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Cops: Aspen parents face felony charges after giving coke to minor, alcohol to others

Editor’s note: The charges discussed in this article were resolved with Joseph Lipsey IV pleading guilty in May 2020 to misdemeanor reckless endangerment and drug possession, and with Joseph Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey pleading guilty in July 2021 to one misdemeanor count each of providing alcohol to minors.

An Aspen teen and his parents were charged Monday with giving cocaine and alcohol to underage high school students during parties at their home near Aspen Highlands, according to court documents.

Joseph Lipsey IV

Joseph Lipsey IV, 19, was arrested Monday on his way to Aspen High School, and his mother Shira Lipsey, 44, was arrested at her home. Both were charged with multiple counts, including felonies, and released after each posting $100,000 cash-only bonds.

Lipsey is the same teen charged in January with two counts of felony vehicular assault after he was alleged to have been at the wheel of a Tesla sport-utility vehicle in November that flew off Maroon Creek Road, injuring himself and four other local high school students inside.

Lipsey’s father — Joseph Lipsey III, 56 — also faces charges connected to the alleged parties thrown at his home, said Aspen Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham.

“Joseph Lipsey III, based on reports from community members and people familiar with the family, spends much of his time out of the Aspen area,” according to his wife’s arrest warrant affidavit unsealed Monday in Pitkin County District Court. “The family owns or manages several companies and corporations.”

Shira Lipsey

Both parents were charged with distribution of cocaine to a minor, among other charges, which is considered a Class 1 drug felony under Colorado law. If convicted of just the distribution charge, each parent would face a mandatory sentence of between eight and 32 years in prison, Nottingham said.

Their son faces two counts of distribution of drugs to minors, among other charges, though those counts are Class 3 drug felonies because he was less than two years older than those he allegedly provided drugs.

A message left on Shira Lipsey’s cellphone seeking comment Monday was not returned. Her son’s Eagle-based attorney also didn’t return a phone message Monday.

Evidence collected by investigators from both the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department includes cellphone Snapchat videos shot by an Aspen High School student that allegedly show Shira Lipsey sitting in front of a plate featuring “a pile of an unknown white powder,” according to the affidavit.

Another video allegedly shows Shira Lipsey, her son and an unidentified man sitting on a couch in front of a table featuring a white-powder dusted credit card, a rolled-up dollar bill and three green straws, one in front of each of them.

“Before sending the photo, the user put the text, ‘This kid’s parents are tryna kill me,’ on the screen with the video’s image,” the affidavit states.

Those two videos were both time-stamped about 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 3.

A third video — shot at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 3 — shows the same plate in the first video with a “pile of white powder,” along with the same credit card and a green straw on the table. Before sending out that video, the user typed the text, “Almost did it all” to go along with the video, according to the affidavit.

And while none of the videos explicitly show the Lipseys giving cocaine to a minor, other high school kids saw the plate of cocaine upstairs at their home that night, and one allegedly saw the Lipseys and their son pass the plate to a minor, who inhaled “some lines,” the affidavit states.

That story came from the mother of an Aspen High School student, who did not want to speak to police for fear of being labeled “a snitch,” according to Shira Lipsey’s arrest warrant affidavit.

The mother said her son told her he was downstairs at the Lipsey home the night of Jan. 2, when he and others realized one of their friends was missing. They went upstairs and saw their friend sitting at the dining room table with the Lipseys and a younger couple, the affidavit states.

“And Mr. Lipsey (J. Lipsey SENIOR) … was passing around a plate of cocaine, and (the missing friend) did some lines, (and) passed it,” the mother told police, according to the affidavit. “I guess it ended up with Mrs. Lipsey … She passed it to her son, Joe. … He did a couple lines.”

The woman said her son told her that when he saw the incident, he “felt like throwing up” and “didn’t know what to do,” the affidavit states.

The son told her: “Mom, it was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. They were making it look normal, like they were passing around vitamins.”

Finally, in a search of the Lipsey home Feb. 19, police officers and deputies found “a collection of items … likely to be used” for freebasing or smoking cocaine that included charred tin foil and a crystalline powder-caked spoon, baggies of white powder that tested positive for cocaine, numerous pills including Xanax and Alprazolam that didn’t accompany prescriptions and codeine syrup, according to the affidavit.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Monday. “There’s still some work to be done on this case and others (related to it). I don’t want to (comment further) and jeopardize the others.”

The investigation into the Lipseys grew out of an Aspen police investigation into the Jan. 2 burglary and theft of alcohol from the Mountain Chalet lodge in downtown Aspen, and related vandalism at another hotel, Nottingham said.

Two of the three Aspen teenagers arrested in connection with that case were also at the Lipsey home the night of Jan. 2, according to the affidavit and law enforcement sources.

Those two teens and several others told police about being at the Lipsey home on different occasions when underage kids were drinking in the presence of the Lipsey parents, according to Shira Lipsey’s affidavit. One said he’d seen Joseph Lipsey III unlock a liquor cabinet, distribute alcohol to minors and “make statements such as ‘be safe, have fun,'” the affidavit states.

The minor who made that statement was at the Lipsey home the night of Jan. 2 and said he saw the plate of cocaine while he was upstairs, secretly filmed it and the men sitting in front of it and sent the video to his friends on Snapchat. Another minor told police he saw Joseph Lipsey III carry the plate of cocaine into the living room that night, and saw people sniff the drug while about 15 high school-age kids were in the home, the affidavit states.

A third teenager at the home Jan. 2 also told police he saw the yellow plate of cocaine on the table, according to the document.

One of those teens also said he has ingested Xanax, MDMA and a drink called Lean, which generally contains codeine syrup, all of which he received from Joseph Lipsey IV, according to the affidavit.

Joseph Lipsey IV is charged with two counts of felony distribution of drugs, felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of possession of a controlled substance, three counts of possession or consumption of alcohol or marijuana by a minor, possession of drug paraphernalia and furnishing tobacco or nicotine products to minors.

Joseph Lipsey III had not yet been arrested as of Monday evening. 
His wife and son were released from the Pitkin County Jail about 40 minutes after they were booked Monday morning when a family associate arrived with $200,000 in cash, according to DiSalvo.

Shira Lipsey is charged with felony distribution of cocaine, three counts of felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three counts of serving alcohol to a minor. The exact charges for Joseph Lipsey III were not available Monday.

“The Lipsey family has few local connections to the community,” according to the affidavits for Shira Lipsey and her son.

The family owns a spring water company based in Atlanta as well as several other businesses, the affidavit states.


Airline admits curfew violations

Lawyers for American Airlines told county officials Wednesday the company would take responsibility for two flights that took off after Aspen airport’s curfew this winter, a county official said Thursday.

“They are going to admit the curfew violations,” Pitkin County Attorney John Ely said.

The next step in the process will be determination of a monetary fine, he said. An independent hearing officer will hold a public hearing to determine the amount of the fine, Ely said.

Fines are capped at a maximum of $1,000 per curfew violation, Ely said.

Under rules established years ago, planes cannot take off from Aspen’s airport after 10:30 p.m. and cannot land after 11 p.m. Planes must wait until 7 a.m. to take off in the morning.

The only two exceptions to the rule are planes experiencing an in-flight emergency or medical reasons, including a sick passenger or life-flight situation, he said.

The two flights in question left Aspen heading for Los Angeles at 10:57 p.m. on Dec. 29 and 10:57 p.m. on Jan. 1, Ely has said.

American officials will have a chance to present their side of the story during the public hearing to determine the fine, he said.

Ellen Anderson, a resident of a neighborhood in the flight path and strong advocate for the curfew, said Thursday she was satisfied with American’s decision.

“From my standpoint, it’s the truth of the matter, so I’m heartened to see they are taking responsibility,” she said. “I think we’re making progress.”

American’s lawyers said they would get back to Pitkin County early next week about scheduling the fine hearing, Ely said.


Aspen mayor: Torre, Ann Mullins will be in April runoff

Aspen mayoral candidates Torre and Ann Mullins are going into a runoff election after failing to get a majority vote on Tuesday in the municipal election.

They won out over candidates Adam Frisch and Cale Mitchell by a wide margin.

Torre garnered 1,281 votes and Mullins brought in 940. Frisch came in third with 838 votes and Mitchell had 83.

Per the city’s home rule charter, mayoral candidates must receive 50 percent of the vote, plus one. If not, the top two vote getters are forced into a runoff. In this election, the threshold to win outright was 1,572 votes.

So, Torre and Mullins will face off on April 2.

“It’s going to be a fight,” Mullins said. “The gap is wider than I thought.

“It’s going to be a lot of work.”

Torre, 49, said he was feeling confident going into Tuesday based on polling and word on the street.

“Citizens want a change in City Hall and this shows,” said the former councilman who has run for mayor six times and lost his bid for a council seat in 2017 in a runoff with Ward Hauenstein.

Torre said the biggest challenge for the next month is to get people to the polls. History shows that far fewer Aspenites show up to vote in runoff elections.

“I was up by 83 and I lost by 27 votes,” he said.

Frisch, 51, is a two-term a city councilman who is term limited after serving eight years. He ran for mayor in 2013 but lost to Steve Skadron.

He said he was disappointed at Tuesday’s results but commended his opponents for running good campaigns.

Frisch said late Tuesday night that his support for the city contributing $4.36 million toward the Lift One corridor plan that voters narrowly approved on Tuesday hurt his campaign.

And because of personal reasons, Frisch wasn’t able to run as strong of a campaign as he has in the past. If he had, he said he thinks he could have made up the 100 or so votes that he lost to Mullins.

“We were not able to run the ground game and I think that’s part of it,” he said, adding that he does not plan to run for office again but will participate on a different level. “There’s other ways to serve the community.”

Whoever takes the top political position, it will be a new face in the mayor’s seat. Mayor Skadron is serving his third, two-year term and is term limited.

Mullins, 70, is in the middle of serving her second term as a councilwoman and has two years remaining if she’s not elected as mayor.

If she wins the mayoral seat, council will appoint someone to fill her vacancy.

She said Tuesday night in City Hall after the results came in that her campaign will get more intense and specific on issues that she wants to address as mayor.

“I want to focus on what we plan to do going forward,” she said, adding that transportation solutions, affordable child care, small business support and the environment are top priorities, as is hiring a new city manager.

Torre, who has served two terms as a councilman, said he sees his campaign as more hand-to-hand combat, and pointing out differences between him and Mullins by focusing on vision and voting records.

Torre’s campaign the past month has included the phrases “we can do better” and “no more initiatives to nowhere.”

He was against the Lift One corridor plan and supports a citywide composting program, along with finding solutions to traffic.

As a city councilman, Torre supported building housing at Burlingame, and started the movement to ban plastic bags from being sold at grocery stores in Aspen.

Mullins supported the Lift One plan and the $4.36 million taxpayer contribution and has focused her years on council to preserve historic resources. She also worked to change the legal age to buy cigarettes and put a hefty tax on the sale of them.

She said on Tuesday that while she would’ve liked to win outright, she will work hard to win the mayor’s seat.

“I’m clearly disappointed,” Mullins said. “But that’s OK.

“We can work this out in the next four weeks.”


Winter storm warning for Aspen area starts Wednesday; 10 to 20 inches expected above 8,000 feet

Another big snowstorm is expected to hit Aspen and the central and northern Colorado mountains starting Wednesday and lasting into Thursday, the National Weather Service said in a winter storm warning.

The warning begins early Wednesday and extends until 6 p.m. Thursday with snow totals up to 16 inches above 8,000 feet.

“Heavy snow and areas of blowing snow expected … with 8 to 16 inches above 8,000 feet. Up to 20  inches possible on higher west-facing slopes,” according to the warning issued Tuesday afternoon. “Winds gusting as high as 40 mph.”

Snow totals below 8,000 feet are between 4 and 7 inches, the NWS said.

“Another easterly propagating Pacific storm will move through the area potentially bringing another round of heavy snow to the mountains,” according to the NWS outlook. “Mild temperatures are expected to limit heavy snow to mountain areas above 8,000 feet with rain, or a mix of rain and snow. This system may bring as much as another 10 to 20 inches with locally higher amounts to the northern and central Colorado mountains.”

The round of snow comes after nearly 3 feet of snow fell over this past weekend around Aspen and Snowmass.

The NWS forecast calls for another Pacific storm to move through the area Friday and Saturday “with significant snowfall accumulations possible.”

High temperatures in Aspen the rest of the week are forecast in the low-40s, then drop to the 30s over the weekend.

Aspen’s Election Day is here: It’s now or never to cast votes

With just hours left before the polls close in the Aspen municipal election, candidates for mayor and council and those on both sides of a development ballot question are pulling out their last-ditch campaign efforts today.

Candidates have said they will be knocking on doors in high-density, affordable-housing complexes, calling voters who have not yet cast their ballots, pushing “get out the vote” messages on social media and standing on street corners waiving signs asking for votes.

City Hall is the only place Aspen voters can cast their votes today; they should not be mailed. Ballots brought in after 7 p.m. will not be counted.

Today is an historic election because it is the first time it’s being held in March. City elections have traditionally been held in May, until a group of citizens last fall put a referendum on the ballot asking to change the date to the first Tuesday in March, when they argued more people are in town.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, 2,010 ballots had been cast, according to Deputy City Clerk Nicole Henning. On the eve of the city elections in May 2017, 1,887 ballots had been cast.

Aspen residents are voting on a new mayor and two council members, along with deciding a ballot question asking whether to approve a redevelopment plan for the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side.

The developers behind the Lift One Corridor Plan have spent close to $300,000 in their campaign. The opposition has mustered about $15,000.

Candidates have raised and spent anywhere between $4,000 and $13,000.

A new issue committee emerged last week, according to a campaign filing reported submitted to the city.

Aspen resident Bruce Etkin established the committee, named “Sponsors of Women in Leadership.” He reported putting in $5,000 for newspaper ads and other marketing efforts to support three female candidates.

“He wanted to support the three women and do some ads and promote women in leadership,” said Ashley Feddersen, the registered agent for the committee.

There are four candidates for mayor and four for council.

Per the city’s home rule charter, candidates for mayor must receive 50 percent plus one vote to win the seat; council candidates must receive 45 percent plus one vote to win.

If they fail to do that, there will be a runoff election April 2.

Adam Frisch, Torre, Ann Mullins and Cale Mitchell are running for mayor. Rachel Richards, Skippy Mesirow, Linda Manning and Bert Myrin are running for council.

There are 5,398 registered, active voters in Aspen, according to Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill.

She said about four or five people a day have been coming into the office to update their voter information or to register to vote, and about 10 did so online.

Colorado residents of 22 days or more can register to vote up until Election Day, either at the city or county clerk’s offices, or online at www.pitkinvotes.com or www.govotecolorado.com.

Election results will be covered live on GrassRoots TV. Aspen Times columnist Roger Marolt and Aspen Daily News columnist Lo Semple will anchor the show from City Hall starting at 7:30 p.m.

The results, analysis and conversations will air on GrassRoots TV channels 12 and 880, live-streamed on GrassRootsTV.org, the GrassRoots Community Network Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The Grey Lady is hosting an election party starting at 2 p.m. open to all concerned with the Aspen election — voters, candidates, proponents and opponents of the Lift One question.

“We wanted to invite people who are for Lift One and against Lift One and for all candidates,” said Grey Lady owner Ryan Chadwick. “The idea is to bring people together before the election results come in.”


Snowmass council OKs pot rules on first reading

After talking pot at the town level for more than five-and-a-half years, in less than one month dispensaries will be legal in Snowmass Village.

Snowmass Town Council on Monday unanimously approved on first reading the ordinance allowing pot shops as well as the town’s carefully crafted set of regulations.

The town of Snowmass first posed its moratorium on marijuana establishments in September 2013, after Colorado voters approved recreational pot sales in November 2012.

Council has since extended the moratorium three times, in an effort to buy more time to determine if pot shops belong in the family-friendly village — a point of contention within the community and government.

The town of Snowmass last prolonged its moratorium in September, running through April 1.

“I’m really conflicted, personally, but I’ll vote with my colleagues,” said Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler, a staunch adversary of pot shops in town, at the meeting of the ordinance and framework. Town Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk, who also is opposed to dispensaries in Snowmass, agreed and followed the mayor’s motion.

With a remaining council majority in favor of allowing pot shops in Snowmass, Shenk said it was a dead end.

“It’s not a dead end, it’s a new beginning,” Councilman Bill Madsen countered.

The town’s regulatory scheme is the product of several hours of deliberation among Town Council and staff. Council on Monday weeded through each section of the document, which the town first started working on in August, with a fine-tooth comb.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled at the town council meeting March 18.

For more on this story, check out this week’s Snowmass Sun, on newsstands and online Wednesday.


Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joins 2020 presidential race

DENVER (AP) — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said on Monday he’s running for president, casting himself as a can-do uniter who’s used to overcoming adversity and accomplishing liberal goals in a politically divided state.

“I’m running for president because we need dreamers in Washington, but we also need to get things done,” Hickenlooper, 67, said in a video announcing his campaign. “I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”

He becomes the second governor to enter the sprawling field, after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week, and is trying to cast himself as a pragmatist who can also take on President Donald Trump. Though as governor Hickenlooper prided himself for staying above partisan fights, he has argued his record as a former governor and big-city mayor distinguishes him from a broad field of Democratic presidential aspirants who are backing ambitious liberal plans on health care, taxes and the climate.

Hickenlooper has hedged on supporting Democratic rallying cries like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal to combat climate change. He once worked as a geologist for a petroleum company and was roundly criticized for telling a congressional panel he drank fracking fluid while arguing for the safety of the energy extraction technique.

It was after Hickenlooper was laid off from his geologist position during the energy bust of the 1980s that he inadvertently started on his road to politics. He opened a brewpub in a then-desolate stretch of downtown Denver that unexpectedly took off. That enabled Hickenlooper to become wealthy by building a mini-empire of restaurants and bars. It also led to him making a quixotic run for Denver mayor in 1993. Campaign ads featured Hickenlooper feeding quarters into parking meters to protest the city’s charging for Sunday parking downtown. He won handily.

As mayor, Hickenlooper helped persuade dozens of suburban cities, sometimes led by Republicans, to back a tax hike to fund a light-rail network. He was filmed diving out of an airplane to advocate for a statewide ballot measure to suspend an anti-tax measure passed in the 1990s and allow the state budget to grow. When he ran for governor in 2010, he featured an ad of himself fully dressed, walking into a shower to scrub off negative attacks.

It’s all part of Hickenlooper’s quirky political image — he vows not to run attack ads and has frequently made fun of his tendency to misspeak and wander off political message.

Hickenlooper was supported by some Republicans as governor. His first term was marked by a series of disasters and tragedies, some of which he alluded to in his launch video — record wildfires and floods, the assassination of his own prison chief by a member of a white supremacist prison gang and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, which killed 12. After that attack and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Connecticut months later, Hickenlooper called for gun control legislation and signed bills requiring universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

“We’re a purple state that got universal background checks passed,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, stressing how he can “bring people together on the other side and actually get stuff done.”

Hickenlooper backed civil unions for gay couples and signed a law providing them in Colorado in 2013, before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. He announced in 2013 that he opposed the death penalty and refused to execute a quadruple-murderer who was on death row. And, as he prepared to leave office and was openly mulling a presidential bid, he ordered the state to adopt California’s low-emission vehicle standards to fight climate change.

The last move was widely seen as shoring up an area that has long created tension for Hickenlooper — his relationship with the energy industry. Groups opposed to the expansion of energy exploration into Denver’s suburbs often complained that Hickenlooper was too close to the oil and gas business, which remains a powerful force in Colorado politics.

As governor, Hickenlooper opposed ballot measures to limit drilling in populated areas. Hickenlooper’s successor, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, has been more critical of the industry. Last week, Polis announced he’d pursue a wide range of new policies that would limit energy exploration.

Another potential vulnerability for Hickenlooper is money. As a former governor, he can’t recycle donations from prior campaigns into a presidential account, as can the many U.S. Senators in the field. Hickenlooper’s political committee raised $1 million during the first two months of the year, in contrast to senators such as Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised more than that amount in the 24 hours after they announced their campaigns.

Still, Hillary Clinton vetted Hickenlooper as a possible running mate in 2016, and Democrats have spoken about his potential national appeal for years. In his launch video, Hickenlooper says, following images of Trump: “As a skinny kid with Coke bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies.”

Hickenlooper is expected to focus heavily on Iowa, where many Coloradans come from and a state where his low-key, genial approach could be potent. In previous trips he’s emphasized his record and how he can bring warring parties together. During a January swing he stopped by a Des Moines brewpub where a customer asked him how he’d win the primary of “who hates Trump the most?”

Hickenlooper responded by rattling off his governing accomplishments.

“Everyone yells at Trump, he will win,” Hickenlooper said. “You have to laugh at him and joke along and say: ‘Hey, this is what I did.'”

Winter storm warning extended into Monday for Aspen area, NWS says

The winter storm warning for the Colorado mountains and Aspen area has been extended into Monday morning, the National Weather Service said in an update Saturday afternoon.

The warning now lasts until 6 a.m. Monday as snow is expected to fall through Sunday night, and snow accumulations are predicted at 2 to 3 feet by Monday morning at higher elevations. The initial warning was set to expire at noon Sunday.

There will be periods of snow at 1 to 2 inches an hour and snow totals range from 18 to 28 inches locally with higher amounts up to 40 inches, according to the NWS update. The warning area includes the Elk, West Elk, Gore and Sawatch mountains and the central mountain valleys.

Snow started up in the Aspen and Snowmass areas Saturday afternoon and continued into the evening.

According to the weather service, a “milder westerly flow will bring seasonably warm conditions and increasing moisture to western Colorado and eastern Utah through Monday morning. Snowfall will continue over the higher elevations … with lulls from time to time.”

Along with the snow, the NWS said moderate to heavy rain and some snow will occur in the lower central and southern valleys. Snow will start decreasing from the north on Monday.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is discouraging backcountry travel, and the avalanche level is high (level 4 of 5).

“A strong Pacific storm brings heavy snowfall and strong westerly winds to Colorado. Large avalanches will be very easy to trigger by late Saturday,” according to the avalanche watch issued Saturday. “During periods of heavy snowfall, avalanches will release naturally, running from high elevations to valley floors.”

The Aspen airport has had numerous delays and cancellations since the storm started late Thursday night. Travelers should check for updates at aspenairport.com or their airlines.

The high in Aspen on Sunday is forecast at 36 degrees and 35 on Monday, according to the weather service. The highs in Glenwood are expected in the 40s.

Coyote fur is in big demand thanks to popular winter jackets

HERKIMER, N.Y. (AP) — Those fur-trimmed parkas so common on city sidewalks have become a boon to backwoods trappers.

Coyote fur pelts are in big demand to provide the lush, silvery or tawny-tinged arcs of fur on the hoods on Canada Goose coats and their many global imitators. A good western coyote, prized for its silky, light-colored fur, can fetch more than $100. The top price at a recent Colorado auction hit $170, a 40 percent increase from four years ago.

“Coyotes are hot,” says John Hughes, a longtime buyer at J and M Furs in Roundup, Montana, “and it’s all due to the trim trade.”

Late fall and early winter are the prime trapping time, when coyote coats are at their fullest, but a lot of the selling happens in late winter. Fur is sold at big auction houses in Canada, by individual fur buyers across North America and at local auctions near where the animals roam. At one such auction in a VFW hall in the upstate New York town of Herkimer, tables were piled high with the furs of hundreds of muskrats, beavers, fishers, mink, red fox, gray fox, otters, bobcats and coyotes.

“They like the white-belly coyotes, something like this, the whiter belly,” says John Rutherford, a trapper and hunter, showing a lush, long-haired coyotes.

Fur experts say the uptick in coyote demand began with Canada Goose parkas, with their distinctive Arctic Circle patch, a brand that went big in 2013 when model Kate Upton famously wore one over her bikini on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit Issue. Over the years, more celebrities and their fashion-conscious followers began donning the parkas, which now can retail for more than $1,000 each.

“Canada Goose is always the name that people relate to, but there are so many other brands that make similar coats,” says Mark Downey, CEO of Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. of North Bay, Ontario. “Basically, it’s just a coyote trim ruff that goes around the hood of all those kinds of coats.”

Downey suspects the bull market for coyote will continue. North American Fur Auctions was similarly optimistic in a November web posting, saying the trim business continues to be in full fashion with Canada Goose being the major taker.

Toronto-based Canada Goose did not respond to requests for comment.

The hot market for coyotes comes as trappers deal with recent economic slumps in China and Russia, competition from ranched fur and the intense ire of animal welfare activists, who consider the popular steel leg-hold traps particularly cruel.

Coyote trappers see themselves as sportsmen helping control populations of a ubiquitous animal often considered a nuisance. Coyotes have been spotted from the streets of Los Angeles to Manhattan’s Central Park. Farmers view them as chicken poachers, and suburban residents see them as threats to their pets.

To trappers, coyotes are one of the few money-making animals, along with bobcats and a few others.

“It is the one bright spot in most of the country,” says Dave Linkhart, of the National Trappers Association.

Hughes will pay trappers an average of $75 to $105 and as much as $120 for a western coyote. He sells to operations that create trim strips, which sells to garment makers.

“The coyotes that we have here in Montana are probably the best coyotes in the world for trim,” Hughes said. “They’re heavy, so the hair stands up for the trim, and they’re pale.”

He handles an average of 10,000 coyotes annually, though the numbers are down for western coyotes this year. Some blame early-season snow in Canada and the western United States, which made it harder for trappers to get out. Others believe there are simply fewer western coyotes this winter.

Either way, Downey said, “there’s not enough western coyotes to go around,” increasing demand on eastern coyotes, which tend to have coarser fur.

At the Herkimer auction, eastern coyotes tended to sell for $19 to $46. Rutherford made more than $200 for seven coyote furs.

“Coyotes are going to move,” he says. “Good-quality coyotes are going to sell.”

30-year-old Aspen man dies in early-morning snowboard crash

Aaron Hill, who moved to Aspen to follow his love of wine, died early Sunday morning when he was snowboarding after hours on Aspen Mountain and hit a building near the base of Lift 1A.

The 30-year-old’s death was being felt Sunday through Aspen’s tight-knit hospitality industry.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a friend of Hill’s at approximately 1:30 a.m. Sunday that there was an accident near Lift 1A. The friend, who is not from the Aspen area, said the two had hiked onto the closed ski area and rode down a run once and Hill went back up.

Hill struck the race timing shack near the base of the mountain, about 200 yards uphill from the lift terminal, officials said. Pitkin County chief deputy of operations Alex Burchetta said emergency personnel got to the scene within minutes and were unsuccessful in their life-saving measures.

“The friend said the man wanted to go back up and do another run. The friend stayed at the base and then heard a sound,” Burchetta said Sunday afternoon.

Officials received the call saying Hill had “injuries to the head,” according to the Sheriff’s Office. Burchetta said Hill was not wearing a helmet. It is not known at this time if alcohol was involved.

“We just want people to be aware that dangers exist everywhere, not just in the backcountry,” Burchetta said. “When you’re skiing in a closed area and at night, there are dangers.”

Hill moved to Aspen from New York City in November 2015 to work at Kitchen Aspen as a sommelier, according to his friends and social media posts. A year later he went to work at the Viceroy Snowmass as a sommelier but no longer was working there when he died Sunday.

“He used to come sit at my bar, and the good thing about Aspen is it really is a little bit of a magic mountain in that respect. If you’re in the hospitality industry up there, as soon as you meet somebody, you almost become family with them right off the bat,” said friend Mattias Horseman, who met Hill soon after he moved here. “Aaron is somebody who embodied the hospitality industry like that. His passion for it was great, but also his passion for life was equally as great.”

“He was larger than he appeared in life. He really was a captivating spirit.”

Zach Bowersock met Hill a few years ago through the industry, and said Hill embodied the hospitality spirit. He said Hill was kind-hearted and a friend “to just about anyone, and he really loved being in this town.”

“Working in the hospitality business, we all band together and have that shoulder to cry on,” Bowersock said. “At least 95 percent of us are transplants and we don’t see our families at holidays. Co-workers and peers become your family.”

Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications for Aspen Skiing Co., said in a statement Sunday they were notified at approximately 2 a.m. by local law enforcement about an accident on Aspen Mountain. He said mountain personnel responded to assist law enforcement and ski patrol will help with an accident investigation.

“Aaron was an easy friend to make and great friend to have,” Bowersock said. “He rode hard, worked hard but was always there with a hand when needed. He was good person to share a drink with and a great riding buddy.”