Meredith C. Carroll: Richard Miller needs a time-out

Meredith C. Carroll
Muck Off

Meredith Carroll
Courtesy photo

If you were to ask my parents, they’d say the mistakes I made while growing up cost them (tens upon hundreds upon thousands of) dollars, and in the case of my dad, his hair, too. (Actually, you don’t really have to ask; apropos of absolutely nothing, my parents are always up for gleefully retelling tales that feature my mishaps and foibles.)

It wasn’t as if I woke up one day, gazed at my reflection and saw that my age and wisdom finally granted me the ability to stop slipping up for good — especially because I’m certain the cure for my particular strand of incompetence is death. Rather, as life has advanced, my heart and mind have grown such that I care deeply about ensuring the damage I inflict on those who are not me is kept to a minimum. So far it’s working out pretty well. (You know, I think. I hope.)

Yet it’s precisely because my own glass house cracked long ago that I feel compelled to give Richard Miller, 23, a good talking-to. He’s the Basalt dude who had to be rescued when skiing out of bounds near Highland Bowl on Sunday. And, oh yeah, he’s also the guy (along with his girlfriend) who allegedly triggered the Lake Christine Fire last summer that destroyed three homes, displaced hundreds, traumatized thousands and cost over $17 million to contain.

There is no such thing as a day exempt from other people’s regrettable decisions — just check out the cop blotter in Friday’s newspaper or ski down Grand Prix after any 2 p.m. Cloud Nine seating. The Aspen area is a veritable magnet for people drawn to the dark(er) side (hello from above, Ted Bundy). There’s a big difference, though, between actions that affect just you and those that are potentially catastrophic to entire towns.

When you make the monumentally brainless yet still conscious choice to shoot off banned tracer ammunition — during a severe drought when the wildfire risk is raging — that puts lives in danger and leaves several families homeless, not to mention displaces so many others, the time to lie low indefinitely is now. And by indefinitely, I don’t mean that eight months later, it’s totally cool to go ahead and ski out of bounds in conditions ripe for an avalanche during the snowiest storm of the season and then need Mountain Rescue Aspen and Aspen Highlands ski patrol to save you.

The good news is that among the extraordinary attributes of first responders is their ability to see beyond how you got into trouble, whether unintentionally or maliciously, when they go in and risk their lives to save yours. The bad news is that your problem just became theirs. How many times do your screw-ups have to hurt or put others in harm’s way before you wake up, grow up and minimize your messes or at least their impact on others? Bring grief to your own family if you must (or take it from me and try really, really hard not to); just quit messing with anyone else’s.

In Aspen, being an adrenaline junkie is a trait as admired as going braless: while not a requirement, it definitely aids those in need of attention. The Roaring Fork Valley attracts all kinds, including young(ish) men clinging to what, if anything, remains of their youth: Many of them are notoriously delayed in settling down, preferring instead to bike, hike, fish, shoot, climb, ride, ski and party like it’s 1999, or whatever year it was when they celebrated their 11th birthday.

Even still, exactly how many more life-saving resources can Miller possibly divert toward himself? He must have exceeded his annual maximum by now, right? While no one has suggested he purposefully started the fire or risked triggering an avalanche just for fun, it also doesn’t seem as if Miller is now going out of his way to prove he’s putting the welfare of others first. The trajectory he’s on makes it difficult to imagine things ending well for him, and for what he’s already been through, that’s saying a lot.

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