Skier who pushed snowboarder to be charged

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
A skier and a snowboarder pass over the spot where a snowboarder was allegedly pushed off the Loge Peak chairlift at Highlands.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times |

A skier suspected of throwing a snowboarder off a chairlift Sunday at Aspen Highlands will be charged with a crime “in the near future,” a law enforcement official said Thursday.

For now, however, the community is safe, said Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan.

“I’ve heard from people I know that this incident has created some level of fear,” Ryan said. “The public should know they are not in any danger related to this incident.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the man who committed the crime had not yet been arrested or charged, Ryan said. Ryan declined to say how the danger to the public has been alleviated without an arrest.

“No information supports a skier-snowboarder rift or a subculture of hate.”Undersheriff Ron RyanPitkin County Sheriff’s Office

“There are legal elements to this incident that prevent us from releasing all the details at this time,” Ryan said. “The legal and ethical elements to this case prevent me from saying where he is.”

Details of cases involving juveniles, mental-health issues or a person being taken into protective custody or for detox are illegal to release to the public.

An investigator for the Sheriff’s Office said earlier this week he was confident the skier could be identified and that he had a specific name in mind. The man is a local resident, not a tourist, Deputy Jesse Steindler said Tuesday.

One thing Ryan did release, however, is that the case does not involve a skier with an anti-snowboarder chip on his shoulder.

“It’s clear it’s not a skier versus a snowboarder situation,” he said. “No information supports a skier-snowboarder rift or a subculture of hate.”

Seth Beckton, a 28-year-old local photographer, told The Aspen Times on Monday he was riding up the Loge Peak chairlift at Aspen Highlands at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday with a skier and another man. He said he barely spoke to the skier until near the top of the lift, when they began talking about the 5 to 6 inches of powder on the ground.

Beckton said he made a comment about how it’s easier to get faceshots of powder on skis as opposed to a snowboard.

“To get tits-deep pow shots you just need to be on your edges,” Beckton quoted himself as saying in a Facebook post.

After that comment, Beckton said the skier turned to him and said, “Are you making fun of me?”

Beckton said the comment surprised him because he wasn’t trying to offend him. He said he thought the man might be joking, so he said, “Not really — but maybe.”

“If you think that’s funny,” Beckton said the skier then told him, “do you think this is funny?”

The skier then grabbed Beckton and threw him off the chair. Beckton said he fell face-first, 20 to 25 feet and, luckily for him, landed in a pile of snow and was not injured. The incident occurred 50 to 100 feet from the top of the lift just past the last lift tower, he said. A lift operator stopped the chairs after Beckton was pushed, but not before the skier was able to exit the chair, he said.

Jeff Hanle, spokesman for Aspen Skiing Co., said he did not know the company’s procedure for what happens after the lift stops. He said he didn’t know what the lift operator saw Sunday morning and didn’t know the lift had been stopped until he read it in The Aspen Times on Tuesday.

Beckton said he hiked out of the deep snow and waited on the ski run to confront the man but never saw him. He then decided that because he wasn’t hurt, he didn’t want the incident to ruin his powder day, so he snowboarded the rest of the day and didn’t report it until about 3:45 p.m.

Beckton said Monday he regretted not reporting the incident earlier.

In an effort to identify the skier, Skico shared footage with the Sheriff’s Office from cameras at the Exhibition lift and the Thunderbowl lift, the two chairs at the bottom of Aspen Highlands that offer access to the mountain, Hanle said. He said he didn’t think any other lift cameras were located on the Loge Peak lift, located at the top of the mountain.

Steindler has said no footage of the actual incident exists. However, he said investigators were able to track down several witnesses who saw the incident and may have seen the skier who pushed Beckton.

On Thursday, Ryan confirmed that investigators were able to track down the third man who was on the chair with Beckton and the skier. That man’s account corroborated other witness accounts as well as Beckton’s account of what happened, he said.

Ryan declined to say whether the third man on the chair, the lift operator or any of the other witnesses reported seeing Beckton thrown off the chair to mountain officials.

However, Hanle has said that the first time anyone at Skico heard about it was when Beckton reported it to guest services at 3:45 p.m. Sunday.