Cops on skis keep the peace at Vail and Beaver Creek, but they’re more likely to lend a friendly mitten |

Cops on skis keep the peace at Vail and Beaver Creek, but they’re more likely to lend a friendly mitten

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
Vail Police Department Det. Greg Schwartz observes downhillers Wednesday, March 24, at Vail Mountain, where most of his job is friendly interaction with skiers and riders.
Photo by Steve Peterson / The Colorado Sun)


VAIL — For 16 years, the Mountain Patrol has put skiing cops on the slopes of Vail and Beaver Creek. It’s a one-of-a-kind policing program, with uniformed officers supporting safety teams and ski patrollers. They don’t do much actual police work — very few arrests — and serve more as back-up and safety ambassadors at the ski areas.

“A friendly law enforcement presence is beneficial anywhere,” says Det. Greg Schwartz, pointing to the recent shooting at a Boulder grocery that killed 10 people, including a police officer who was among the first to rush into the store.

“I don’t think anyone will feel uncomfortable passing a cop in the aisle of the grocery store any more,” he says. “They are going to smile at us. It’s the same thing on the mountain. People like to see us and maybe we can be a deterrent from anyone doing something bad. And if something bad does happen, we are there that much quicker.”

Similar programs at Breckenridge, Purgatory and Monarch have faded away but uniformed cops have been skiing on Vail Mountain since 2005. A 24-person crew drawn from the U.S. Forest Service, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Vail, Avon and Eagle police departments regularly patrols at Vail and Beaver Creek. They each spend seven days on the hill in exchange for a free ski pass.

It’s impressive how little policing is needed for skiers, Schwartz says. 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.

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