Vail watching out for lift ticket scammers, jail possible
eagle county correspondent
VAIL – Jake Parish has slashed the $81 lift tickets at Vail to the low, low price of free numerous times over two recent months – until he got caught clipping someone’s day pass.
Parish, 20, and buddies came to Vail from California carrying little money in their wallets for gas, food and lodging. They slept on a friend’s floor. Their vision was to not get a job, shoot footage for a snowboard video and ride as often as possible.
“Our main purpose was just to snowboard our asses off,” Parish said.
But the freewheeling lifestyle caught up with Parish two days before he returned to California. A Vail employee caught him asking for and receiving a lift ticket from a woman finished skiing for the day, he said.
Vail police got involved and Parish – who admits the infraction – got handcuffed and arrested.
Vail employees look out for people like Parish and others sneaking onto lifts with someone else’s pass. If ticket scanners discover such subterfuge, the cops get called and the offender often gets charged with fraud – or, as the crime is officially called, “deceptive use of a ski facility.”
People using someone else’s pass might hide their faces – even on warm spring days – with hats, masks, goggles and hoods so scanners can’t compare their face with the photo on the ski pass.
“Sometimes it’s fairly obvious they’re trying to hide their face,” Vail Resorts spokeswoman Anita Allen said. “That’s a first tip maybe they are trying to hide something and it’s obvious from the picture they aren’t who they say they are.”
If employees sense something wrong they can use information from the scanner – such as height, weight, date of birth and other facts – to grill the suspect.
If it’s not their pass, the pass’s owner is contacted. If the pass was stolen, theft charges can also be filed.
But if the pass was loaned to a friend, the pass holder is asked to press charges against the offender or risk losing the pass for the entire year, Allen said.
“If it’s your friend you’re not going to want to bring charges against your friend,” Allen said.
Rumor holds employees collect a bounty from the ski company for each fraudulent pass they spot. Vail police Sgt. Kurt Mulson said he was unsure, but heard in years past the bonus was $35 but it now could be as much as $50. Allen refused to confirm an employee earns a bonus for each pass they confiscate.
“I can’t release that information,” Allen said. “We can’t give out anything about salaries or bonuses.”
Vail ticket scanners have busted 23 people this year, far less than the 69 instances of fraudulent passes discovered last year, Allen said.
The tally usually increases when spring approaches as spring breakers roll into town and seasonal workers who don’t have a pass or who already had theirs taken away, try to get on the hill with other people’s passes, Mulson said.
“Toward the end of the season kids frankly don’t care if they get caught because they’re going to be leaving,” Mulson said.
Seasonal workers charged with using phony passes often leave Vail and the charges behind at the end of the ski season, Mulson said.
“It’s kind of a game they play,” Mulson said.
Overall, though, the number of people trying to sneak a pass by scanners has dropped, Mulson said.
“Ever since VA went to the scanning system a few years ago it’s scary how efficient that thing is,” Mulson said. “Overall it’s been a little bit less because word got out a few years ago that the system is hard to beat.”
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