Police Trade in Their Cruisers for Skis and Begin Patrolling the Slopes at Vail and Beaver Creek, CO

Luke Guilford | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Police on skis
Vail Police Department officer Greg Schwartz is on patrol at Vail Mountain. Photo Credit: The Durango Herald

Over the last 18 years, the Mountain Patrol has put skiing police officers on the slopes of Vail and Beaver Creek. The idea is for the officers to serve more as a helping hand than to do actual police work.

Don’t expect to see cops shredding all over the mountain, as only one or two officers work per week. Law enforcement professionals who partake in the Mountain Patrol program commit 40 hours of their own time to ski patrolling throughout the season.

It also might take a double take to realize it’s a police officer. The patrollers wear a modified uniform to comply with the conditions of the mountain. Although the officers are wearing something different from their typical uniforms, those on Mountain Patrol are still recognizable as police officers. Officers wear name tags and patches indicating that they are police.

Vail Police
More often than not, officers like Schwartz spend time helping skiers get around the mountain. Photo Credit: The Colorado Sun

Greg Schwartz is a volunteer on the Mountain Patrol and a couple years back he interviewed with The Colorado SunSchwartz had this to say about the policing done at the mountain:

“It’s impressive how little policing is needed for skiers… Vail sees more than 20,000 visitors most winter Saturdays. And police rarely need to help patrollers or safety crews on the mountain. Think about a gathering of more than 20,000 people anywhere. Chances are, there are more than a couple cops there to keep things orderly.”

Schwartz said this on what he thinks influences people to ski and act on good behavior. Find the full article on The Colorado Sun’s website.

“I think most skiers would be more nervous about losing their ski pass than getting a ticket and going to court,” Schwartz says. “The ski pass for a lot of these people is a bit more important. On those closing weekends, when we are assisting with getting people down the mountain, a scan gun that can read who the person is via their RFID pass is just as detrimental as seeing a police badge.”

Though Mountain Patrol very rarely cites or arrests anyone on skis, they are ready and equipped with all the tools of a patrol cop, including a gun, handcuffs, and a ticket book. As of 2021, the only time Schwartz and his colleagues have had to arrest skiers has been on the final weekend of skiing at the resorts.

The most common crime the officers deal with is cracking down on people using another person’s pass, which is a misdemeanor called “deceptive use of a ski facility.” At Vail in 2017 and 2019, police charged 70 skiers with that crime.

The idea of having police officers patrol the mountain is not new and other ski areas like Breckenridge and Monarch had tried before, but it quickly faded away. Like Vail and Beaver Creek, Purgatory Ski Resort is another Colorado mountain attempting to revive its program by putting cops on skis.

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