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Felony charges filed against Aspen teen who crashed Tesla into river, injured passengers

The District Attorney's Office filed two felony counts of vehicular assault Friday against an Aspen teen at the wheel of a sport-utility vehicle that flew off Maroon Creek Road in November with four other local kids inside.

In addition to the felony counts, Joseph Lipsey IV, 18, of Aspen, also faces two counts of careless driving and one count of reckless driving, all misdemeanor traffic violations.

"Our review of the evidence indicated the defendant behaved recklessly," prosecutor Don Nottingham said Friday.

Also, Lipsey's actions caused serious bodily injury to two teenagers in the car, a requirement for the vehicular assault charges, Nottingham said.

A text message sent Friday to Lipsey seeking comment was not returned.

Lipsey was driving a 2017 Tesla X, which was traveling north at about 75 mph Nov. 7 on Maroon Creek Road near the T-Lazy 7 Ranch, according to an investigation by a Colorado State Patrol trooper. Just before the road makes a turn to the west, Lipsey lost control of the vehicle and it slid off the two-lane road, went airborne for 41 feet, struck a tree, continued 172 feet down an embankment and came to rest in the middle of Maroon Creek, the investigation found.

The trooper cited excessive speed and aggressive driving as contributing factors in the crash, though he chose to charge Lipsey with careless driving and driving without a valid license, both misdemeanors.

An 18-year-old girl sitting behind Lipsey suffered a head injury, broken arm and broken ribs, her mother said in November. Her injuries are the basis for one of the vehicular assault charges, according to court documents.

The injuries to an 18-year-old boy sitting next to her in the middle of the backseat, which include head injuries, facial fractures and a broken arm, form the basis for the second vehicular assault count, according to Nottingham and court documents.

Lipsey is scheduled to appear Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court.


Aspen School District cancels classes for Friday after overnight snow

The Aspen School District has canceled all classes for Friday because of the overnight snowstorm that rolled through the area.

The district sent out a message early Friday morning saying that school “will not be in session today due to harsh winter driving conditions.”

A winter storm is forecast to drop up to a foot of snow in some areas around Aspen. The snow started about 8 p.m. Thursday and continued overnight.

According to the district policy: “When schools are closed all scheduled activities in the school building are canceled and sports events and practices are postponed.”

The snow day means a four-day weekend for local students as schools are closed Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Trap-kill may be only option for West Glenwood mountain lions (video)

Reports of mountain lion sightings in West Glenwood continued this week as a video of four lions walking through one neighborhood circulated on social media and was aired on television news broadcasts.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's game warden for Glenwood Springs, Dan Cacho, said he believed the four lions to be a mother with three fairly mature cubs. After trapping and euthanizing a lion near Traver Trail in West Glenwood last week, Cacho confirmed that wildlife officials trapped and killed another lion off Juniper Court this week.

He said more traps have been set in the Oasis Creek area in West Glenwood after the recent sightings.

"These lions have set up their home territory in West Glenwood and Oasis Creek area, and because of human health and safety issues we feel we need to trap and remove these animals as quickly as we can," he explained.

While CPW continues to receive calls from residents and other concerned citizens asking them to transport the animals rather than putting them down, Cacho said relocating mountain lions has become increasingly difficult on the Western Slope.

Wherever there is mountain habitat on the West Slope that's not near human populations, he said there are most likely healthy mountain lions already living there, making the addition of another lion dangerous for both animals.

"If there is a healthy lion in that area, then we are just setting them up for failure," Cacho added. "We have to euthanize them for human health and safety."

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said he has not been getting a ton of calls regarding the recent mountain lion activity in West Glenwood, but said he's watching for activity and will assist CPW officials as needed.

"We will assist them with what they feel is most important," Wilson said.

Wilson invited Cacho to speak at Thursday night's Glenwood Springs City Council meeting to update city officials of their efforts.

"We are attempting to trap more lions in the north Traver Trail area. They are still very active," he said at Thursday's meeting.

Anyone who has an encounter with a mountain lion in the area is asked to immediately contact the local Division of Wildlife office at 970-947-2920.

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According to CPW, individual lions can range in areas varying from 10 to 370 square miles. The size of the home range will depend on the terrain and how much food is available. Females with young kittens will often use the smallest area.

For more information on living with mountain lions visit: goo.gl/47BZjG.


Storm brings heavy snow to Aspen, Snowmass area; avalanche warnings issued Friday

Another round of snow with a forecast of as much as a foot Friday is making travel difficult around Aspen and Snowmass and sparking avalanche warnings in the Colorado mountains.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for 6 to 12 inches of snow by Friday night and winds gusting to 35 mph in the central and northern Colorado mountains. The advisory area includes the Elk and Gore mountains, up to the Steamboat area and toward Vail.

Avalanche warnings have been issued for all of the central Colorado mountains from Wyoming to New Mexico as a storm rolls through the state, including around the Roaring Fork Valley.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s Friday morning update, as of 6 a.m. “weather stations are showing 0.5 to 1.5 inches of snow-water equivalent, but only 6 to 8 inches of snow. Winds have been blowing in a good range to drift snow, with ridge top gusts over 40 miles per hour. Dense snow, falling at high rates, and lots of drifting.”

The National Weather Service advisory in in effect until 6 p.m., and an update Friday said the "hazardous conditions could impact the evening commute." Mountain passes will be difficult for holiday travelers, as heavy, wet snow hits most of the Colorado high country.

The Aspen School District canceled classes for Friday because of the overnight snow.

Those traveling in and out of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport should check their flight status before heading to Sardy Field.

Parts of southern and western Colorado are under a winter weather warning with more than a foot predicted in some areas, the NWS said.

The forecasted snow has increased the avalanche danger to high (level 4 out of 5) and backcountry travel in avalanche terrain is not advised, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center warned. This storm comes after up to 15 inches of snow fell Wednesday in the central mountains.

"Expect a heavy snow load on a weak snowpack beginning late Thursday night and continuing through Friday," the CAIC said.

The avalanche danger will rise rapidly, according to the state agency, and slides will be large and easy to trigger or occur naturally in much of the Colorado high country.

The storm is forecast to clear out by Saturday, and the next chance for snow in the area on Monday and again Wednesday, the NWS said.

Friends support local furloughed Forest Service worker whose son was born with cystic fibrosis

The stress for furloughed employees over not knowing when they will be back to work and collecting a paycheck is tough enough. Circumstances are even more daunting right now for U.S. Forest Service employee Bret Conant and his family.

Bret's wife, Esther, gave birth to their second child on Jan. 3. Lars was born at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, and it was soon determined that he had an intestinal blockage that required surgery at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver.

"He had surgery, then was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis," Bret said via telephone Thursday from the hospital.

The Conants have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Denver, just a few blocks from the hospital.

"Those guys do an amazing job," Bret said.

Having that resource has been a huge relief for the couple. Nevertheless, they are racking up expenses being away from home. Conant said his health insurance through the Forest Service is still in effect, but his family will soon be billed for the deductible and charges that aren't covered. The recovery process is expected to keep Lars at the Denver hospital for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, like other furloughed federal workers, Conant isn't collecting a paycheck. The partial government hits day 28 today. He is an engineering technician in the White River National Forest. His work takes him throughout the 2.3 million-acre forest, including the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

Conant said his family's situation drives home the fact that federal workers need to be collecting their pay.

"People have lives — they need to get a paycheck to deal with everyday life," he said. "I wouldn't be back working even if the government was open right now, but at least I'd be getting a check."

A GoFundMe page was started by Denise Barkhurst, whose husband is Bret's supervisor. Her husband told her about the Conants' situation and she was stirred to action even though she has not met the family.

"I don't know them," she said. "I've never met them."

But Barkhurst said their plight reminded her of how worried she and her husband were when their now-grown son was facing serious illness when he was just 18 months old.

"That was the most scared I've ever been," she said. "I couldn't imagine being that scared and not having a paycheck.

"Somebody had to step up and do something."

Barkhurst had never started a GoFundMe page but consulted with a friend and easily tackled it. She sleuthed to get personal phone numbers and email addresses from Forest Service workers, who cannot use their government-issued methods of communication during the shutdown, to collect information and share word of the fundraising effort.

She was humble Thursday about the effort.

"It was a human thing to do," she said.

The GoFundMe page can be found by searching the Conants' name on http://www.gofundme.com. The fundraising effort will help the family handle expenses.

"We're just really grateful for the support," Bret said, noting it will be a big help when the medical bills arrive.

Conant said he isn't taking sides in the fight between Democrats in Congress and President Donald Trump that led to the shutdown. He just finds the situation frustrating and he feels particularly bad for employees who are required to work but aren't getting paid.

"On behalf of all federal employees who are laid off right now, I feel violated," he said. "I work hard for the agency I work for. I try to do the best job I can as a public servant."

Conant said his family is optimistic for Lars' recovery from surgery. In addition, there have been advances in the treatment of cystic fibrosis that give the family hope for the future.


Skier rescued from Aspen Mountain sidecountry

A skier with a broken leg was rescued Wednesday afternoon from the Aspen Mountain sidecountry, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

The 40-year-old man was skiing with two others in the Difficult area on the east side of Richmond Ridge off the top of Aspen Mountain, officials said in a news release Thursday morning. The group was on a sidecountry route that drops down the valley to McFarland Lane, which is 2.5 miles east of Aspen heading up Independence Pass.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the group tried to move the man after his injury and got to about 9,300 feet before stopping because of the skier's pain. They contacted authorities just before 5 p.m. and made a fire.

The group stopped about 1,300 feet above the valley and a Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteer team reached them at 7:32 p.m., according to the release.

A second team was sent to help get the skier down to the road. The skier, whose hometown was not available, was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital.

In the news release, the Sheriff's Office sent a reminder to be prepared and equipped for "the hazards that exist in the backcountry and (to) be aware of the start time of your journey."

Aspen School District, HR director part ways

The Aspen School District announced Wednesday that Human Resources Director Elizabeth Hodges has agreed to resign effective Jan. 31 "with no additional salary or severance payments beyond this date."

The announcement comes after Superintendent John Maloy said Dec. 10 he had placed Hodges on paid administrative leave, which came after the school district's attorneys conducted a background review of Hodges.

The district's examination into Hodges' background began near the beginning of the academic year, around late August or early September, after it learned in July through an anonymous letter that the state of Missouri disbarred Hodges in April.

The Aspen Times, which also learned about the disbarment through an anonymous letter, additionally reported in August that Hodges was served with a grand jury indictment out of Kansas City, Missouri, on May 31, 2016. Her first day on the job as the district's HR director was July 1, 2016, and the school district conducted its initial background check into Hodges in March 2016, Maloy previously told the Times.

She did not reveal the indictment to her school district superiors before taking on the HR job.

Hodges pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of deceptive business practices in December 2016 and this month she completed a two-year probation sentence in Missouri. She was originally indicted for felony forgery, according to court records.

The conviction was the result of her selling a deceased couple's Kia Soul to a dealership without reporting proceeds of the sale in their probate case. As an attorney, Hodges helped the couple with their estate planning.

Hodges also faces fraud allegations in her personal bankruptcy case in Colorado. That case is pending.

Family remembers skier who died at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Jan. 7

William James Hass was a life-long learner.

As an inventor, writer and entrepreneur, Hass' life was largely defined by his intelligence and an unrelenting desire to share his knowledge with his loved ones and colleagues. And like most who make their way to the mountains, Hass had a passion for skiing.

Hass died Jan. 7 at Breckenridge Ski Resort following a cardiac event, but knowing that he died on the ski slopes during one of his annual voyages out West is something of a comfort for his family, as he got to spend his final moments reveling in perhaps his most adored pastime.

"He wasn't just an anecdote, he was bigger than life," said Debby Hass, William's wife. "He was a man well-loved, deeply and richly loved. And not only by his family, but he was admired and revered by his business colleagues. It's a testament to the man he was. And I'm happy he died a blessed, good death, and that it happened while he was young enough that people will remember him and honor him."

Hass, 71, grew up on the north side of Chicago as an only child, taking road trips with his parents to visit different lakes around the country. His father was a plant engineer, and used to bring Hass with him to work to look at the machinery and equipment. Those trips would make a lasting impact on Hass' life.

"I think that largely contributed to his desire to be an engineer," Debby said. "He liked to see how things operated, and he liked to see things from start to finish."

Hass graduated from Lane Technical High School in Chicago before enrolling at the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Engineering, where he graduated first in his class and was recognized with the Bell Honors Award. At UIC, Hass also co-founded the University of Illinois Engineering Alumni Association. After graduation, Hass received his master's of business administration at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Following school, Hass enjoyed a number of different endeavors, including work with the Peat Marwick accounting firm, Wilson Sporting Goods and as a partner with Ernst & Young. Later in life, Hass served as the CEO of TeamWork Technologies, Inc., a consulting and research organization that assists with improving business practices. Most recently, Hass was working alongside his son, Charles, at his property management company.

Additionally, Hass is a former national chairman for the Turnaround Management Association, a worldwide community of professionals who work with companies to improve their businesses. Hass also served as the vice president and founder of the Private Directors Association, a group dedicated to enhancing the value of private companies using a broad network of CEOs, business owners and board members for their expertise. His work ethic was one thing he handed down to his children.

"He supported our goals, and really taught us the way," said Charles, his son. "He made us understand how to work for things. I used to cut lawns as a kid, and my lawn mower broke and I needed a new one. He said, 'OK, we'll finance it for you, and you give us $8 a lawn until it's paid for.' He was always supportive, but he wouldn't give anything away. He'd tell you how to make it work, and how to see it through."

Despite participation in numerous professional groups and associations, Hass also believed in creating things for himself. In the late 1970s, Hass invented the Bone Fone, a wearable radio that could be draped around the user's neck as a hands-free alternative to other radios that could be worn while skiing or biking. In the same vein, Hass also invented an early version of the stereo jacket, with speakers built into the collar and a cord going to the pocket so users could play their own music.

"He was passionate about making the world a better place, and making things better," Charles said. "His was a path of never-ending improvement. … He was definitely an entrepreneur."

Hass also co-authored two books: "The Private Equity Edge: How Private Equity Players and the World's Top Companies Build Value and Wealth," and "Board Perspectives: Building Value through Strategy, Risk Assessment and Renewal."

In his free time, Hass enjoyed going to his summer retreat in Wisconsin, where he would wow bystanders with his waterskiing skills on Elizabeth Lake. He was known to others in the area as the "Happy Skier." At home he often took to reading, mostly books on business, which he would fill with sticky notes on his personal thoughts. His family also described him as a "news hound" constantly switching between networks to gain new perspectives on the day's goings-on around the world.

"He was always seeking knowledge, and he was a smart cookie," Debby said. "But you'd never know it. He was so humble and kind, and he never lorded it over others. He would just pull you aside to share something, and he became a great educator among his peers later in life."

"He was a perpetual student," Charles added. "He was always learning, always thinking."

Hass' family described him as relatively quiet, the type of man who was always hesitant to boast, and who wouldn't share even his most exciting stories unless he was asked to. Yet he was also easy to get along with. And perhaps most importantly, he understood what was truly important to him.

"He had this thing about the dash between when you're born and when you die," Debby said. "And what matters is the dash in between. He always had time for our children and me. That's not lost on them now. … I can tell you from the comments we've received from friends from the lake, skiing friends and business friends that Bill was larger than life. He had a zest for living, and did so with gusto. He was a quiet man, but his actions spoke for him. He was a loyal and dedicated friend."

Hass is survived by Debby and his children Charles, Veronica and Andrew. He was also the proud grandfather of five granddaughters, and a grandson currently on the way.

A memorial has been set up in Hass' name at the University of Illinois Foundation. Those looking to donate to the memorial should do so by mail to UIC Engineering, SEO Room 821, 851 S. Morgan Street (MC 159), Chicago, Illinois, 60607 under the memo line "Bill Hass Memorial."

Krabloonik owners decide to keep restaurant open, lease in compliance with town of Snowmass

The owners of Krabloonik said Tuesday the restaurant will remain open with a simplified menu, which will keep the business in compliance with its 20-year lease with the town of Snowmass.

Krabloonik owners Danny and Gina Phillips announced last week plans to close the nearly 40-year-old restaurant in an effort to focus more on the business' dog-sledding operations.

"We just want it to be simpler," Danny Phillips said via phone Tuesday. "There's a lot of restaurants and a lot of new things that have opened since the lease was signed originally and people have great places to eat. We don't want to compete with that, and we really want our guests to enjoy the dogs like they're asking us. People just want to hang out with the dogs."

The town of Snowmass, which owns the property and leases it to Krabloonik for $10 per year, had not been informed of the business' decision prior to its Jan. 9 announcement, Town Manager Clint Kinney said.

"Since last week, when The Aspen Times brought this to our attention, we have been in contact with the owners of Krabloonik and are working well with them," Kinney wrote Tuesday in an email to the Times. "They have informed us that they are continuing to operate the restaurant.

"As such, it is my understanding that they are in compliance with the lease terms."

The lease between the town and Krabloonik states: "Consistent with past operations, the Krabloonik Restaurant shall be open for dinner business at least 100 days during each ski season."

Phillips said the restaurant would "likely (close) down early in the evenings" and that they are still figuring out exact hours moving forward.

He confirmed the restaurant would be open for 100 days this winter season, per its lease.

"We got to this business model and this idea because of public input," Phillips said. "You know, we're listening to what our guests want and what the locals and the public want and we're just kind of adapting and making it work. … Fine dining doesn't necessarily work."

That input includes offering its famous mushroom soup, snacks and "more time with the dogs," Phillips said.

Krabloonik founder Dan MacEachen started the dog-sledding business in 1974, and his sister Janet opened the restaurant a few years later, according to his Aspen Times obituary.

The Phillipses bought the business in December 2014 from MacEachen, who died in February 2016.

Krabloonik's lease, which was amended in 2015 with the change in ownership, spans Sept. 25, 2006, to Sept. 25, 2026.


Alpine Bank rolls out interest-free loans during government shutdown

Alpine Bank, which is based in Glenwood Springs, is ready to give federal employees in Colorado the paycheck they missed.

Starting Wednesday, Alpine Bank will offer interest-free loans to furloughed federal employees in Colorado who missed out on a paycheck due to the partial government shutdown. Alpine has set aside $5 million for the current loan program.

Alpine, which has 40 locations across Colorado, has offered similar short-term loans during previous government shutdowns in 1996 and 2013. But because of Alpine's recent expansion and the historic length of the current budget impasse in Congress, this time the program could have a much larger impact.

"When our neighbors need our assistance, we will be there to help," Alpine Bank founder Bob Young said in a statement issued Tuesday. "This is the third time in the past 25 years that we have implemented this type of support to our valued federal employees. As always, we are honored to help."

"We've helped hundreds of people during a couple shutdowns previously, so we knew there were folks who needed it," Glen Jammaron, vice chairman and president of Alpine Bank, said during a Tuesday news conference in Glenwood Springs.

News of Alpine Bank's renewed efforts was first reported late last week. Press conferences also were called Tuesday to formally announce the program at branch locations in Grand Junction and Denver.

Alpine believes that around 50,000 federal employees in their service areas have been affected by the furlough. According to the Department of Labor and Statistics, there were 54,000 federal employees in Colorado in 2017.

Alpine is offering the loans to people in the communities they serve, and hopes other financial institutions will do the same.

"It is Alpine Bank's hope that other banks across Colorado and throughout our nation will also step forward to help federal workers in their own communities," Jammaron said. "There are other efforts around the country, but this is the only one I'm aware of in our area."

To receive the instant, interest-free loan, employees are asked to bring both their Colorado and federal IDs to an Alpine Bank branch, along with a federal payroll statement.

"We know some federal employees are having trouble getting to their (payroll) statements because of some access issues, so bring a bank statement, (or) anything that demonstrates what your pay is," Jammaron said.

Those who don't have an Alpine account will have to open a checking account with the bank to receive the equivalent of one-month's net salary. Repayment of the loan is due six months after the shutdown ends.

As of Monday evening, Alpine had opened 132 accounts for federal workers ready to receive a loan. Those loans will add up to roughly $500,000, Jammaron said.

"In our previous programs, we've had very little losses even though there's no collateral," Young said. "I'm amazed at how good the credits have been. That tells us that we can do it again."