On Tuesday, formal charges were filed in the US District Court in Grand Junction against Virtika gear company founder and former pro-skier David Lesh related to alleged illegal acts in Colorado's natural space. The six-count indictment includes one count for illegal operation of a snowmobile at Keystone Resort and five counts related to Lesh entering protected water at the iconic Hanging Lake National Natural Landmark Area. Lesh captured both incidents on his Instagram page.
Images on Instagram depicted Lesh on a log in the middle of the lake. Signs in the area inform visitors that they are not allowed on the log.
All six of the charges are misdemeanors that each carry a potential fine of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail. A penalty of jail time is unlikely to be pursued.
Here's a list of the Hanging Lake-related charges:
- Entering an area closed for the protection of threatened, endangered, rare, unique, or vanishing plants, animals, or fish
- 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
Lesh is due in court on September 21 to face these charges.
In June, Lesh was sentenced for operating a snowmobile on fragile off-limits tundra terrain along Independence Pass during the previous summer. This resulted in a $500 fine and 50 hours of community service.
According to the Aspen Times, Lesh settled the case involving Independence Pass on the same day he was cited for swimming in Hanging Lake.
Lesh's actions have resulted in major online backlash from Colorado's outdoor recreation community, including the creation of a petition that calls for revoking Virtika's business license. More than 30,000 people have signed it.
Hanging Lake made headlines recently as the Grizzly Creek Fire ripped through the area. It was later discovered that the lake and much of the namesake trail remained untouched.