Vail Resorts the nation's largest ski area is on track to far outpace the number of people prosecuted last season for using someone else's pass, stealing a lift ticket or hiking up the mountain to use upper lifts for free.
Thirty-two people there have been prosecuted so far this season for "deceptive use of a ski facility," according to Vail police. By this time last season, only three people had been prosecuted.
Police say most of the increase can be credited to added security measures, including improved employee training. Ticket-scanners are also being offered an undisclosed monetary incentive to peg violators, said Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Broomfield-based Vail Resorts Inc.
"We're also working on improved technology for the future," said Brown, who declined to discuss specifics.
To help Vail employees find scammers, this winter's season passes have bigger identification pictures, said Sgt. Craig Bettis.
"The face of the pass has changed. The picture is better," Bettis said. "We`ve set the bar high for employees to find deceptive use."
Common violations include "borrowing" another person`s pass; splitting a day ticket between two people by moving it from one person`s coat to another; and hiking up the mountain to a resort`s upper lifts most of which don`t scan tickets.
Bettis said he recalls catching a Boulder couple doing just that.
"They were skinning up on teleskis and using the trail lifts," he said.
Last season, 64 people were charged with "deceptive use" at Vail, Bettis said. But most of the infractions happened in the spring especially during Spring Break.
"So I expect the numbers to double or triple by the end of this year," he said.
Bettis explained that Spring Break seems to bring more violations because some pass holders are done skiing for the season and give their passes away, vacationers come to Colorado shopping for cheap tickets and more of the risk-taking youth population hits the slopes.
The number of violators caught at resorts in neighboring Summit County this winter is much lower.
Keystone Ski Resort has ticketed four people, and Copper Mountain Resort has ticketed two, said Summit County sheriff`s spokeswoman Paulette Horr. No tickets have been issued this winter at Arapahoe Basin or Breckenridge, she said.
Katie Abraham, 20, of Boulder, is fully aware of the cost of lending out a season pass. The University of Colorado junior and her sister have both bought five-mountain passes for years, and her sister let a friend borrow it once.
"The lift person took it away," Abraham said.
That`s why she has always said "no" to pals who persist that nothing bad will happen if she lets them borrow her pass.
"It`s just out of fear," she said. "I have even had the ticket people question if my pass was me before."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Vanessa Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 473-1329.