Crash leads to fight on Aspen slopes
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” A local ski area reportedly was the scene of a brief international conflict this week, involving visiting snow sliders from opposite ends of the Earth.
A skier from New York City allegedly beat up an Australian snowboarder on the slopes of Aspen Mountain on Jan. 2, and the snowboarder’s family is hoping the skier will be charged with assault.
The incident reportedly followed a collision between the two men on the newly-named Lazy Boy ski run, formerly known as Copper Connector and about 300 yards uphill from the lower teminus of the Gentlemen’s Ridge ski lift.
According to a statement from the alleged victim, snowboarder Michael Wilson, 19, he was hit from above and behind by the skier, who is believed to be Stephen Benson, 58, of New York City.
Wilson reported that Benson skied into him, causing both to crash and Benson’s skis to release. Wilson, in a written statement submitted to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, reported that Benson climbed back up the hill and “started verbally abusing me [loud].”
When Wilson maintained that Benson was at fault for not yielding to the downhill skier, according to the statement, Benson punched Wilson in the face and, when Wilson fell down, kicked him several times in the back.
Benson then left the scene, Wilson reported, but after Wilson had been joined by his parents the family group met up with Benson and his instructor, Chuck Tower, near the loading area for the ski lift, and “discussed the incident” before leaving.
Wilson’s uncle, Garth Wilson, a local limousine operator, said on Friday that his nephew suffered some scratches and bruises on his back, and a couple of loose teeth from the punch, but no broken bones or lacerations that required stitches.
Because of the relatively minor injuries, Garth Wilson said, the family believes that the attack merits a misdemeanor assault charge.
“It was just shocking,” Garth Wilson said in a telephone interview. “The guy would not apologize or anything. The guy needs to be disciplined, or something, or this is going to happen to somebody else.”
Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff George Kremer, who is investigating the incident, could not be reached for comment about the case.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.