Vail, CO, Jan. 5--A new group of employees dubbed the "Yellow Jackets" are swarming the mountain at Vail and Beaver Creek and putting the "sting" on skiers and snowboarders breaking "Your Responsibility Code."
Indeed, fast or reckless snowriding at Vail and Beaver Creek will get you a stern warning, or have your lift privileges revoked from the Yellow Jackets.
"We're not out there to police," Beaver Creek safety foreman Mike Gibbs said of his Yellow Jackets team of ski safety enforcers. "We're just trying to make skiing safe for everyone."
The Yellow Jackets teams at Vail and Beaver Creek, which include anywhere from 7-18 members on any given day, work the slopes to curb reckless skiing and snowboarding in mainly slow and family zones, and to promote and enforce Your Responsibility Code.
Countless snowriders have been stopped by the Yellow Jackets team and educated on Your Responsibility Code. The seven points of the code are:
The code was adopted by the National Ski Areas Association, which represents 330 ski areas in 39 states, this year to curb reckless and dangerous skiing.
It is hoped that the increased awareness will also reduce the number of skier deaths nationwide. In Colorado, 12 skiers died on its slopes last season and already three have been killed this year. Gibbs says he wants to see everyone enjoying his or her snowriding experience at Beaver Creek this season in a safe manner.
"Our mission at Beaver Creek is to educate people to where they can enjoy what they want to do on the mountain," Gibbs said. "If they want to rip it up, we'll send them to where they can rip it up. But we'd like to reserve the beginner terrain, the slow and family zones for controlled and safe skiing."
Indeed, it's the family and slow zones where the Yellow Jackets will be most visible, but Gibbs said they would patrol the entire mountain.Due to the limited amount of terrain open at both areas, snowriders of all abilities are sharing the same trails, and that has kept the Yellow Jackets very busy.
"This is a lot tougher job than most people think," said Yellow Jacket team member Evan Bartlett, patrolling Beaver Creek's Gold Dust Trail family ski zone recently. "I had this 43-year-old lady in my face because I caught her catching air off a catwalk in a slow zone. She said, 'I'm 43-years-old and I don't need anyone telling me when, where and how to ski.' But I kindly explained to her that what she was doing wasn't acceptable in a slow, family skiing zone. Besides, it's against the law."
Meanwhile, at Vail Mountain, the Yellow Jackets have been out in force and have already pulled more than 70 passes from people skiing and riding too fast.
"Enforcement is a tough job," said Julie Rust, supervisor for Vail mountain operations. "The message is easy though, slow down when others are around you, it's about space and speed."
However, the Yellow Jackets aren't out there just pulling passes, they mostly just give warnings. But the names and lift ticket numbers are entered into the company's computer. And a lift ticket, or season pass, can be suspended on a second offense.