Man faces charges for Keystone and Hanging Lake incidents documented on Instagram

David Lesh settled Independence Pass incident by paying $500 fine, performing public service

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Denver resident David Lesh posted photos of himself snowmobiling at Keystone Resort in April, 2020. Keystone spokesperson Loryn Roberson said this is trespassing and can result in a loss of future skiing and riding privileges.
Photo from David Lesh Instagram

ASPEN — On the same day that David Lesh officially settled one case involving illegal snowmobiling on Independence Pass, he was cited for illegally swimming in Hanging Lake and snowmobiling in a Keystone Resort terrain park.

Six misdemeanor charges were filed Tuesday, Sept. 15, in U.S. District Court in Grand Junction against Lesh, 34, a part-time Colorado resident and owner of an outdoor clothing company.

One count alleged Lesh operated a snowmobile off a designated route on U.S. Forest Service land at Keystone on April 24. Five additional counts were tied to Lesh’s alleged entry of Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon on June 10.

Among the Hanging Lake charges are:

  • Entering an area closed for the protection of threatened, endangered, rare, unique or vanishing plants, animals or fish when entering the Hanging Lake National Natural Landmark Area
  • Entering an area closed for the protection of special biological communities
  • Entering an area closed for the protection of property
  • Entering an area closed for the protection of historical, archeological, geological or paleontological interest
  • Entering a prohibited body of water

Each charge holds a potential penalty of not more than six months imprisonment, not more than a $5,000 fine or both, according to the document that was filed. The U.S Attorney’s Office indicated it would not seek imprisonment.

The Keystone charges stem from a photo Lesh posted of himself soaring off a Keystone terrain park jump on his snowmobile in April, when the ski area was closed because of the coronavirus. The Forest Service worked with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office on that investigation.

Two months later, Lesh posted pictures of himself walking on a log jutting into Hanging Lake, a pristine destination that was closed at the time.

He undertook the alleged activities while awaiting a June 16 court appearance for illegally snowmobiling in designated wilderness near the summit of Independence Pass east of Aspen on July 3, 2019. Wilderness areas are closed to mechanized and motorized travel.

The executive director of the Independence Foundation spotted Lesh running his sled over grass and fragile high-Alpine terrain near the Upper Lost Man trailhead. After an investigation by the Forest Service, Lesh was cited for four petty offenses. In a plea arrangement, he agreed to pay a $500 fine and perform 50 hours of public service. Lesh paid the fine and provided documentation of completing the service by Sept. 5, so he wasn’t required to appear in court Tuesday for a follow-up, according to a court clerk.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger said in court in June that he intended to file charges against Lesh for the Keystone and Hanging Lake incidents.

White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told The Aspen Times after Lesh’s court appearance in June that if he was found guilty of repeat infractions, it was possible the agency would seek to ban him from entering national forests.

Lesh is scheduled to appear in court in Grand Junction on Monday, Sept. 21, to face the new charges.

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