WARNING: Contains explicit language
On February 25th an adult male snowboarder violently attacked me at Northstar in California — a Vail Resorts property.
The same snowboarder had ridden full speed straight at my 9 year-old son, screamed at him to get out of his way, and almost knocked him off the deck of the superpipe.
In the lift line, when I asked him to ride under control, the 6 foot man yelled at, threatened and grabbed me (I’m 5 foot 2 and was carrying a big filming camera and wearing a large backpack). He was inches from my face, with his body pressed against me, and had grabbed my shoulders.
“What are you gonna do bitch, fucking cry about it? You can’t even fucking ride, bitch. You know who you’re fucking with?! I’ll have you kicked out! You don’t know who you’ve fucked with now! You’re fucking dead! Are you gonna cry, little girl? Go fucking cry cause you’re fucking dead!”
I called to the lift operator for help. He said something in his radio, but made no move to help me.
The man continued his assault. “What’s your name, bitch? You’re dead. You’re fucking dead! Give me your name. What’s your name?! Awww, are you gonna fucking cry?!”
I told him 3 times to get away from me and stop touching me. I even told him I had pepper spray in my pocket and I would use it on him if he didn’t get off me. (I don’t snowboard around with pepper spray in my pocket, but was terrified and hoped the man would get off me).
He continued assaulting me. While holding my big filming camera in the crook of my right arm, I slapped at him with my left gloved hand to try to get him off me.
“You’re fucking dead!” He screamed again as he came at me and hit me in my left eye with his bare fist. I was stunned from the punch and started to cry.
A man in the lift line who was going past us, stopped and said, “Dude, you just hit a girl.”
“So?! Who cares?!” the man who had hit me replied.
“DUDE. You hit a GIRL,” the man in the lift line repeated.
“She deserved it,” he said and turned back to me. He continued verbally and physically assaulting me as he kneeled down and grabbed my left upper thigh — he held my thigh still as I struggled to get out of his grasp. The lift operator, who had finally walked over near us made no effort to stop the man from grabbing my thigh.
“Danelle. That’s your name, bitch? Danelle. You’re gonna burn, Danelle. I can’t believe you touched me, bitch. You’re so dead.” He had read my name off the pass attached to my thigh.
“Leave me alone!” I cried.
The lift operator asked me to step out of the lift line to wait for security. As I stepped out of the line, then stood silently, the man who hit me had also stepped outside the liftline; he stood 10 feet away from me, continuing to taunt and verbally assault me. “You’re a fucking bitch, Danelle. I’m gonna get you kicked out of here. I WILL have you kicked out. I’ll have your pass taken away. Keep crying little bitch. Go ahead and fucking cry…” As his friends came down the mountain he would point at me and loudly tell them I was a fucking crazy bitch and that he was going to have me kicked out and have my pass taken away. My 9 year-old was standing there listening to all of it. He had witnessed the entire assault. The lift operator stood near us and neither said nor did anything to stop the ongoing verbal assault and threats. My goggles had been off because I needed to see the camera screen when I was filming my son on the jumps, but now I pulled the goggles down over my eyes so no one would see the tears streaming from them.
Thinking about it after the fact, I suspect the lift operator (a local) knew the man who assaulted me (another local).
When security arrived, the man who assaulted me told security that I was a crazy bitch. The lift operator — unbelievably — seemed to back up the man who assaulted me. I wasn’t taken seriously, I wasn’t allowed to speak, I was cut off and told I was a liar. My nine year-old spoke up and told security “that guy grabbed my mom and screamed in her face and punched her”, but they told my son they wouldn’t take a statement from him because he’s a minor.
The worst experience wasn’t being assaulted, but that my son and I thought we would be safe once security arrived… instead I was bullied, told that I was emotional, and treated like I got what I deserved. I was told the assault was my fault for asking the snowboarder to ride under control. Then I was told it was my fault he punched me.
I continued being told that I shouldn’t have talked to the man, and what did I expect? (Not to be punched in the face seems like a reasonable expectation.) The way the male employees seemed to rally around this man who had violently attacked a much smaller woman was disturbing.
I don’t know if I ever want to snowboard at any Vail Resorts property ever again after how my son and I were treated, but I do know that I for sure would never want to contact their security personnel for any reason. The security team at Northstar seemed more concerned about exercising their power, rather than prioritizing people’s safety…
Northstar security told me that if I called police to the resort to report being assaulted, they would take my Vail Resorts Epic pass away permanently and that the police would be angry with me for bothering them. The next day, Northstar took my pass away anyway.
(When I filed a police report, the police officer told me he was extremely upset that Northstar would scare me into not calling the police, and that the resort tries to govern itself by not reporting assaults. The officer also said that he is called to Northstar resort ALL the time — that Northstar Resort keeps him in business — and that there is a group of men in their terrain park that he deals with constantly. There are obviously some major safety issues going on at Northstar, which explains why they don’t want more police at the resort. Because these issues were ongoing long before I was assaulted in their park, Northstar absolutely knew about the dangerous environment they were harboring. When I mentioned this to customer service on the phone, the customer service employee admitted Northstar has many problems with safety in their park, but said these things take time to fix.)
I’ve been my son Wesley’s snowboarding chaperone since he was a toddler.
He’s only 9. All he could do is watch as his mother was attacked. We were supposed to be on a 2 week trip to Lake Tahoe for Wes to be photographed and filmed there.
People say Wesley is fearless on a snowboard…
…but Wes told me he’s never been so afraid.
The stress of watching that guy beat up his mom and how Northstar’s all male security team responded made Wesley get sick. He threw up for an entire night and couldn’t eat. He curled up in a giant bean bag and watched YouTube snowboarding and skating videos for two days. He will remember how scared and helpless he felt, and that nobody protected us, for the rest of his life.
His practice and filming schedule will have trouble going on without his mom to take him on the mountains. Wesley is being indirectly punished as a result of Northstar’s decision to punish me.
Vail Resorts knows how Northstar handled this incident, and has done nothing to intervene. Vail Resorts is directly condoning violence against women and victim blaming.
Wesley doesn’t understand how his mom can get beat up and the people at Vail Resorts say it’s her fault.
To Wesley and me, Vail Resorts is saying that it’s OK to hit a woman; to beat up a woman… Northstar originally told us the man who attacked me was banned along with me. Yesterday we found out that he received minor disciplinary action and is still snowboarding around Northstar.
Let that sink in.
I’ve been told I’m banned from all Vail Resorts properties in the entire world. Northstar blamed me for “causing” an adult man’s violent behavior. They even said, “Well, you know how those snowboarder guys are.”
My sons and many of my friends are snowboarder guys. They would NEVER endanger a child. They would NEVER assault a woman.
I often travel alone with Wesley for snowboarding. For the first time in 7 seasons of snowboarding, I don’t feel safe traveling alone with him. Yeah, it was scary being assaulted, and it hurt being punched in the face… but how would you feel if the people who were supposed to show up to protect you put you through hell when all you and your child wanted was to feel safe again? That’s the part my brain can’t process and I’ve experienced a ton of anxiety due to how Northstar treated me — and the fact that Vail Resorts knows what happened and condones the whole thing.
We aren’t an independently wealthy family. We live in the Midwest with our four children, but save and plan year round to afford for Wesley to train on mountains and for me to accompany him. As I sit here writing this, I’m with Wesley in Colorado. We planned and paid for a month long trip here using Wesley’s sponsorship dollars and our own money. I can’t take Wesley snowboarding. I have no pass. I’m left bumming my child off on friends, or — when friends aren’t around — letting him lap the terrain park as I stand at the bottom praying he doesn’t get hurt while he’s alone spinning and flipping off huge jumps. I explained this to Beth Howard, the C.O.O. of Northstar, and begged her to please reinstate my pass because my 9 year-old son is not safe snowboarding alone. “Sorry for the inconvenience to your family,” was her reply.
Northstar customer service finally told me that the pass I paid for would not be reinstated, but I could buy day passes at the ticket window if I needed to chaperone Wes (at a cost of $170 per day at Breckenridge… totaling $5,100 for the month we’re here). I have no money for that. Our money was budgeted toward a season pass I was supposed to be able to use.
I’m in shock that Vail Resorts could think any of this is okay. I’m in shock that Beth Howard, C.O.O. of Northstar, could think any of this is okay.
Vail Resorts will continue to treat people — their paying customers — like this unless it hurts their bottom dollar. If families start refusing to vacation at Vail Resorts Properties because things like mothers getting beat up in front of their child then thrown out of the resort happen, maybe Vail will start to care how they treat people. Right now they don’t.
A few days after I was assaulted, Wesley and I went by ourselves to Alpine Meadows at Lake Tahoe so he could practice, but I couldn’t get in the lift line. I sat down on a bench and started to cry. Wesley asked me what’s wrong.
I said I was sorry but that I was afraid. My brain was telling me DANGER when I saw male snowboarders and employees I didn’t know, and I was afraid to stand near them in the lift line (a lift line is where I was assaulted).
But I needed to take Wesley up that lift, so I took a few deep breaths, wiped my eyes, stood, and skated into the lift line with him.
I asked Wesley for his input when I was writing this. One of the things I asked him is how he would describe his mom. Words like “scared”, “helpless”, and “weak” were coming to my mind as I waited for his response.
“Brave,” he said. “My mom is brave.”
I once carried 4 year-old Wesley on my back up part of the East Cliff Wall at Arapahoe Basin. Now he’s 9 and he’s carrying me.
End note: Two days after the assault (February 27th), I sent the email below to Vail Resorts’ corporate. I received a response 10 days later saying that my email had been forwarded to Northstar. On March 15th, I emailed the Executive Board of Directors at Vail and have received no response at this time. On March 16th, the C.O.O. of Northstar called me and told me that Northstar stands behind how they handled the incident.
As I was telling the C.O.O. (on the phone) how the lift operator and security team treated me, she asked me if all her employees treated me badly. No, they did not. There’s a man named Howard who works in customer service who acted with respect and concern for my son and me. I spoke with him many times on the phone. He tried everything he could to help Northstar see they had made a mistake in how their security team handled the incident and in how they had treated me. Howard, thank you so much for caring about what happened to my son and me. You will never know how much it means to us.
(A copy of my email follows)
Hi Kelly [Ladyga],
I’m a mother of four from Iowa who snowboards with my kids (I blog about it here www.shredmom.com).
I’m very concerned with how NorthStar resort handled a violence issue. I was assaulted, threatened and punched in the face by an adult male snowboarder in front of my child on Thursday at Northstar.
Staff at Northstar discouraged me from calling the police to report the assault by saying that the police would be angry at me for bothering them and that Northstar would take my pass away if I called the police.
On Friday, I called the resort and was told that my pass has been revoked for the rest of the season and I am banned from all Vail Resorts. When the violent attack I underwent in front of my 9 year-old son was mentioned, your staff said, “Well… you know how those snowboarder guys are.”
Overall, I feel that this incident was handled very poorly and the ramifications of that are unfair.
I’ve been snowboarding with my kids in terrain parks for years, and have never come across ANY environment such as the one we encountered at NorthStar. I had to ride through and inhale a cloud of marijauna smoke with my child each time we exited the lift and entered the top of the park. The snowboarders were out of control, dangerous, and belligerent… my 9 year-old son was screamed at while trying to use the park features. He was clearly unwelcome there because of his age, despite being a talented up and coming rider (he’s previously filmed a segment for The Today Show at your Breckenridge resort). He was cut off by multiple reckless snowboarders while spinning off large jumps, causing him to crash badly. He was cut off trying to use the halfpipe — the adult snowboarders wouldn’t let him take his turn. Finally, my son was nearly knocked off the deck of the halfpipe by an adult male snowboarder who purposely rode full speed at my son, screamed, “WATCH OUT, KID!” and almost knocked my son off the deck to the ground 20 feet below. When I went to ask this snowboarder to ride under control is when he assaulted, threatened and punched me.
The fact that I was banned along with the adult male who attacked me is outrageous. [We have since learned the man who attacked me was not banned from Northstar.] Snowboarding at NorthStar has ruined our entire trip to Tahoe. We haven’t been able to snowboard because of my pass being pulled (my son cannot go on a mountain alone at age 9). We aren’t concerned with being able to return to Northstar, however, we are really upset with how this will affect the rest of our season. We have a month-long trip to Colorado planned so that Wesley can train and practice and film the footage his sponsors need for their websites and social media. We were planing to spend three of those weeks at other Vail resorts and even have a condo already booked and paid for. Our family saves year round so our son can train, and he sacrifices by being home schooled for a portion of the year because he loves this sport. There is no way he can continue his training/filming schedule for the spring without my presence.
I would appreciate it if Vail Resorts would treat this attack with the seriousness it deserves and take action to resolve this situation, as well as to make the park at Northstar a safe environment where snowboarders of all ages are welcome.
Danelle Muresan Foster