Lift operator to get $250 reward |

Lift operator to get $250 reward

John Colson

Snowmass lift operator Andy Howard’s quick thinking led to thecapture of a “hit-and-run” skier. It also earned him 250 bucks.The reward will be handed to Howard at 8:30 a.m. today at theSnowmass Village Mall, near the Timbermill ticket windows.Howard was on duty at the bottom of the Elk Camp lift on Feb.20 when he heard a report over the radio that described a skierwho had just run down a snowboarder.After spotting the skier in the lift line, Howard loaded him ontoa chair and then called the Snowmass Ski Patrol, telling themthe number of the chair the suspect was riding on.Ski patrollers grabbed skier Tom Buscher of New Mexico as he gotoff the lift, and took him to the patrol shack for what MountainManager Steve Sewell called “interrogation.” Buscher ultimately confessed that he had run into a snowboarderat the bottom of the Turkey Trot run, said Sewell. He also allegedlyleft the scene before the ski patrol showed up, a violation ofthe Colorado Skier Safety Act.But Snowmass Police Chief Art Smythe said the officer in chargeof the case ultimately decided not to charge the skier for theaccident. Buscher claimed he had tried to help the downed rider- Duncan Ransom of Superior, Colo. – but had fled after beingthreatened by another snowboarder.Smythe said that, given the threat of physical violence, “thebest thing he could actually do would be to leave. Although itwould have been better if, after leaving the scene, he had immediatelycontacted the patrol.”In addition, Smythe said, Buscher claimed he was the “victim”in the incident, because the two snowboarders were sitting onthe snow below a slight rise. He said he ran into Ransom becausehe could not see him. Buscher also reported that the snowboarder had indicated he wasnot hurt badly and did not want to call the ski patrol. Buscherconcluded he had acted responsibly and done all he could.Because Ransom never responded to police attempts to contact him,Smythe said, “we had to sort of accept that as what it was. Itseemed a credible thing that could have happened. We have onlyone side of the story here, unfortunately.”Smythe said this incident is covered by one of only a few provisionsin the Skier Safety Act that carries penalties. Had charges beenfiled in this case, he said, Buscher might have faced a fine ofup to $300 and perhaps some jail time.Doing the honors at today’s award ceremony will be Dick Durrance,local ski legend and chairman of the board of the Ski Hit andRun Reward, Inc. group, and group founder Jim Watson. Anotherskiing collision in Snowmass that involved Watson’s wife, Ann,led to the founding of the hit-and-run organization in 1996.Watson said the group has collected about $17,000 in donations,and hopes to get the total up to $25,000 or $30,000 “so it willself-sustain.”Donations can be sent to Ski Hit and Run Reward, Inc., 323 W.Main St., Aspen, CO 81611.

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