Colorado resorts target rogue ski instructors |

Colorado resorts target rogue ski instructors

Jason Blevins
The Denver Post
Aspen, CO Colorado

Many resorts have begun stings to nab renegade ski instructors who offer on-the-hill lessons without going through the resort.

Last season, Vail ski instructors groused about the increasing prevalence of underground paid lessons and guiding at Vail and Beaver Creek. They wondered whether Vail’s guardians were doing enough to stop it and protect their jobs.

“I was hearing that from our instructors, so we stepped up and had instant results,” said Vail Mountain chief Chris Jarnot.

The mountain joined the U.S. Forest Service in an undercover operation that netted a dozen illegal instructors. Those instructors faced federal charges and fines up to $5,000, although most first-time offenders were cited for $525. The real sting is a lifetime ban from skiing at all five Vail Resorts ski areas.

Anyone – including hunting, rafting, hiking or snowmobiling guides – who makes money in exchange for services on public land without a permit is breaking federal law, says Forest Service ranger Don Dressler.

“Our big message that we try to get across is that this is for public safety,” Dressler said. “We permit people who are licensed and insured and properly trained. I can understand the economics of the situation, and we sympathize, but we need to protect the public.”

Aspen Skiing Co. looks to its army of 1,200 to 1,400 instructors to keep an eye out for underground instruction. And they are vigilant in their watch, says spokesman Jeff Hanle.

In Vail, several of the underground instructors nabbed last season were former resort employees. Many of the instructors had told their clients, if questioned, to deny any financial deal.

“In several cases, we found the client had been coached,” Jarnot said.

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