Skiers and snowboarders often berate each other for hogging the chairlift, moving too fast, moving too slow, tearing up the manicured runs and creating ice patches. The list of grievances is unending. But at the end of the day, they’re all just on the slopes to have a good time, right?
One perturbed skier decided to take the friendly feud a step further. The skier, a man the Aspen Times described as a “white man in his late 20s or 30s,” was enjoying a quiet morning on the slopes Sunday at Aspen Highlands, Colorado, when a snowboarder sitting next to him on the lift made a snide comment.
The skier then allegedly pushed the man off the Lodge Peak chair lift. Seth Beckton, the snowboarder who was pushed, told the Aspen Times that he fell 20-25 feet, face-first. Fortunately, Beckton sustained zero injuries as he fell into a “large pocket of snow.”
“I honestly thought I was dead,” Beckton, 28, told the Times. “Because I didn’t know where we were (within the lift path). It’s not cool to think anyone would do that.”
But Beckton wasn’t about to let a little trauma harsh his mellow. Though the incident occurred around 9:30 a.m., Beckton, an Aspen native, didn’t report it until hours later.
Though he told the Times that he was a little shaken by the incident at first, Beckton didn’t realize the seriousness of it all until he recounted the story to a few friends.
“I should have been more aggressive in reporting it,” Beckton said Monday. “What if he does it to somebody else?”
Jeff Hanle, spokesman for Aspen Skiing Co., told the Times Monday that if Beckton had reported the incident earlier, ski patrol and other officials could have provided aid in finding the skier. The company still plans to conduct a full investigation and reach out to witnesses who might help them track down the skier, he said.
“This is not the kind of behavior we want on our mountain,” Hanle said. “We will do our best to find the person.”
Hanle spoke to Beckton Monday and said he had no doubt the incident actually happened. But what sort of comment would lead to such aggression?
According to Beckton, he and the skier barely spoke on the way up the mountain, though the man commented on Beckton’s snow sport of choice as soon as they got on the lift, saying, “Oh, you’re a snowboarder, huh?”
As the two approached the top of the lift at around 9:30 a.m., the men began discussing the 5 to 6 inches of powdery snow on the ground, Beckton said. Beckton then made a comment about it being easier to get shots of powder in the face on skis as opposed to a snowboard.
According to Beckton, the skier then turned to him and said, “Are you making fun of me?”
Beckton recalled being “taken aback” by the question, unsure of how to interpret it because the man’s face was obstructed by a helmet and goggles.
“I thought it was kind of funny,” Beckton said. “I thought he might be joking. I wasn’t trying to offend anyone. I didn’t even think the comment was offensive.”
But just to keep what he had perceived as friendly banter going, Beckton playfully replied, “Not really — but maybe.”
“If you think that’s funny,” the skier said, “do you think this is funny?”
The man then “grabbed me and pushed and pulled me off the chair,” Beckton recalled. A third man was riding with them on the chair, he said, though he wasn’t sure if the man was a friend of the skier or not.
The scuffle occurred near the lift’s last tower, which Beckton said is about 50 to 100 feet from the top. The lift operator stopped the chair, but not soon enough — the skier was able to get off the lift and disappear.
Beckton sat in the mound of snow for a moment, still in disbelief.
“I was like, ‘Was that a joke? Did that really happen?’” he said.
Beckton said that when he emerged from the spot where he’d fallen, he stood out on the same ski run, waiting to confront the man but never saw him again.
“Because I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t super-outraged,” he said. “I didn’t want to let it ruin my day. I decided to continue on my way.”
Beckton said he now wishes he’d notified ski patrol early, giving them an opportunity to find the man who pushed him. Hanle said that would have been relatively easy.
“I think the guy was maybe on drugs,” Beckton said. “Maybe he was partying the night before and maybe he was tweaking out on something and he did that.”
Deputy Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, told the Aspen Times that his agency is looking into the event. Deputies are working with officials at Aspen Highlands and reviewing mountain surveillance video taken Sunday, he said.
As of Monday, Beckton had yet to file a report with the Sheriff’s Office, Burchetta said, though the deputy personally encouraged him to do so.
“I’m not sure ‘egregious’ is the word,” Burchetta said, sharing that he has been skiing since the age of 2 and had never seen anyone thrown off a lift. “It’s one of those things that stands out in your mind.”
(H/T: Aspen Times)