Punchbowl victim was Aspen man
Aspen Times Correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Aspen resident, snowboarder, ranch hand and snowmobile guide Nicholas McChesney is the young man who died after jumping in a pool in the Roaring Fork River locally known as “the Punchbowl” on Sunday, according to the Pitkin County Coroner’s office. He was 22 years old.
He has two brothers, the older of whom plays for the New York Jets, according to his boss, Landon Deane.
McChesney and a group of friends from Longmont all had planned to jump in the Punchbowl “for fun” on Sunday, according to Pitkin County Deputy Tricia Louthis. McChesney jumped in first.
Friends on scene told the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office that they witnessed him being sucked down by the water and surfacing occasionally while gasping for air. The coroner’s office listed the cause of death as drowning after jumping into turbulent water.
The Punchbowl is east of Aspen, off Highway 82 as it winds toward the summit of Independence Pass.
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Though originally from Longmont, McChesney had been an Aspen resident for approximately three years.
At Aspen’s T-Lazy 7 Ranch, McChesney guided snowmobiles in the winter and worked in the stables during the summer. He recently had been promoted to assistant manager in the stables, said Deane, ranch co-owner. And recently, he had told her he loved being a snowmobile guide so much that he aspired to open his own guiding company.
Deane called McChesney a “ride for the brand,” which she explained as an old Western term meaning that someone is incredibly loyal and reliant, especially in difficult times. In the old West, ranches were known for their brands, explained Deane. Good ranch hands were loyal to their brand.
“No matter what happened, they were there for the brand … for the ranch,” she said. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
McChesney’s neighbor, Chris Ledwell, described McChesney as someone who loved horses.
“The guy was so happy-go-lucky,” Ledwell said. “He was so stoked to be working.”
Last week, McChesney loaded 350 bales of hay and thought it was a blast, said Ledwell.
“He was probably one of the nicest guys you could ever ask for, said Deane. “He was very quiet, very, very kind. Really, really honest and a super-hard worker. … Basically, everyone who came in contact with him liked him, whether that was guests or other staff,” she said.
He was a “handsome kid,” too, said Deane. “He just had just a knockout smile that I’m sure just made every girl turn their head.”
Everyone at the ranch had been hit hard by McChesney’s death, said T-Lazy 7 landlord Rebecca Driscoll.
“The ranch is such close family. Everyone on the ranch basically shut down today. Nobody could go to work,” said Driscoll.
“It was definitely like losing a family member to everybody here,” agreed Deane.
According to Ledwell, McChesney was the kind of person who loved what Aspen had to offer: motocross riding, working with horses and living in the mountains.
And he really loved the snow, said ranch co-worker and friend Sam Hannasch.
“There was never enough powder days for him,” said Hannasch, adding that if it was snowing at night, McChesney would wake up at 3 a.m. ready to ride his snowboard.
The first time McChesney hiked up Highland Bowl there was about 3 feet of powder in it, said Hannasch, with face shots “every time you turned.”
Hannasch recalled McChesney telling him that was the sickest run of his life and there was nowhere else he wanted to be.
Hannasch said McChesney often said his life hadn’t been the same since he moved to Aspen three years ago.
“He couldn’t think of anywhere else he’d like to spend his life,” said Hannasch.