The owner of Wolf Creek Ski Area, Davey Pitcher, 52, pleaded guilty Monday to conducting avalanche and search-and-rescue training without a permit last winter in an unauthorized part of the national forest.
Ski-patrol members and Pitcher took a commercial helicopter pilot to the training areas and used hand-held explosives to set off avalanches.
He should have obtained a permit and authorization from the U.S. Forest Service before the trainings were held on Feb. 11 and March 3-4.
As a result, Pitcher could face up to six months in federal prison, a fine of up to $5,000 or both at his sentencing on Dec. 16.
As part of the plea deal, five other misdemeanor charges were dropped, according to court documents.
During the trainings, ski patrol member Colin Drew Sutton, 38, was caught in an avalanche near Conejos Peak about 15 miles from Wolf Creek Ski Area.
The Valley Courier newspaper in Alamosa reported March 8 that Sutton was pulled from the avalanche by his partner and a second team of patrollers. He was airlifted to Mercy Regional Medical Center, where he died.
This case was investigated by the Forest Service and prosecuted by Chief James Candelaria of the U.S. Attorney Durango Branch Office.