More crashes with instructors, some say |

More crashes with instructors, some say

eagle county correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL ” Ken Zimmerman’s fellow ski instructors noticed when he greeted people with his left hand instead of his right arm, injured when a skier crashed into him.

They began sharing similar stories.

“There’s been a lot of us hit,” Zimmerman, a Vail Mountain ski instructor, said about collisions this season.

Zimmerman is not the only one who thinks more ski instructors have been hit on Vail’s slopes this year than in recent memory. The Vail Daily has received several letters to the editor from people concerned about a trend that they and others say stems from a lack of personal responsibility and a lack of education and enforcement from Vail Resorts.

Zimmerman, 65, was teaching a lesson in Vail when an older man crashed into him from behind, he said. The man wrapped his arms around Zimmerman, who fell and tore two ligaments in his shoulder and chipped his shoulder blade, he said.

The man told Zimmerman he wasn’t paying attention. By the time the older man saw Zimmerman, he failed to react fast enough to avoid the collision, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, who can quickly rattle off a list of at least five injured instructors, said that skiers and snowboarders should pay attention, look ahead and give ski instructors a wide berth.

Bill Hubbard, ski instructor for the Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School for eight years, said that he didn’t know whether more instructors had been hit this season, but that people are skiing “too damn fast.” People lack an understanding of the “Your Responsibility Code” ” a set of skier safety guidelines Vail and Beaver Creek ski mountains have adopted. This season seems worse than previous years, he said.

Three weeks ago, a skier grazed his skis. A week ago, a snowboarder knocked down someone in his class.

Hubbard said people should teach themselves how to ski responsibly.

“You’re responsible while driving a car,” he said. “You should be responsible on skis, too.”

The Colorado Skier Safety Act bolsters their argument. It states that the person skiing downhill must avoid colliding with people or objects below them.

Kaye Ferry, part-time ski instructor for Vail Resorts, was hit by a snowboarder in Jan. 2007. and broke five ribs as she taught a lesson.

Vail Resorts needs to better educate skiers and snowboarders, through posting more signs or distributing educational literature or videos, she said. More Yellow Jackets ” who patrol high-traffic areas for speeders ” on the mountain also would help, she said.

“The resort is going to having to be responsible,” Ferry said.

Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts, did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Zimmerman is getting surgery on his shoulder Wednesday and he’s looking forward to coming back to a mountain where skiers and snowboarders are cautious, he said.

“I want to come back next fall and I don’t want to have to wear body armor to protect myself,” Zimmerman said.

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