Yellow Jackets a Stinging Success on Slopes

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Beaver Creek, CO, Mar. 1--Skier safety is one of the hottest topics in the ski industry today, and there's no place where safety is more of a burning issue that at Vail and Beaver Creek Resorts.

This season Vail Resorts introduced the Yellow Jackets, a team of safety enforcers who monitor slow skiing and family zones, and preach the gospel of "Your Responsibility Code." Although there is no solid data on the Yellow Jackets reducing skier collisions, reckless or out-of-control skiing, the program has been a huge success.

"If nothing else it's highlighted skier safety," said Mike Gibbs, safety foreman for Beaver Creek Resort, of the Yellow Jackets team. "We're had more signage, more visibility, more personal interactions, more educational opportunities and more community outreach than we've ever had. And that just gets people thinking about skier safety.

"You can have a collision with a tree or another skier at any time, those are things that we can't control at all," Gibbs added. "But we're just trying to get people to think about a safe place to stop; yielding the right away to the downhill skier; looking uphill before merging onto a trail; all of those things make for a safer mountain."

While the Yellow Jackets have taken the sting out of fast and reckless skiing, their goal is not to pull passes and kick people off the mountain - although that has happened.

"There are certain people that are better off the mountain for a certain amount of time, and we've exercised that option," Gibbs said. "A two week hiatus helps them learn a little better than a verbal warning. And it also helps them to spread the word about skier safety and that there are some consequences for irresponsible actions.

"Overall the response have been positive," said Gibbs. "People are happy to see a dedicated presence out there trying to educate and monitor skier safety."