The very idea of some some schmo coming up and offering to guide or teach me on a frontcountry mountain sounds ri-goddamn-diculous. But I guess it happens, because Vail Resorts is stepping up efforts to bust underground lessons and guide services on their hill. In a recent undercover sting, they nailed a dozen illegal instructors, who face fines of up to $5,000 and a (gasp!) lifetime ban from all Vail Resorts.
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Not surprisingly, most of the guilty guides were former Vail Resorts employees, and several of them had coached their clients to deny any exchange of funds for services. Vail Resorts launched the sting at the urging of their own current employees, who were probably pissed that they were losing tips to former pals who didn't have to wear the blue jacket with the snowflake on it anymore.
The Forest Service helped out with the sting, noting that any guides or instructors selling skiing, hunting, rafting, hiking or snowmobiling services on public land without a permit face fines and federal charges.
"Our big message that we try to get across is that this is for public safety," (Forest Service ranger Don) Dressler said. "We permit people who are licensed and insured and properly trained. I can understand the economics of the situation, and we sympathize, but we need to protect the public."