One year later, Mulcahy still banned
ASPEN – One year after former ski instructor Lee Mulcahy got fired from his job at Aspen Skiing Co., he remains banned from the slopes at Skico’s four ski areas.
Mulcahy said he was told Monday by Rich Burkley, Skico’s vice president of mountain operations, that the ban remains in place and the company will pursue a charge of trespassing if he violates it.
“If I go anywhere near there, they will arrest me,” Mulcahy said.
Skico confirmed the ban.
“Lee Mulcahy is banned indefinitely, and we have nothing else to say on the matter,” said a statement read by Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. True to his word, he wouldn’t elaborate.
Mulcahy was fired and banned from the slopes Jan. 31, 2011, after a very public and drawn-out fight with Skico. Mulcahy was once a star of the ski school as an instructor in the exclusive Diamond Pros group.
He claimed he was reprimanded and ultimately fired for speaking out against Skico policies such as low pay for rookie instructors and for talking with other employees about starting a union.
Skico officials claimed he was fired for a various violations of company policies. During the busy period between Christmas and New Year’s Day 2010, Mulcahy distributed fliers in The Little Nell hotel criticizing the Crown family, Skico owners, and the company’s pay policies. He also handed out fliers in the Silver Queen Gondola Plaza contending the Crowns and Skico didn’t pay a living wage for beginning instructors. Skico denies his allegations.
The protest was the “final straw in a long history of blatant violations of our policies and a failure to exercise good judgment, the most important requirements of any employee,” Skico said in a statement at the time of the firing. With the firing came the ban from Skico property, including the slopes of Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk. Skico officials said they were concerned Mulcahy would take action that would disrupt their operations and bother their customers.
Mulcahy said he asked the Forest Service’s Aspen Ranger District if Skico could keep him off public lands the company leases for its operations. Jim Stark, the winter sports administrator with the Aspen office, investigated the issue and told Mulcahy earlier this winter any solution would have to be worked out with Skico.
Mulcahy said he objects to that decision because, “I’m an American. I pay taxes.” He said he should have access to public lands.
“Big government doesn’t work for little people,” he said. “I don’t see how banning someone from riding lifts is in line with the mission of the little people.”
Stark said he looked at the issue strictly from the standpoint of, “Are we excluding him from lawful access to public lands?” He determined that Skico has rights as a permit holder operating on the White River National Forest. Skico cannot discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age and other characteristics but otherwise has flexibility on banning people from using its improvements, the agency determined.
“They pull ski passes all the time for reckless skiing, fraud and theft of services,” Stark said.
He said he discussed Mulcahy’s case with Burkley to see if a compromise could be struck. “He said it’s not worth it to us,” Stark said, adding that Skico officials didn’t trust that Mulcahy would avoid disrupting operations at the ski areas.
Stark said he felt the dispute probably had a simple solution. He didn’t see how Skico could prevent Mulcahy from having a friend purchase a day ticket, dress so he couldn’t be easily identified then hit the slopes. Skico officials said if Mulcahy did that, they would eventually catch him, according to Stark.
The Forest Service also concluded that Mulcahy couldn’t access public lands of the ski areas without crossing Skico’s private property at the base areas and private lands mixed in on the slopes.
“I think it’s within their rights” to ban Mulcahy, Stark said.
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