Lift op pockets $500 for helping nab hit-and-run skier
A Snowmass ski area lift operator got a little more than expected this week, when he was rewarded for spotting a “hit-and-run” skier last month.
Lift operator Andy Howard was handed a check for $500 Wednesday at a small ceremony on the Snowmass Village Mall, although officials of the Ski Hit and Run Reward organization had earlier announced the reward would be $250.
“We just decided to go ahead and give him the full $500,” said organization founder Jim Watson on Wednesday morning. The decision came at a meeting of the group’s board of directors on Tuesday night, he said.
The organization decided to hand out the reward despite the fact that no arrest resulted from Howard’s quick action on Feb. 20, when he spotted a skier in the Elk Camp lift line who matched the description of a skier who had just run into a snowboarder and fled the scene of the accident.
The description was broadcast over the Ski Patrol radio system – standard procedure when such incidents occur. According to officials of the Skico and the Snowmass Village Police Department, skier Tom Buscher of New Mexico was coming down the Turkey Trot run when he hit snowboarder Duncan Ransom of Superior, Colo.
But an investigation indicated that Buscher fled only after a friend of Ransom’s threatened to beat Buscher up over the incident, and police decided there was not sufficient cause to charge Buscher with violating the Colorado Skier Safety Act.
The Skico, the police and the Hit and Run organization decided to issue the reward to raise public awareness about skiers’ responsibility in such situations. According to the Colorado Skier Safety Act, a skier who hits another on the ski slopes must stay at the scene until the ski patrol arrives. Or, if the skier has to leave to find help, he or she must hand over his or her name and current address to the victim or some other party at the scene.
Snowmass Police Chief Art Smythe said there are only a couple of sections of the act that carry criminal penalties, including leaving the scene of an accident, skiing in a closed area and skiing under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
He said the penalties include fines of up to $300 and possible jail time.
The Ski Hit and Run Inc. organization was founded in 1996 after Watson’s wife, Ann, was involved in an on-mountain collision.
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