leaders’ emphasis on safety “education” which might be effective for the one- or two-week-per-year vacation skier/snowboarder, but not for the large number of local hotshots who consider all those rules and regulation to be applicable to the tourists, but from which they are exempt.

Like Mrs. Koenig, I and a close friend are among the “hit and run” victims (a few years apart) resulting in severe injuries, though hers sounds like it might have been the worst. Mine was certainly the least severe, having included “only” a loss of consciousness, concussion, a fractured right tibia plateau and multiple tears in the retinas of both eyes from the force of the head hit. Yes, I was wearing a helmet. In my 19 winters in Vail, I have been hit three times, each with increasing severity, and none were “reported,” the most recent because, after I woke up, I was stupid enough to ski down on one ski while hanging the injured leg for balance.

The problem demands serious attention, and “education” will not get it done. Prevention, detection and apprehension will get better results.

Joe McHugh

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