Steamboat Springs Ugly incidents on past April Fools' Days have prompted Steamboat Ski Area to launch a campaign to promote appropriate behavior this year.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the Ski Patrol are working with businesses and young people to encourage respectful behavior Wednesday. They're also increasing law enforcement presence at the ski area. Last year, skiers and riders reported harassment and assaults, Ski Patrol Director John Kohnke said.
"April 1 has always kind of been a day of celebration on the mountain, and from my understanding, it's been kind of an evolution of a day of celebration that's turned into mocking the guest," Kohnke said. "And I think some people still struggle with why would that be an issue."
Although most people are respectful, a few use April Fools' Day, sometimes called Gaper Day, as an opportunity to spray people with snow or otherwise mistreat them, Kohnke said. Last year, a man from Denver reported an unpleasant incident.
"They were up by Tomahawk, and his wife fell," Kohnke said. "It seemed like a group of people together, five or six of them, as she was trying to get up, they sprayed her. And then as she was trying to get up, they pushed her down and hit her with their ski poles and laughed and skied away."
There's a "gang mentality" among people who think it's OK to behave that way, he said. Kohnke said he didn't understand why people abused the guests who are a large part of Steamboat Springs' economy.
"The people that come to visit Steamboat are spending $5,000 to $10,000 on a trip," Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said. "It's what drives this economy. We need to take care of our guests and not mock them."
Alcohol frequently is involved, Kohnke said. The ski area plans to check bags at the Gondola, Christie Peak Express and Thunderhead Express lifts.
"When we see somebody with a big pack of beer, we're going to search that and deny you access to the lift," Kohnke said.
People who appear to be intoxicated also could be barred from lifts, he said. The Steamboat Springs Police Department, the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Forest Service will help keep things under control.
Sgt. Miles DeYoung of the Sheriff's Office confirmed an increased presence.
"I know we're going to have some additional deputies up there for Gaper Day because of the problems we've had in the past," DeYoung said.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association sent out an e-mail from Ski Corp. describing unacceptable behavior. It listed:
- Offensive, obscene, derogatory, mocking, reckless and abusive behavior, language, gestures, actions or clothing
- Skiing/riding in aggressive manner, which could be perceived as threatening to other participants, skiing/riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs as well as skiing/riding with open container(s)
- Acts in any manner that endangers or may endanger the safety of individual or any other person; violates the law or Colorado Skier Safety Act
Visitors notice when they're being mocked, the e-mail stated.
"Last year, we received letters from guests who won't be returning as a result of unfriendliness on the mountain," it stated. "This represents money out of all of our pockets."
The ski area is referring to Wednesday as Guest Service Day to promote respectful behavior and encourage locals to welcome visitors. Almost everyone understands and has been helpful, Kohnke said.
"There are just a few people out there that don't get it, and those are the people we'd just as soon not have on the hill," he said.
Those who violate the rules could be banned from the mountain.
"If you're somehow involved in an assault or something we consider egregious : you won't ski on this hill for several years to come," Kohnke said. "There will be a minimum of a two-year suspension, and it could be longer than that depending on how egregious the offense is."
Kohnke said the ski area wanted people to have fun. Dressing up is fine as long as no offensive or derogatory slogans are involved, the ski area's e-mail said.
"Our big mantra is respect the sport, respect each other," Kohnke said. "We're not against fun. We're just against that other stuff."
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