Aspen powder bandits pay fines to avoid ‘hassle’ in court
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Three men pleaded guilty Tuesday to skiing within a closed area at Aspen Highlands last weekend, although the riders contended they did little, if anything, wrong.
The skiers ” Charles Kashiwa, 23, of Denver, and Russell Francis, 51, and Adam Francis, 21, both of Beaconsfield, England ” entered their pleas during consecutive hearings before Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely in Pitkin County Court. The elder Francis is Adam’s father.
As a result, the judge fined each man $250. The powder poachers faced a maximum fine of $1,000 each for violating the Colorado Ski Safety Act.
“We did not realize it was illegal,” said Russell Francis of the incident that happened in an off-limits area of Highland Bowl. “We never would have done it.”
Francis told the judge that he and his son were skiing Sunday down an open area of the bowl, when they came across a rope near a run-off space. He said they saw a number of tracks on the other side of the rope but no warning signs.
“In Europe, you are allowed to go under the rope,” said Francis, whose son declined to make a statement before the court.
He said they went under a rope and into a run-off area. They then skied down the area toward Bear Hollow Road. At that point the duo encountered a ski patroller. A sheriff’s deputy later detained them, issued a summons and released the men.
The two also had their ski passes yanked. But those were returned shortly after the incident.
Kashiwa told a similar story to the judge, although he was not skiing with either of the Englishmen. He was also stopped by a ski patrolman and later issued a summons by a sheriff’s deputy.
His pass was also temporarily taken away.
“I felt it was nothing more than a run division,” said Kashiwa on the rope.
He added that he, too, did not see any warning signs: “Perhaps they could do a better job of marking the mountain.”
Kashiwa, who characterized himself as a lifelong skier, said that he was pleading guilty to essentially avoid the “hassle” factor, suggesting coming back to Aspen for a follow-up court hearing would be overkill.
“I’m going home,” said Kashiwa outside the courtroom.
Francis said after the hearing that he and his son were also headed out of town, with Vail the next destination. The father and son plan to fly back to England next week.
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A majority of users of the popular Red Hill Recreation Area north of Carbondale say they would be OK with closing the trails during the muddiest times of the year.