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altasnob
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PostWed Oct 21, 2020 9:08 pm 
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Colorado’s first-ever criminal charges following an avalanche could be slippery slope for backcountry travelers

Two snowboarders reported the avalanche they caused in March above the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels and cooperated with the investigation. Now, their statements and helmet-cam video are being used against them.

https://coloradosun.com/2020/10/18/criminal-charges-avalanche-colorado/

As far as I know, this is not only the first in Colorado, but the first time in US history that a backcountry skier has been criminally charged for causing an avalanche.
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Slugman
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PostWed Oct 21, 2020 9:20 pm 
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Slippery slope? Good one.  lol.gif

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Chief Joseph
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PostWed Oct 21, 2020 10:11 pm 
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Too much technology, nearly everything is on video these days, it's a double edged sword.

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Ski
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 2:57 am 
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I have to wonder whether skiing or snowboarding almost directly above a major Interstate Freeway is a good choice.
On the other hand, I have to wonder about CDOT's placement of their "mitigation devices", which could have just as easily sustained the same (or worse) damage from a naturally occurring avalanche.

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treeswarper
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 6:16 am 
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Their prisons must be needing more customers, especially if Colorado has privately owned jails.

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moonspots
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 6:19 am 
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treeswarper wrote:
Their prisons must be needing more customers, especially if Colorado has privately owned jails.

up.gif

That and/or the prosecutor's office has been into the newly legalized herb!

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Cyclopath
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 8:24 am 
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Ski wrote:
I have to wonder whether skiing or snowboarding almost directly above a major Interstate Freeway is a good choice.

Yeah.  Is this common practice out there, or was this a "sekret trail?"
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altasnob
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 9:56 am 
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The area the snowboarders went down is not closed, so it is fair game for anyone to travel up and down it. Is it common? I don't think so. I lived in Colorado 20 years ago and started backcountry skiing at this exact area (Loveland Pass). I have never heard of, and never seen tracks in this area because, ya, it leads right down to a major freeway. The other major reason this area does not get skied much is the area does not hold much snow. It is on the West side of the Continental Divide, and the predominant winds blow all the snow from that side to the East side of the pass (on the other side of the tunnel). They skied it in March, at the peak of the snowpack, and you can see all the rocks and grass next to where they were planning on skiing. But today, people are doing things that we never imagined 20 years ago.

This is a tough case because everyone agrees the snowboarders should not have skied this run. But on the flip side, if the government wants people to not ski it, maybe they should close it? Problem with that idea is Colorado Highway Department monitors and controls over 200 slide paths that lead to Colorado highways. Should every single one of these be closed as well? There are numerous other slide paths that lead to highways in the West. Should all of these be closed?

I can't think of any slide paths in Washington that hit highways that are not already closed in Winter (like Cutthroat slide paths on Highway 20). There are some small paths around Stevens Pass where this could be a problem. I-90 has some paths as well, but I don't believe people ski them very often (yet). Probably the most likely place for a skier to trigger a slide that buries a road and could kill people in vehicles below is the road to Hurricane Ridge.

At Mt. Baker, the snowboarders just go over the road:
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Ski
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 10:09 am 
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I've driven over I-70 through that tunnel. Colorado was part of my sales territory.
I-70 is not the road up to Mt. Baker - that's apples and oranges.
Again, I'd submit that snowboarding or skiing directly above that freeway was probably not the most wise or prudent choice, but I'm not a snowboarder and am clueless about what might constitute a "good" area to use.

I am, after reading the article in its entirety and watching the video, puzzled as to why the prosecutor's office believes these two men are at fault for alleged damage to state property, when that damage could have happened with or without those men being on that hillside.
Sounds more like a guy jockeying for a political office than a prosecutor who's doing his job enforcing existing statutes, particularly in light of the detailed explanation in the article about what constitutes "reckless endangerment" in the State of Colorado.

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altasnob
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 2:43 pm 
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It wasn't a good line choice for several reasons, one of which is that the snowboarders knew about the avy mitigation equipment on the lower part of the slope, so they had to at least suspect that should they cause an avalanche, that could possibly cause damage to the equipment. I believe the snowboarders thought there was never a chance they could trigger a slide big enough to actually get to the freeway (they may have been right about that assumption).

The avy mitigation devices help slough off the build up of snow from this slope throughout winter to help protect the freeway. The devices are only on the lower slopes where the snow pack is much deeper than the upper, wind-swept slopes. While I do not like the idea of closing access just because an area is near a road, this may be a unique situation where this run should be permanently closed the public (because there is avy mitigation equipment on the lower slopes that can be damaged when people try to ski the run from above).

I believe the snowboarders could be civilly liable for the damage they caused, the same as I could be liable if I caused an avalanche that destroyed a cabin. Civil is a lower burden of proof than criminal. So what should have happened is the avy agency (which is a government agency in Colorado) sued the snowboarders in a civil court for the damage they caused.

But the prosecutor wanted to make life easy for the government Avy agency so the prosecutor criminally charged the snowboarders. It is not ethical for a prosecutor to use criminal charges to extort payment from a defendant unless the prosecutor sincerely believes they can prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor seems pretty sure they can prove the charge but IMO the prosecutor is just using the criminal court as leverage to get the snowboarders on the hook for restitution (it's $168,000).
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Anne Elk
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PostThu Oct 22, 2020 10:11 pm 
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^^^ I agree w/Ski's POV insofar as it seems the equipment was in a position to be damaged by an avalanche regardless of the cause. At least no one was killed on the road, FCOL. Won't speculate on the prosecutor's motives.   Unless the snowboarders have deep pockets, full restitution isn't possible.  If convicted it would make more sense for the judge to sentence them to community service work and for the agencies involved to forbid any skiing/boarding in that area.  Throwing the book at them serves no one.

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Randito
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PostFri Oct 23, 2020 10:24 am 
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One of the principles in avalanche education is assessing the possible consequences should the slope break.   

The DOT is quite correct in dropping the hammer on these shredders.   No one was hurt in this specific incident, but it was certainly a "near miss" and the DOT has a responsibility to strongly discourage anyone from riding/skiing slopes above the highway.
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Slugman
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PostFri Oct 23, 2020 12:15 pm 
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Rules exist for a reason. From what others have said it appears this area is not closed to snow boarding.

So the prosecutor has a high hurdle, in my opinion, to convince 12 out of 12 people that the two men acted in an outrageously dangerous manner.

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Chief Joseph
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PostFri Oct 23, 2020 12:58 pm 
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Slugman wrote:
So the prosecutor has a high hurdle, in my opinion, to convince 12 out of 12 people that the two men acted in an outrageously dangerous manner.

Not sure about that, snowboarders, like skateboarders have a less than stellar reputation.

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FiveNines
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PostFri Oct 23, 2020 1:02 pm 
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Skateboarding is not a crime.
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