Top 5 stories on, week of Aug. 18 |

Top 5 stories on, week of Aug. 18

Edna Dercum takes a moment to relax during her first day at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in 1946.
Courtesy Edna Strand Dercum, Summit Historical Society

Editor’s note: Stories in this list received the most page views on for the past week.

1. First ‘white stuff’ of the 2019-2020 season touches down at Arapahoe Basin

Arapahoe Basin, known for its higher elevation, saw its first dusting of “white stuff” for the 2019-2020 season early Thursday morning.

“And so it begins. Not sure if it is snow, hail, sleet, slush or what, but the first white stuff of the season was high on the East Wall this morning,” Arapahoe Basin COO Alan Henceroth announced on his blog last week. In July, Arapahoe Basin joined the Ikon Pass after cutting its ties with Vail Resorts earlier this year.

— Vail Daily staff report

2. Vail Resorts announces leadership changes affecting Summit County ski areas

Vail Resorts announced that Chris Jarnot, executive vice president of the mountain division, will step down from his role after 34 years with the company. Among other leadership changes, Keystone Resort general manager Geoff Buchheister will become the chief operating officer of Whistler Blackcomb.

The announcement appears to be part of broader restructuring at the company. In July, readers contacted the Summit Daily to report that marketing staff at Vail-owned resorts in Summit County had been laid off or asked to relocate to Broomfield.

In an emailed response, Breckenridge spokeswoman Sara Lococo said, “As a growing company, it is imperative that we transform and optimize how we work together to achieve our goals at Vail Resorts. As part of that transformation, we are further centralizing certain product marketing functions …”

— Summit Daily staff report

3. Summit County ski resorts look at minimum wage, employee housing ahead of winter 2019-20

Aspen Skiing Co. announced last week that it would raise its starting hourly pay from $13.50 to $15 for winter. The move originally was made in June for summer employees, and the company said it would carry over to ski season. The four Summit County ski resorts — Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Copper Mountain Resort and Keystone Resort — keep their wages similar to one another to stay competitive in the area. 

Each year, ski resorts re-evaluate their employee wages. Minimum wages at ski resorts tend to be higher than state and national averages because the cost of living is higher in resort towns. Breckenridge and Keystone fall under Vail Resorts’ Colorado entry-level wage, which is $12.25 per hour. Copper also has established a $12.25 per hour entry-level wage, which was raised last year in anticipation of the upcoming 2019-20 ski season. Arapahoe Basin has not finalized its starting hourly pay for the coming season, but spokeswoman Katherine Fuller said the ski area is looking at the surrounding market to consider options.

— Taylor Sienkiewicz

4. Breckenridge man accused of snowmobiling illegally on Independence Pass crashes plane into Pacific Ocean

David Lesh, the snowmobiler who over the summer boasted about sledding on Independence Pass, crash landed his plane in the Pacific Ocean last week. Lesh and his passenger were not hurt in the crash.

The incident was caught on video by pilot Owen Leipelt, who was filming as Lesh skipped the aircraft across the water about 4 miles off the California coast in Half Moon Bay. After filming the crash, Leipelt momentarily lost Lesh, but Lesh had his phone and was able to call Leipelt.

Lesh then recorded selfie videos of himself and his passenger floating in the Pacific Ocean and getting rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

— John LaConte, Vail Daily

5. Creation and growth of Summit County’s ski areas shaped the mountain sports community

Breckenridge Ski Resort co-founder Trygve Berge reminisces on the beginnings of Summit County as a ski resort area, when property was cheap to purchase and hardly anyone was here. He once dreamed of Breckenridge resort offering skiing all the way north to Peak 1 in Frisco with a monorail connecting the two towns. He even considered connecting Breckenridge across Tenmile Canyon to Copper Mountain on the other side.

Berge said his European-style vision was a hard sell for the local mining families, but soon enough, he was teaching their children how to ski. This story on Summit County history was part of our 30th anniversary celebration. More articles on Summit County history can be found here.

— Antonio Olivero

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