Steamboat Springs police and the Colorado Department of Human Services are investigating an incident in which a 2-year-old girl was left unattended while in the care of the Kids Vacation Center at the Steamboat Ski Area.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. officials said two employees have been terminated and a review of Kids Vacation Center policies has been initiated in response to the incident.
According to a police report, the child was inadvertently left in below-freezing temperatures without a hat or mittens in an area just outside the center.
The report was made Dec. 31, when Jodi Goldstein, the mother of the 2-year-old, found the girl in the center's outdoor play area. The child was crying and had been unattended for an undetermined period of time, said Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing.
The mother told police she dropped her daughter off at the center, rode the Gondola, skied down the mountain and decided to check on her daughter.
Jodi Goldstein estimated 30 to 45 minutes elapsed between the time she dropped her daughter off and when she found her. The child was missing her mittens and had nothing covering her head, the police report stated.
Employees at the Kids Vacation Center told police they saw the girl outside, but thought she was not under the center's care and assumed her parents were close by, Fiebing said.
It is not clear how long the girl was left alone. She did not suffer any injuries.
"It was at first a horror and a nightmare to think about your child," said Marc Goldstein, the girl's father. "You could only imagine what could happen in this day and age."
The parents filed reports with the police department and the Department of Human Services.
Fiebing said police would provide a report to the District Attorney's Office, who will decide whether charges are warranted. Liz McDonough, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said the agency is investigating the incident. Depending on the results of the investigation, the state could fine the center.
The two Kids Vacation Center employees charged with watching the child have been terminated, said Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for Ski Corp.
Wirth said policies and procedures at the center also are being reviewed.
"We are taking every conceivable measure to ensure it never happens again," Wirth said.
Wirth said the incident was not related to the volume of skiers on New Year's Eve. Rather, he said Kids Vacation Center policies were not followed properly.
Marc Goldstein, whose family was vacationing in Steamboat from California, said he has met a half dozen times with the company since Dec. 31. Ski Corp. asked for the family's input on how to improve the situation. "What initially was a very scary experience for us turned into very positive results," Marc Goldstein said.
Under state law passed in 2002, ski area child-care facilities are exempt from more stringent licensing requirements than other child-care facilities must meet. However, ski area child-care centers are required to conduct background checks on all employees and must be inspected by the department of public health and environment and the fire department once a year. The centers also must maintain a minimum number of caregivers per child based on ages and maintain records of all children cared for during each calendar year.
Exempting ski areas from child-care licensing requirements was "a public policy call made by the General Assembly," McDonough said. "We just basically do what we are told. Obviously when you are talking about taking care of people's kids, it is important."
McDonough said complaints about ski area child-care facilities are rare. Sharon Kelley, who works in the local state human services office, said this is the first complaint about the Kids Vacation Center of which her office is aware.