Ski fraud surging this season
eagle county correspondent
VAIL ” Season-pass sharers beware: Ticket scanners on Vail Mountain have been more vigilant than ever this ski season.
At Vail Mountain this season, the number of people caught trying to use someone else’s ski pass is on pace to double. Vail police and Vail Resorts attribute the increase to alert employees and more passes sold.
Detective Sgt. Craig Bettis of Vail Police Department said that between Nov. 2006 and Feb. 2007, 32 of 42 people arrested have been prosecuted, compared to three people by the same time last season.
Ski pass fraud tends to rise with spring break so Bettis thinks that by the season’s end, the number of those charged with “deceptive use of a ski facility” ” as it’s officially called ” will double last year’s total of 64.
“Additional procedures taken by employees have contributed to the rise in cases,” said Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts, in an e-mail.
Improved training for scanners and the pass’s larger photo are responsible for preventing more people from scamming their way on the mountain, Brown said.
Brown confirmed that Vail Resorts offers employees a financial incentive, but would not disclose the amount.
“We’re also working on improved technology for the future but are not at liberty to discuss specifics,” Brown stated.
A rise in pass sales may also contribute to the high number. In its first quarter, Aug. to Oct. 2006, Vail Resorts reported a 21-percent increase in season pass sales compared to the same period in 2005.
“Part of it was an increase in passes this year, but it’s also the proactive work on the part of Vail Resorts,” Bettis said.
The fine for the infraction varies widely. Bettis said judges have fine offenders between $75 and the maximum $999.
Tom Neyens, owner of Ski Valet Inc. and Vail resident of 25 years, said everyone used to know someone who tried to get on the mountain for free. Neyen’s employees have season passes and many are grown-up with families, making them unlikely to engage in such mischief, he said.
Young people who have just arrived in town jobless and broke are the more likely culprits.
“Most of the time it’s the new kid in town,” he said.
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