Letter to the editor: 5th Judicial District decision to charge snowboarders is wrong

Jonathan Bowers

I believe the 5th Judicial District’s decision to prosecute two snowboarders, who triggered an avalanche above the Eisenhower Tunnel in March, for reckless endangerment is incorrect.

I say this because the responsibility to protect the area from backcountry access above the Loop Road, which has already been shown to be avalanche sensitive — a remote avalanche control unit is built on the slope, damaged from the event — should rest on the shoulders of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

As noted in a Summit Daily News article from last year, “There was nothing legally preventing the snowboarders from accessing the area” (2 men cited for reckless endangerment after triggering avalanche near Eisenhower Tunnel, May 20). At the bare minimum, signage in the parking lot and barriers (such as rope) along the slope up to the ridge should have already been in place to warn backcountry skiers/riders that access to slopes above the Loop Road is forbidden (and likely prosecutable).

Such actions on the part of CDOT would not only help prevent human-caused avalanches from being triggered over such a sensitive area, but would also help protect/save the lives of those CDOT staff and citizens who use the Loop Road. Not to have such proactive measures already established is irresponsible on the part of CDOT.

Additionally, both snowboarders took responsibility following the avalanche by calling 911 and cooperating with law enforcement.

The charges against the two snowboarders should be dropped, and CDOT should take action — if it hasn’t already — to protect the Loop Road and people who happen to be driving on it from further human-caused avalanches.

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