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Lift ops aired safety concerns

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
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ASPEN A former lift operator has gone public with letters to Aspen Skiing Co. officials written at the end of last season, questioning safety at Aspen Highlands. The first of the letters, which more than half of last year’s lift operators at Highlands signed, criticized the oversight of lift operations. Former lift operator Morgan Jones sent the letters to The Aspen Times after a 10-year-old girl’s 50-foot fall from a Highlands chairlift last week. The Skico acknowledged the letters and said the company took action after last spring’s criticism.

Jones said mismanagement of the mountain lift operations led to serious safety concerns another former lift operator, Charles Pohl, echoed in a letter the Aspen Daily News printed Wednesday. “When these concerns were brought forward, we took them very seriously,” said David Perry, Skico senior vice president. “They were shared with several levels of management.”The letter, which numerous Highlands lift operators signed, challenged the way the direct supervisor, Valerie Edgington, ran lift operations. The letter states that operators did not feel she was properly skilled, was unaware of concerns and unapproachable with problems.”If something did happen to go wrong,” the letter reads, “we don’t feel we would have full support from Val.”

Perry said the matter was addressed and handled properly. “These are internal issues that we do discuss internally,” Perry said. “We don’t bury them. We don’t sweep them under the rug.”He defended criticism of Edgington, saying she is a stellar Skico employee with nearly 30 years of service. She was a lift operations manager at Aspen Mountain before taking the position at Highlands in 2000. Edgington did not return messages seeking comment. “We stand behind Valerie 100 percent,” Perry said. “Yes, there was a situation where there were some unhappy employees, and we’re glad they came forward and spoke.”



It is still unclear what injuries were suffered by the 10-year-old girl who fell from the Cloud Nine Chairlift during a ski school class Feb. 19. The girl’s parents were unwilling to speak with the press after a lengthy meeting with top executives of the Skico. “I’m not at liberty to say what we’ve paid for,” Perry said in response to a question about the girl’s hospital bills. “We’ve offered to help them in any way we can.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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