The powder police have crashed.

The Aspen Skiing Co. announced last week that armed police will no longer patrol its Snowmass resort. The company said regular police patrols on the mountain, apparently a first for American ski areas, was creating a bad image.The ski company made a deal with Snowmass Village for police, carrying guns in their fanny packs, to patrol the resort four times a week. Patrols began after Thanksgiving.

Snowmass Mountain Manager Doug Mackenzie said the resort hasn't had crime problems on the hill, but some real-world problems spill over.

"Unfortunately, the perception has been extremely negative and, the new program has led people to believe that there is a crime problem at Snowmass Ski Area, which simply is not the case," said Snowmass Village Police Chief Art Smythe.

The ski company believed the police presence "would be an asset to our staff in providing excellent customer service. Obviously, a lot of people don't agree and we want to assure people that there will be no guns on the mountain," said Jon Reveal, the ski company's vice president for operations.

The decision to withdraw the police was praised by Loren Jenkins, publisher and editor of the Aspen Times. "I'm delighted that the ski company has reacted to popular community concern about the image of armed police on skis created," he said.

His paper, in an editorial headlined "Police on skis: paranoia in paradise," wrote that using "the snow Gestapo . . . reminds of the old nonsensical Vietnam War refrain that we had to destroy the village to save it."

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The editorial went on to say skiing is supposed to involve an "individual confrontation with nature . . . Are schussers now to be shot for not heeding speed limits?"

In announcing the patrols, Mackenzie had said that with 11,000 of the winter population of 15,000 on his hill during the day, it made sense to have a police presence. Aspen resorts also draw many celebrities and some of the world's richest people.

Mackenzie said his patrol hasn't had the kinds of confrontations that occur in areas closer to cities, and a police presence would make sure they don't occur on his mountain.

The police were not to be involved in the regular duties of the ski patrol, such as enforcing rules against unsafe skiing, for example.

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