Monarch Mountain and the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office are coming under public criticism for not publicizing two reported sexual assaults at the Colorado ski area in late December and early January. According to the Denver Post, outspoken resort guests claim Monarch Mountain didn’t report the assaults in a timely fashion for fear of scaring away the holiday crowd.
“We all feel vulnerable,” Miki Hodge, a frequent visitor to Monarch, told the Post. “We’re the backbone of that resort.”
In a January 3 statement, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office says it received two separate calls of attempted sexual assault at Monarch in the preceding two weeks. Authorities assume the same suspect was involved in both cases. In each instance, the suspect rode the ski lift with the victims—both teenage girls riding alone—and followed them down a ski run before forcing them into the trees and trying to sexually assault them. During the second incident, the suspect fired a handgun in an attempt to make the girl cooperate. The girls escaped unharmed in both incidents.
The first incident occurred on December 19; some visitors have expressed outrage at the resort’s failure to announce the attempted assaults to skiers and riders sooner than January 3. “We did not inform patrons at the resort when the information was released,” Monarch Mountain spokeswoman Jessie Smith told the Post. “We left the distribution of the information to the sheriff’s office, it being their investigation.”
Undersheriff John Spezze told the Post that the idea that the information was intentionally withheld is “totally erroneous.” “The fact of the matter is [that] on the first assault, we didn’t have enough to put anything out [to the public],” Spezze told the Post.
The suspect is described as a white teenager between 5'8" and 6'1" tall and weighing about 140 pounds, with red hair and maybe freckles.
Monarch Mountain told the Post that it did not withhold any information in an effort to boost ticket sales, and that its “interest in this investigation is in catching the suspect and preventing this from happening again.”