Originally published December 3, 2010 at 07:36p.m., updated December 4, 2010 at 12:03a.m.
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Steamboat Springs Steamboat Ski Area officials said the resort isn’t performing pat-downs and searches on gondola riders, contrary to information that appeared in an editorial in Friday’s Denver Post.
The Post quoted an article in the December edition of Denver’s 5280 magazine, “Long arm of the law,” by Steamboat Springs resident Kelly Bastone. The article sets a scene where ski area security officials are conducting searches in which patrons must “unzip, de-layer, and turn out their pockets” and reveal the contents of their backpacks. Those who refuse aren’t allowed to use the lifts, the article states.
The Denver Post, in an editorial Friday titled “Slippery slope of ski-area security,” calls Steamboat “the most extreme example” of such crackdowns at Colorado’s ski areas.
But Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. officials said they’re performing no such searches and sent the Denver Post a letter expressing disappointment in the editorial.
“The recent editorial regarding increased law enforcement at ski resorts is seriously misleading and based on an inaccurate article in 5280 magazine,” the letter states. “The 5280 article neglected to mention that increased law enforcement only occurred on April Fools’ and Closing Day and was a necessary and prudent response to inappropriate and sometimes threatening behaviors and excessive alcohol use experienced on these two specific days in prior seasons.”
Spokesman Mike Lane said the ski area does not do physical searches. Rob Perlman, Ski Corp.’s vice president of sales and marketing, said the ski area searches bags for alcohol only Closing Day and April Fools’ Day, sometimes called Gaper Day.
“That was becoming out of control,” Perlman said. “We took what we believe were prudent steps to curb that inappropriate behavior toward other guests. Safety is our No. 1 priority, and we’re all about having fun in a safe manner.”
Some skiers and snowboarders had been involved in fights, assaults with ski poles and snowball throwing in the past, he said. Lane said the larger community recognized that some people were causing problems and appreciated the crackdown.
The searches are allowed because the ski area owns the gondola and chairlifts, which the Denver Post noted in its editorial.
Bastone acknowledged the safety issue and said she stood by her article.
“I think in my 5280 article, I gave voice to those concerns,” she said Friday.
She also said her article was meant to summarize an industrywide trend toward stricter enforcement. Bastone said she had been physically searched at Steamboat Ski Area on days other than April Fools’ Day or Closing Day, but she declined to provide specifics about those instances.
“I’m aware that’s something that doesn’t happen every day, but it’s something that’s a policy certainly in the spring,” Bastone said about searches and pat-downs.
She also said she hadn’t read the Denver Post’s editorial.
“My intention was simply to relate things as accurately as possible, so if … readers assumed from one incident that that happens every day, that I can’t control,” Bastone said.
In addition to sending the letter, Ski Corp. officials said they spent the day on the phone with Denver Post leadership. Perlman said the resort was in the process of contacting 5280.
“We’ve received quite a few phone calls and e-mails today, and that affects not only the resort but the community,” Perlman said.
Sgt. Rich Brown, of the Steamboat Springs Police Department, said Ski Corp. sometimes pays officers to stand by while staff members inspect bags. He said officers haven’t been doing pat-downs at the ski area and don’t have people turn out their pockets.
“Oh, no, we don’t do any of that,” Brown said. “We go up and assist them with security. Their staff usually does anything related to checking for alcohol containers and stuff.”
At least one Steamboat resident thinks pat-downs might not be a bad idea.
Harvey Lyon said his 15-year-old daughter was riding the gondola with two young men when they started smoking marijuana. She didn’t feel comfortable protesting, Lyon said, and she was stuck in the situation. He also noted that she is an athlete who didn’t want to be subject to the influence of marijuana.
“There is a good argument for pat-downs and stuff because people aren’t being responsible,” he said. “If this is happening, it wouldn’t bother me at all if they did searches and stuff because I don’t want to be skiing with guys that are high or snowboarding with guys that are high, and I don’t want my daughter trapped with guys that are high.”
Lane, the Ski Corp. spokesman, encouraged people to speak up about such incidents.
“We’re always open to hear from guests,” he said. “If their experience isn’t what they wanted it to be, we want them to let us know.”
Lane said people with concerns should call the ski area at 970-879-6111. On the mountain, people can contact any staff member or Steamboat Ski Patrol.