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Addition Of Medical Helicopter In Vail A Huge Help

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The CareFlight helicopter at Beaver Creek (credit: CBS)

The CareFlight helicopter at Beaver Creek (credit: CBS)

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VAIL, Colo. (CBS4) – The death of a skier at Silverton Mountain Ski Resort on Saturday is a reminder that skiing can be dangerous and January is Ski Safety Month across the nation.

Beaver Creek held a one-of-a-kind demonstration on ski safety on Sunday. Some people were shocked when medical helicopter landed right in the middle of Beaver Creek.

“You don’t see a helicopter land in the middle of a mountain every day,” a skier said.

It was that kind of shock value that Beaver Creek wanted to portray as it kicked off Safety Week.

“It’s an opportunity for Beaver Creek to really showcase our safety programs, educate people, and talk about the important aspects of your responsibility code,” Jen Brown with Beaver Creek Resort said.

It was the first time the CareFlight helicopter has been a part of a demonstration. The medical chopper is a recent addition to the Vail Valley, which used to have unreliable service for major medical episodes.

“It’s always nice to know that if there was an issue that we needed to evacuate a patient, we can call CareFlight and they’ll be here in a matter of minutes and get them to a medical facility,” Addy McCord with Beaver Creek Ski Patrol said.

But a majority of the helicopter’s work is not related to skier accidents.

“If somebody needs to have a stint put in after a heart attack, CareFlight, being right here, takes them to one of our partners down in Denver and they can get them to a specialized cardiac surgery unit as quickly as we can,” Lindsay Warner with Vail Valley Medical Center said. “Every minute counts with their survival rates.”

It’s been reported that skier injuries are up this year because of the dry winter so far, but as Safety Week gets under way CBS4 learned that’s not necessarily the case in Eagle County.

“We’re seeing a little bit different injuries. Instead of broken legs we’re seeing broken hands from falling with less powder and things like that,” Warner said.

“We have not seen an increase of injuries here at Beaver Creek,” McCord said.

The helicopter is based in Gypsum, quite a few miles down the road. But because of a partnership with the hospital in Vail, it’s stationed there, right along Interstate 70 every day, drastically reducing response times.

The medical helicopter also works with specially trained dogs as part of avalanche training.

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