Investigation continues in accidental death
SUMMIT COUNTY The Copper Mountain man who died in Twin Lakes on Saturday was a charismatic risk-taker to family and friends, who said they are filled with regret for Jason Wichter’s tragic death.”We live in an area sometimes the smallest mistakes can really result in dire consequences,” friend and former co-worker Billy Krasowski said. “Just because you’re doing what you love … well, we all want to be doing it when we’re 90 years old.”The 32-year-old Wichter, whose snowmobile fell into an open area of freezing water Friday night, spent most of his adulthood guiding, rafting, riding and working at Copper Mountain. He met his wife, Laura Russell, during a snowboard lesson. She said he “loved life, but he lived life on the edge.” “I probably talked to him at 7:30 or 8 on Friday night, and he was just having the time of his life,” Russell said. “He was just playing around after dinner on his snowmobile, and never saw the water. It happened so fast, he still had his glasses on when they found him.”Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte said Wichter and friends were competing in a fishing derby on Friday, which had several vehicles including trucks and snowmobiles stationed on the ice. Wichter died around 9 p.m. Friday night when, according to Holte, “he decided to take one more lap around the lake.” There, he fell into open water heated by runoff from a nearby power plant.”We all need to remember to use common sense,” said Holte, whose office is investigating the use of alcohol as a factor. “Be safe. Be aware. That’s the lesson to learn from this.”Wichter, who was born in Highlands Ranch and graduated from Highlands Ranch High School, moved to Summit County in 2001. At the time of his death, Wichter was the manager of Snowbridge Square.”Before I even met him, I had this picture of a big, serious guy who would be cracking skulls,” said Krasowski, who also lives at Copper Mountain. “Instead of a guy who cracked skulls, he was a guy who would just do the job. That’s the stuff that made him such a great guy.”Longtime friends Joel Bolt and Andy Vanderweide spoke fondly about Wichter, telling stories about how he got his nickname, “Smiley.” It was for obvious reasons.”He wanted to make people laugh,” said Bolt, whose known Wichter for 15 years. “If you were ever around Jay, you were around the life of the party.”Wichter, whose dog Amos has a ski pass, recently spent two summers exploring Alaska with his wife, and was known to get 150 days of skiing in per year. The avid outdoorsman, who also loved to fish and camp, also learned to telemark ski this year and was a common site in the Copper terrain park.”He always thought it was crazy, those people who sat in Denver traffic,” Russell said. “We always laughed in the morning, that while they were sitting in traffic, we were looking at Jacque’s Peak. He loved it here.”Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-4618, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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