2022 Year in Review: Here’s what happened in Summit County this year
Summit County judge pleads guilty to a misdemeanor. Months later, he resigns from office.
The new year kicked off a bit rocky as 5th Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a Class 2 misdemeanor, on Friday, Jan. 14, after he threatened his stepson with an “AR-15 style rifle” in July 2021. Thompson accepted a plea deal negotiated between his defense attorney and Brian Hassing, a special prosecutor from the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which lowered his original charge from felony menacing to disorderly conduct.
As a result, Thompson was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation given his lack of a criminal history, Judge Sean P. Finn of the 17th Judicial District said Friday. Thompson will also be required to forfeit the firearm involved in the crime.
Thompson returned to the bench days after pleading guilty. But then in August, the Colorado Supreme Court issued Thompson an unpaid 30-day suspension. He was suspended without pay from Oct. 15 to Nov. 13.
Days after returning to the bench from his suspension, Thompson reportedly threatened a pair of lawyers with jail time, leaving one “frightened” and “fearful,” according to court records.
In December, Thompson officially announced his retirement from his position. His retirement is effective Jan. 13.
Residents at Silverthorne mobile home parks say they are fearful about relocating
Residents at two Silverthorne mobile home parks — specifically D&D and Cottonwood Court — share their concerns about having to relocate out of their homes come June 2. In total, about 68 individuals — roughly 15 families — were in jeopardy of losing their homes after a developer bought the land.
All of those individuals had to relocate to make room for a market-rate housing project. Later that year, in March, the residents and the developer announced they were satisfied with the terms of a confidential agreement made in the wake of the land sale last year.
Bluebird Market opens in Silverthorne
Dramatically changing Silverthorne’s offerings was Bluebird Market, which officially opened its doors in January. The first vendors to open in the food hall were Nomad Coffee House, the Mighty Bar, Baja Chimayo, the Mighty Colorado Burger, Hook and Harvest, Tilford’s Wood Fired Pizza and retail pop-up store LUE Outdoors.
Later this year, a satellite location of the North Branch of the Summit Library moved into the top floor and other vendors like ice cream shop Don’t Call Me Charlie’s and Crepes a la Carte joined the list of eateries, too.
Other major business include The Pad’s opening in Silverthorne, Outer Range Brewing Co. opening a second taproom in France, and Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant selling to another local buyer.
Paul Dunkelman named Chief Judge of the 5th Judicial District
After serving as the interim chief judge for the 5th Judicial District on an interim basis, Judge Paul Dunkelman was named permanently to the position. Dunkelman took over as interim chief judge after former Chief Judge Mark Thompson was placed on leave after he was charged with felony menacing in October 2021.
Dunkelman got his start in the legal field when he attended Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, where he earned a bachelor’s in economics and political science. He officially made the jump to Colorado when he earned his Juris Doctor from Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver in 1993.
Summit County residents with ties to Ukraine and Russia fear for what’s to come overseas
Summit County community members with ties to the Russia and Ukraine region were shocked when Russian forces began invading in February. Locals with ties to the region spoke out about what it was — and still is — like to watch the conflict unfold.
Alma resident Valentine Kinash, who works at The Canteen Tap House and Tavern in Breckenridge, said Ukrainians such as himself were tired of being asked if they are OK. Kinash is from Lviv, the biggest city in the western part of Ukraine. One of his brothers and his father took up arms to join the fight, his sister fled to Poland and his grandmother and mother were staying in Lviv. His younger brother, who is 18 years old, was fearful that he will be drafted into the military.
4 skier and snowboarder deaths occur in Summit County within a one-month time frame
In a month time frame, four skier and snowboarder deaths have occurred within Summit County. The alarming trend is a concern, especially considering there were only four skier and snowboarder deaths the entire year of 2021. Both local and national experts have weighed in and provided safety tips and best practices for those interested in continuing their snowsports on the mountain.
This year’s four deaths occurred between Jan. 21 and Feb. 9 and involved individuals ages 21, 23, 24 and 48. All of the deaths occurred at either Breckenridge Ski Resort or Copper Mountain Ski Resort.
State hid findings of ‘life-threatening’ errors at Mind Springs; Summit County begins to cut ties
After months of scrutiny, the Colorado News Collaborative released a report that shows the state hid findings of ‘life-threatening’ errors at Mind Springs, which is under contract with the state to provide care to people who are indigent or on Medicaid, and to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis in Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.
Later that month, the Summit Board of County Commissioners took steps to cut ties with Mind Springs. The commissioners held an emotional meeting with Mind Springs representatives and other behavioral health experts Tuesday, March 29. They described a dire situation in which people in crisis aren’t receiving basic support.
A few months later, three state agencies released their audits of Mind Springs, which included action plans for how Mind Springs will improve in the future.
Summit County government implements a short-term rental moratorium
Summit County government passes a nine-month short-term rental moratorium. The moratorium, effective immediately, put a pause on any licenses being issued within the county’s neighborhood zones.
The decision to implement a moratorium came as a surprise to many community members, especially those in the local property management and real estate industries. The vote came after the commissioners heard presentations about the current trajectory of short-term rental licenses.
At the May meeting, the board expressed its desire to balance the tourism industry’s needs with the needs of the rest of the community.
Three Summit High School students organize ‘Our Bodies, Our Choice’ rally one week after Roe v. Wade was struck down
On July 1, three Summit High School students organized a rally to stand in solidarity together in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade.
The protest, “Our Bodies Our Choice,” was organized by Makena Fox, 17, Zoe Gallup, 16, and Lili Wiethake, 17. The women organized in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a court case that, for nearly 50 years, granted women the constitutional right to an abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade puts abortion and privacy laws into the hands of the states.
US Forest Service halts Vail Resorts’ new lift at Keystone’s Bergman Bowl
Construction of a new chairlift at Keystone Resort were ordered to cease this week after the U.S. Forest Service learned that an unauthorized road had been bulldozed through sensitive areas where minimal impacts were authorized.
Keystone Resort, which operates by permit on U.S. Forest Service land, was granted permission by the White River National Forest to construct a new chairlift this summer in the area known as Bergman Bowl, creating a 555-acre expansion of Keystone’s lift-served terrain. But that approval came with plenty of comments from the Environmental Protection Agency, which recommended minimal road construction associated with the project due to Bergman Bowl’s environmentally sensitive location.
Second-home owners report struggles if their properties aren’t paid for by short-term renters
After the Summit Board of County Commissioner implemented a short-term rental license moratorium for some parts of unincorporated Summit County, some second-home owners spoke out about how they were impacted. Some of these owners said that owners reported struggles if their properties aren’t paid for by short-term renters.
Summit County goes the whole summer without any fire restrictions
Summit County went the whole summer without fire restrictions, a first in recent memory. The summer of 2022 was heavy with rain and moisture, as monsoonal rains came earlier than expected.
The change has been drastic enough that long-time locals of Summit County have remarked about this summer’s difference in climate to the previous few years. This summer reminded many, including FitzSimons, of weather from 20 to 30 years ago.
1982 murder cold case closed
More than 40 years after two women disappeared near Breckenridge, the man suspected of murdering the pair of hitchhikers was found guilty by a Park County jury.
Modern forensic genealogy techniques reopened the case after it sat cold for nearly four decades after the women were last seen on Jan. 6, 1982. The investigation led to the arrest and conviction of Alan Lee Phillips, 71, of Dumont.
Phillips was arrested in February of 2021 on two counts of the following charges: kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and murder after deliberation.
Alan Lee Phillips was found guilty of first-degree murder for the killings of Annette Schnee, 21, and Barbara Oberholtzer, 29. The two were reportedly hitchhiking separately from Breckenridge. Both were shot to death.
A John Doe who died in 2012 and was found in 2016 on the Tenmile Range has, at last, been identified
A hiker trekking up a game trail in a chute along the western face of the Tenmile Range stumbled across a human skull on the forest floor. That was in 2016.
Monday, Sept. 12, the Summit County Coroner’s Office announced the positive identification of the remains as Jeffery Peterson, of Virginia. According to the Coroner’s Office, Peterson had been dead for four years when his remains were found. He died in 2012 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at the age of 53.
It was about 10 years before his family could be notified of his death, due in part to difficulties identifying the body.
When the skeletal remains were found at the base of the “Y” section of the Sky Chutes, just below the treeline, no identifying information was available. His backpack was empty and a handgun beside the body had had its serial number scratched off. There were no car keys, no wallet or driver’s license, and no reports made around the time of death of abandoned cars or snowmobiles.
“The decedent went to great lengths to obscure his identity,” Kipple said at a press conference Monday morning.
Biden designates Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument
President Joe Biden traveled to the High Country in October to designate the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. It is now the ninth national monument in Colorado.
From the original tribal nations that were the “stewards of the land,” to the 10th Mountain Division camp and to its current use for outdoor recreational activities, Biden praised the site as “treasured lands” that “tell the story of America.”
The site’s most well-known history lies with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, which brought 15,000 recruits to the area by train in 1942.
“Facing high altitudes and harsh terrain, deep snow, bitter cold, soldiers in Camp Hale learned to scale rock, ski and survive, preparing for the war they were about to fight,” Biden said.
Bright Health pulls out of Colorado
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, Oct. 11, Bright Health announced it was pulling out of Colorado and eight other states, meaning the health insurance provider is no longer offering its affordable individual and group plans to consumers in the High Country and across the state.
Peak Health Alliance CEO Ann Ladd said the news came as a complete shock to her. Ladd said the nonprofit was fully focused on submitting comments for the rates Bright Health had proposed earlier this summer as well as preparing for the open enrollment period that allows consumers to choose their plans for the next year.
“My first reaction was, frankly, surprise,” Ladd said.
Peak Health is a local nonprofit health insurance purchasing alliance that was founded in Summit County and negotiates lower insurance rates for Coloradans in rural areas. For the last few calendar years, Bright Health has been Peak Health’s chosen health insurance carrier. Those that are insured by a Peak Health-sponsored plan include 1,760 Summit County individuals, though there are 6,400 individuals across the High Country who are covered by a Bright Health plan through Peak Health.
Ella Hagen first female Summit High School student in 18 years to win state cross-country race
Ella Hagen became the first female Summit High School student in 18 years to win state cross-country race. The week prior at the 4A Region 1 cross-country meet, Summit made history by qualifying both teams to the state cross-country races for the first time since 2008.
Coming into the state race, Hagen was all the talk throughout the state of Colorado and across cross-country media outlets. With her time of 16 minutes, 45.10 seconds from the Liberty Bell Invitational in September, Hagen held the top time over 5 kilometers in the 4A classification and the second-best time in the state of Colorado.
In other words, Hagen was a viable threat coming into Saturday’s state race, and Hagen knew it too.
Officials express concern about Summit School District test scores
Summit School District was placed on an improvement plan in 2022 following years of below-average test scores. Upon closer inspection, data showed that English language learner scores in Summit landed in the 2nd percentile for the state. In our three-part series, “Education Divided,” we explore how the district’s data compares to other counties, why the district lost its footing, and how administrators plan to move forward under new leadership.
Fire board plans first steps to build a Silverthorne fire station
After months of public pressure to get a Summit Fire & EMS station in Silverthorne, the organization agreed to move the project along.
In October, Fire Chief Travis Davis said the first priority is to have a truck housed somewhere in town in order to help with insurance ratings, since residents north of a 5-mile radius of the Dillon station have a lower rating. Proximity to a fire station and fire hydrants have some impact on cost of property insurance, but other factors like wildfire risk also play into costs.
A month later, the organization chose a design for its Silverthorne station.
Summit County commissioners agree on license caps for short-term rentals
The Summit Board of County Commissioners decides to cap short-term rental licenses in unincorporated Summit County. On Tuesday, Nov. 15, commissioners came to a consensus on loose ends regarding the short-term rental regulations. While the percentages have not been adopted yet, they were agreed upon for tentative adoption of future regulations.
Chair falls off Peak 8 SuperConnect lift at Breckenridge Ski Resort with rider on board
A rider of a quad chair that detached from a Breckenridge Ski Resort lift on Thursday morning was uninjured despite a 13-foot fall, according to a statement from the resort.
A little after 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 22, a chair dislodged from the haul rope of the Peak 8 SuperConnect quad just before it reached the unloading zone, the statement said. Ski patrol responded immediately, no injuries were reported and the guest declined further care, according to the ski resort.
The weather forecast posted to the ski resort’s website for Thursday described the conditions as “very windy” with a northwest wind 28 to 36 miles per hour and gusts as high as 55 miles per hour.
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