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Former Aspen city councilor, Skico executive Derek Johnson pleads guilty to stealing, faces 4-12 years in prison

A former Aspen city councilman, mayoral candidate and Aspen Skiing Co. executive pleaded guilty Monday to systematically stealing from his bosses for years.

Derek Johnson, 52, faces between four and 12 years in prison after admitting in Pitkin County District Court felony theft of stealing between $100,000 and $1 million from Skico between June 2013 and January 2019. 

And while police and prosecutors previously have alleged that Johnson and his wife, Kerri, stole more than $2.4 million worth of Skico-owned skis, snowboards and other goods during his 17-year history with the company, Derek Johnson will only have to pay back $250,000, Pam Mackey, his Denver-based lawyer said in court Monday.

Before his plea to felony theft was official Monday, District Judge Chris Seldin asked Johnson what he did that made him guilty.

“I acquired some items without permission,” he said. “However, during sentencing, I’m looking forward to explaining some of the circumstances surrounding that.”

Asked if he knew what he did constituted the crime of theft, Johnson hedged a bit.

“Certainly not initially,” he said. “But I made some poor choices and that is the case.”

Johnson, who was fired by Skico in December, helped found D&E Snowboard Shop and sold it to Skico in 2001, when he became the company’s retail-rental division managing director. He served one term on the Aspen City Council from 2009 to 2013 and ran for mayor in 2013.

Besides the cap on restitution, the District Attorney’s Office did not make any other concessions on the sentencing parameters, Mackey said. Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 21.

In a statement released Monday morning, Skico officials said they “continue to be deeply saddened by this whole situation.”

“While Derek Johnson’s public admission of responsibility for these serious crimes is an important first step in finding closure for Aspen Skiing Company, that process will take significant time,” according to the statement. “These crimes impacted a number of people, caused them emotional trauma that continues to this day, damaged trust and had financial impacts on individuals and on the company.”

Kerri Johnson also appeared in court Monday, though her case was continued until Dec. 16. She currently faces a raft of felony charges including two counts of theft of $1 million or more, two other counts of theft and two counts of conspiracy to commit theft. 

Prosecutor Don Nottingham has offered Kerri Johnson a plea deal, and the two sides had a two-hour meeting about it last week, said Beth Krulewitch, her attorney. However, the two sides need more time to communicate, she said. 

“This is a huge decision for my client,” Krulewitch said, noting that the couple has three children.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass to open Saturday, five days ahead of schedule

Aspen Skiing Co. will kick off the ski season early for the second year in a row by opening Aspen Mountain and Snowmass on Saturday — five days before the scheduled opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Skico announced it will open 75 acres of terrain on Aspen Mountain and 60 acres at Snowmass. The tops of both ski areas will be unavailable for skiing and riding until more snow falls. Snow is forecast for the Aspen-area starting Wednesday.

“If we get a big dump, we’re going to open more terrain at the top,” said Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president, mountain operations. By big dump, she clarified, she is thinking six inches or more.

At Aspen Mountain, the Little Nell and Bell Mountain chairlifts will operate to start the ski season. The Ajax Express won’t be able to open to start the season.

The open trails include Deer Park and Spar Gulch. When skiers and riders get off the Bell Mountain lift, their only option as of now will be to bear to skier’s right onto Deer Park.

The Silver Queen Gondola will be open only for sightseeing traffic. The Sundeck will be open to serve food and beverages.

At Snowmass, the Village Express chairlift will be open only to the midway point. Open trails will include Upper Scooper to Lower Hal’s Hollow to the bottom of Fanny Hill. In addition, the Elk Camp Gondola will provide access to the Elk Camp Meadows beginners’ area.

The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster will be operating and Elk Camp Restaurant will be open.

Ertl said additional terrain will be open as soon as possible at both ski areas if the forecasted snow materializes. Ertl said the goal is to open the mountaintops prior to Thanksgiving Day.

The ski slopes benefitted from abundant snowfall in October, but conditions have been dry for the last two weeks. The Aspen Water Department’s unofficial weather report showed that the water plant received 26.5 inches of snow in October. That made it one of the snowiest Octobers ever since records were kept starting in 1934-35.

The upper slopes of both Aspen Mountain and Snowmass don’t have snowmaking coverage, so the natural snow couldn’t be augmented there.

“The team has done a great job track-packing and tilling it down,” Ertl said of the snow base. Now, all that is needed is more snow.

Skico got approval this summer from Pitkin County to add snowmaking to cover some terrain on the upper third of Aspen Mountain, but the green light came too late in the season to construct the system. Skico has been making snow on lower slopes of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass as temperatures have allowed.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are still scheduled to open Dec. 7.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass join numerous Colorado ski areas that opened, some of them the earliest ever.

Arapahoe Basin opened first on Oct. 11, followed a few hours later by Keystone. Winter Park opened Nov. 2, its earliest start in its 80 seasons. Loveland and Wolf Creek were also in the October mix. Eldora had its earlier opening when it started spinning Nov. 1, two weeks ahead of schedule.

Copper Mountain and Breckenridge opened Nov. 8 and Steamboat and Vail opened Friday.

Aspen Mountain lifts will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Snowmass, the Village Express lift will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the Elk Camp Gondola running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

All pass products are good for the early opening.

For opening weekend through Wednesday, Nov. 27, lift tickets are $109 per day for adults and $69 for children, teens and seniors. Half-day tickets for adults are $79 and $52 for children, teens and seniors. Sightseeing tickets for both the Silver Queen Gondola and the Elk Camp Gondola are $37 for adults and $26 for children.

The sightseeing tickets include a $10 lunch credit at either the Sundeck restaurant on Aspen Mountain or the Elk Camp restaurant on Snowmass.

Ticket offices are currently open at the base of Aspen Mountain and at the Snowmass Base Village Gondola seven-days a week. The Snowmass Ticket Pavilion on the Snowmass Mall and the Two Creeks Ticket Office will open for the season Saturday, Nov. 23.

Reward offered for man who disappeared during his rape trial

A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered for information about a man who disappeared during his rape trial.

A jury deliberated less than 10 minutes before convicting Ever Valencia of raping a 12-year old girl in early 2018. Valencia was 18 at the time. He is now 20.

After Valencia vanished during the second day of his trial, the trial continued without him.

Valencia’s attorney, Ted Hess, argued that the sex was consensual, that while the girl was having sex with Valencia’s friend she sent him a text saying, “You’re next.”

Prosecutor Jake Lilly countered that the girl was too young to consent.

“Everybody agrees they had sex. She does not get to say yes. The law does not allow that (at her age), and we are a nation of laws,” Lilly said.

The jury agreed with Lilly in what he called one of the quickest convictions of his career.

Hess said the victim’s mother is in the country illegally, and will probably apply from a crime victim’s visa, or U visa. Because the victim is a minor, if her mother can show she cooperated with the investigation and prosecution, she could receive the U visa for which her daughter — the actual victim in this case — would be eligible.

The courts ordered a nationwide extradition warrant. If Valencia is caught, he will be held without bond for failure to appear and violation of felony bail bond conditions.

Valencia is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds.

Letter: Commitment to Zero takes on a new meaning

Commitment to Zero is Vail Resorts’ mission statement (highlighted in a recent article in the Vail Daily) to have zero impact on the planet, the forests and wildlife. A worthy, noble and ethical vision. However, it is also exactly the same commitment that Vail Resorts has shown to the iconic herd of Bighorn Sheep that faces extinction from their enormous employee housing project — zero, absolutely zero. Zip, nil, nada.

Reputations are built not on what you say you are going to do or what the corporate mission statement is. No, they’re built on what you actually do. Vail Resorts is no more a defender of the natural habitat than the climate deniers are of our rapidly disappearing glaciers. 

Rob Katz, Vail Resorts’ CEO, claims that “The environment is our business.” If that actually is true, Rob, then please immediately do the right thing by our environment here in Vail and withdraw from building this egregious project in this location and sell the land to the town. You have other locations where you can put employee housing that does not impact the pristine habitat of our native sheep and endanger their future.  

However, neither Katz nor Beth Howard, the new COO of Vail Mountain, have engaged with the community (another one of their supposed corporate values). Their employee on the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission, John-Ryan Lockman (who should have recused himself due to his conflict of interest) could have cited his company’s Commitment to Zero as a reason for voting down the project — but he did the opposite. 

So there we have it — all talk and no action. A commitment to … zero.  This, coupled with the hypocrisy shown by the town of Vail to its “stewardship of the environment” and the underhanded way that the piece of land was conveniently rezoned is why the fight to save our sheep and our commitment to saving our natural habitat with real action, not just empty words, must continue with vigor.

Kirsty Hintz

Vail

Vail Health releases Community Health Needs Assessment for Eagle County

Vail Health recently completed its 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment for Eagle County and will utilize the results as guiding principles for a multi-year action plan. The 100-page summary, which highlights strengths and opportunities across Vail Health’s service areas, will also serve as a community-wide resource for grant requests, advocacy and to support the numerous programs provided by health and social service partners.

The CHNA is posted on Vail Health’s website at vailhealth.org/chna. Progress updates, as well as opportunities for further community engagement, will be posted on the website.

In response to the CHNA findings and based on input from community stakeholders, Vail Health developed a three-year action plan to address disparities and health concerns that exist in Eagle County. Vail Health’s action plan focuses on four primary areas: increasing access to affordable, comprehensive, quality care; improving availability and delivery of behavioral health care; preventing and managing chronic disease; and improving health equity for underserved populations.

“The Community Health Needs Assessment is a valuable tool that has enabled us to home in on the four most impactful areas,” said Vail Health President and CEO Will Cook in a release. “We are committed to this multi-year action plan and will work with our community partners to address these needs regarding access to both affordable care and behavioral care across all demographics of our population while also addressing chronic disease needs.”

Vail Health led the comprehensive study, which incorporated statistical health data and dialogue with community leaders and residents, to determine community health priorities. Not-for-profit hospitals are required under the Affordable Care Act to conduct a CHNA every three years. Vail’s 2019 CHNA follows studies conducted in 2013 and 2016.

A wide range of community-based organizations, including health and human service providers, government and advocacy agencies, civic and social associations, and schools provided input via surveys and community meetings. Focus groups were held with seniors and Latinx residents to explore areas of disparity and trends noted in the research.

“Community input was integral to the 2019 CHNA, and we are grateful for the tremendous work of everyone involved in the creation of it,” Cook said. “The CHNA reaffirms Vail Health’s commitment to our endless pursuit for excellence on behalf of our community and visitors, and we believe it will serve as an important roadmap for the future of health care in our valley.”

Eagle County at a glance

According to the study, Eagle County positively leads Colorado in many measures of health and social status. The Eagle County median income is higher compared to the state, while poverty and unemployment rates are lower. Almost half of Eagle County’s population has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher education. Overall, residents have fewer risk factors for disease and experience fewer chronic diseases. Life expectancy is higher than the state average, and there are fewer deaths due to heart disease, cancer and other leading causes. 

However, not all Eagle County residents share in the same opportunities for optimal health and wellness. The study emphasized identifying social determinants of health — the factors within the environment in which people live, work and play that affect health and quality of life — which contribute to inequities and health disparities across Eagle County. The CHNA found that Latinx residents, which make up approximately one-third of the Eagle County population, experience significant disparities in accessing and receiving health and social services. 

Additionally, indicators for behavioral health and substance use disproportionately impact youth in Eagle County, while a growing senior population faces challenges in receiving health and social services within the valley.  

Letter: Win the lottery lately?

You know the feeling right?  You go to your post office box and you get a key instead of the dreaded yellow slip … a package is waiting in a parcel locker! You feel like you just won the lottery! I will be on my way in record time purchase in hand, mail collected.

Too many times, especially during the holiday season, waiting in long lines to retrieve a package is the norm. Last year the lines I encountered were as long as 50 minutes. I saw on more than one occasion people just give up because their lunch hour was coming to an end. I rarely encountered angry people probably because the sentiment was that we were in this thing together and we knew that those who are employed by USPS are doing the best that they can.

I understand at the Eagle Post Office there are 300 parcel lockers and only 30 percent are available at any given time. Packages sit unclaimed for long periods taking up precious space. Please, out of thoughtfulness for your neighbors, pick up your packages as soon as they are available. If you are planning a trip, have your mail and packages held so they don’t take up extra lockers. These are a couple of things we can do to help move things along. Let’s make this next holiday season full of joy instead of dread!

Melanie Weisman

Eagle

Haims: Making the holidays easier

With the holidays just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to provide some tips and suggestions about assisting families and elders with ways of making the holidays a bit easier.

For the past 16 years, I have brought my children to San Diego to celebrate Thanksgiving and the birthdays of my mom and brother. It’s become a ritual we all look forward to. My wife’s family is also in Southern California, so for us, it’s a time to see our family. However, for my kids, it’s always about the food. My mom is a great cook and they literally fight over her desserts.

Over the past four years, the ritual has changed. Sadly, my mom’s ability to prepare the holiday feast my kids have come to love and look forward to has changed. Four years ago, my brothers and I arranged to have a potluck at the clubhouse where she lives. While it was a lot of work organizing who made what and setting up tables, chairs, and decorations, it worked out just fine. And, as my mom was still able to make her desserts, my wife and I laughed once again as they fought over the desserts.

Over the past few years, my brothers and I have chosen to make the holiday and birthday celebrations easier. We now invite family and friends to share in the celebrations at a local resort. We rent out a private room and continue family traditions — just in a different manner.

Adjusting traditions

More than any other occasion, the holidays are steeped in family tradition, with cherished elements that often span generations. When elder family members experience declining health and maintaining their involvement in those traditions become challenging, we need to think out of the box and adjust.

Here are some suggestions on making sure our elder family and loved ones are included in the holiday:

Evaluate what your loved ones can reasonably manage during the holiday season. No one wants to admit they may not be able to make dinner for 25 anymore or host everyone for brunch. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, ask your loved ones.

Determine what traditions matter the most. Take a moment to evaluate which elements of the holiday truly hold meaning for your family, and which are just “the way we’ve always done things.” You may learn that what matters is different from what you expect, and it may open up new ways to celebrate that are easier and more meaningful.

Small modifications can make a big difference. If hosting the holiday is important to a family member that may be experiencing difficulties, perhaps the family can assist by taking care of preparing the table or even bring the meal over. Or consider catering — most grocery stores will provide full holiday meals at very reasonable prices. You can use the family serving dishes and favorite china but avoid the preparation and cooking time. Your loved one might make one favorite dish, but the bulk of the work could be handled by others.

Be flexible. Pacing and timing of events can make a world of difference for older relatives.  If someone is in poor health, perhaps changing the time of a family event to earlier in the day would allow them to participate more fully. Marathon family events could be too much to manage — schedule in downtimes like a walk or rest as part of the event to allow everyone a chance to recharge.

Look for opportunities to make things easier in a meaningful way. Managing tasks like shopping and decorating can be a challenge for older relatives, but there are ways to make them easier and still preserve dignity and meaning. Grandchildren can be enlisted to drive their grandparents to shop, giving them a chance for some time together. Perhaps a younger cousin can learn how an older relative does the decorations by helping, or what the secret family recipe really involves. Look for ways to provide assistance in accomplishing tasks that also allow older relatives to pass on beloved traditions.

Keeping memories alive

If your loved ones have dementia or Alzheimer’s, the holidays can pose some special challenges. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Prepare your loved one with photos and conversations about the visiting relatives. Short term memory is often absent in people with dementia, but showing them photos of the relative who will be arriving and talking about them often may help provide a context for their visit.
  • Try to keep to the routine as much as possible. Lack of sleep and dramatic changes in mealtimes can be disturbing to people with dementia.
  • Try to have more visits with fewer people. Instead of bringing all 10 family members over at once, perhaps groups of three or four can come and visit. A smaller group will allow your loved one to put their family members in context more and can be less overwhelming.
  • Share memories often. Loved ones may not remember from morning until night, but they may recall the past very clearly. Ask about their holiday memories, share old songs and photos, and most of all, listen. Being heard can be the greatest gift you can give someone.

What really matters is that everyone gets to enjoy the holidays and their relationships. This is the time to be a daughter, son, grandchild or cousin. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to make that happen.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County.  He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns or at 970-328-5526.

Carnes: Real Republicans staying silent

In a not-surprising-in-the-least twist of strategy, GOP members with a modicum of political intelligence have chosen to remain eerily quiet lately, but especially these last few weeks.

There are now two sects of the Grand Old Party, with the real GOP of the last 100 years now hiding behind the new Party of Trump, holding their collective noses as they bizarrely follow the liberal creed of “See something, say something, yet do absolutely nothing.”

They are pretending to be a part of POT as they hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, and with the new addendum, “admit no evil.”

And they are doing it all quietly, gambling America’s future on the premise that Republican voters will stay loyal in spite of POT’s reign of corruption, relatively confident it might soon end.

My have times have changed.

Growing up in the middle of conservative North Dallas in the ’60s and ’70s, it was perfectly normal to support the GOP, as I never knew anyone that would consider voting otherwise.

My Grandmother made it sound so simple at the time: “Republicans like things the way they are and Democrats want things to change.”

I liked “things” the way they were, therefore I saw no reason for things to change, so I happily referred to myself as a Republican. Every family member, cousin and neighbor was making the same claim with a sense of pride, so why shouldn’t I?

Sure, simple biology confirms no infant is born a Republican or
Democrat any more than one is born a Muslim or a Christian (all are born non-theist), but asserting unassailable positions from birth is where all this partisan nonsense sadly begins in the first place.

Although never voting a “ticket,” I probably have voted for GOP candidates a few more times than not, but it was always the individual, never the party.

And then, sadly, Sarah Palin happened.

Along with the Tea Party, GOP members began spending the majority of their time on abortion, gay marriage and the birther nonsense, as if those were the top three most pressing issues in America.

They wasted so much time fighting over who would tax less and who’s been friends with Jesus longer that they lost sight of their core principles of lower taxes, free-market capitalism, individualism, limited governing powers, etc.

This temporary POT party has turned the GOP into the party of corruption, indictments, convictions, white nationalism, alternative facts, “truth isn’t truth” fear and hate, just to name a few of its more popular characterizations.

Honest GOP members know this cannot and will not last, so although most are continuing to tow the party line when it comes to sound bites and House voting, they’re silently strategizing for the return of the real Republican party.

I just hope they don’t stay silent too much longer.

Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at poor@vail.net.

Gov. Jared Polis visits Nepal and a Vail Valley family’s company where hand-woven rugs are made

It’s a big deal when the governor pops in for a visit, especially if he traveled to the other side of the world to do it.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently visited Reliance Carpets, a rug-weaving factory in Nepal, whose global reach has roots in the Vail Valley.

Dolma Dhakhwa, sister of Blossom Rugs owners Dechen and Samten Aungae, a Vail Valley business that imports hand-woven rugs from Nepal, operates the factory.

“It is such a great honor to have Gov. Polis visit our factory,” Dhakhwa said in a phone call from Nepal.

A group of Nepalese business people asked around to learn who in Nepal has connections to Colorado, which led to Dhakhwa.

“They told her, ‘The governor has a half hour,’” Samten Aungae said.

Dhakhwa rolled out the red carpet, showing Polis the factory and some Nepalese culture.

“We are so happy to welcome Colorado’s governor to Nepal. We are thankful that Colorado has been so helpful and generous to us,” she said.

“It was exciting to visit a company that exports to Colorado,” Polis said in a phone interview Friday.

Reliance Carpet in Kathmandu employs several dozen craftsmen and craftswomen in Nepal, and also creates jobs in Colorado, Polis said.

Rug weavers work more than 30 looms, while other workers create organic dyes and separate the wool using traditional techniques. It can take months to make a single rug, but it’s worth the wait, Polis said.

Polis’ Kathmandu visit was part of his first Colorado trade mission as a governor, with stops in Kathmandu, Bangalore and Mumbai.

Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of Nepali people in the country, Polis said.

A circuitous route to Colorado

Like most paths through Nepal, the road to Colorado is a circuitous route, especially for Samten and Dechen Aungae. Their families fled Tibet when the Chinese invaded in 1959, seeking refuge in Nepal.

The Red Cross was one of the only agencies in the region in 1959 and convinced Tibetan Refugee families to weave some rugs to sell to Europeans and Americans.

So they did.

“They lived for six months on the money they made from one rug,” Dechen Aungae said.

They taught some others to weave. Those people taught some others and a business was born.

Samten and Dechen Aungae immigrated to the United States after spending their childhoods as Tibetan refugees. Dolma, Dechen’s sister, stayed in Nepal and looks after the family factory.

Samten and Dechen Aungae opened Blossom Rug Vail during the summer of 2009. They opened their Steamboat store before that.

Dolma and Dechen’s family in Nepal has run the rug manufacturing company for 50 years.

The family business is now an international industry, reaching from Nepal to Colorado and several other points around the globe. Many of the rugs go to Blossom Rugs.

“It’s a family business. We have been making rugs for a long time,” Dhakhwa said.

Send them artwork, photographs or just about anything and they can make a handwoven rug from it.

Before long a rug returns handwoven from silk, wool, cashmere … anything you want, even metal. Depending on the size, four or five people work on one rug, sometimes in two shifts.

Because people in Colorado and around the globe keep buying these rugs, around 250 people in Nepal have pretty good jobs. Other facilities around Nepal employ similar numbers.

Along with rugs, Blossom carries handmade jewelry, arts and crafts from Nepal, India, and Tibet.

Samten and Dechen Aungae work with scores of interior designers.

“That creates direct communication. No middleman. Because we are a direct source, that also keeps our pricing competitive,” Samten Aungae said.

Buy a rug, help a kid

They reinvest much of the money back into Nepal. Dechen Aungae was one of the first daycare teachers in her sister’s first childcare centers, teaching English.

Samten Aungae’s brother runs an orphanage, Phende Children’s Home in Nepal, home to more than 50 children. For $40 a month you can keep a kid safe, warm, fed and in school.

Buy a rug from them and help save some kids. Samten and Dechen Aungae are active supporters.

WATCH: Shawn Cypher’s ‘Trees’ is a contemporary masterpiece

VAIL — A magnum opus of amateur video, Shawn Cypher’s “Trees” will have you mesmerized from the first frame.

That first frame is a toast to Britton Green, a Vail native who grew up with the sport of snowboarding and was killed in a car crash in 2017. The toast occurs on a table made of skateboard decks.

Within the first 30 seconds, we see an original model GoPro camera and hear a statement of prose from Cypher about the trees we’re about to see him ride. Many of these trees are between life and death, and it becomes evident immediately in “Trees” that the local practice known as logsliding has given Cypher a deeper appreciation for, in his words, “the whole circle of nature, and how it happens out here in the woods.”

We then see an absolute battle go down, where Cypher executes an incredible array of slides across “nature’s fallen giants,” as they’re described in the film. The trees Cypher slides are the types of hazards expert skiers see and avoid altogether. You’ll see the typical mess of precariously balanced lodgepole carcasses, common across the White River National Forest, where bark beetles have ravaged evergreens and continue to kill trees across the region. And then you’ll see Cypher slide right over the mess, transferring his board from one dead tree to the next with ease.

You’ll also see a number of trees bending into a natural arc as they face certain death with no deep freeze in sight to stop the bark beetles’ attack, a sad and sadly common sight in the White River National Forest. As he reaches a weightless apex atop its arc, Cypher seems to absorb a drop of the tree’s remaining life to find a moment of beauty amid the tragedy of another dying evergreen.

Mourning and memorializing

Seeing firsthand the existential crisis our forest faces, processing the hopelessness and helplessness one feels when surrounded by so many dead and dying trees, a day of logsliding becomes a memorial of sorts: a celebration of what that tree once was and where it is now.

And if there’s a person who knows the importance of mourning on the road to acceptance, it’s Cypher. Over a five-month period in 2011, Cypher snowboarded 7 million feet in honor of his friend Jaz McGrath, who was killed in an avalanche in 2010. He had to adopt a disciplined schedule to do so, but he still found time to slide logs that season and every one since then. Cypher underwent a similar mourning period for Green in creating “Trees.”

While the bark beetle has helped spawn a local generation of logsliding snowboarders — Green was a log master himself — many learn on something more like the wooden version of a handrail with supports. All the logs Cypher takes on in “Trees” are 100 percent natural: There’s not a support to be seen in the film.

Bobry’s back

“Trees” also marks a comeback for local media worker Bob Aubrey, who made popular videos in the Vail area during the first decade of the century. Aubrey edited the film, and his band Lindsey Von Frankenstein made the music. The flute work by Audrey Ste-Marie gives it a sound that’s like something out of the RZA-produced “Kill Bill” soundtrack.

In creating “Trees,” Cypher was fortunate to have Aubrey’s help because – while he is a man of many talents – video is not among Cypher’s specialties. But today, skills in operating a camera need not matter quite as much as the talent the camera can capture, as evidenced in “Trees.” Sure, a production purist might long to see a tip-top quality version of something similar, and indeed there is a place for that, but those types will also acknowledge the painstakingly tedious endeavor a few seasons in the woods with a maniac like Shawn Cypher would involve. The robotically repetitive approach one needs to take to capture a single shot tantamount to the dozens we see in “Trees” is enough to make any videographer/editor throw in the towel.

Indeed, today, with a living room band and a phone that shoots video, the amount of originality and creativity that can be packed into a production is hard to imagine for someone who has lived through an entirely different era of media, as has Aubrey, 44. But in creating “Trees,” Cypher, Aubrey and Lindsey Von Frankenstein created something that’s indeed unimaginable in another era.

The film is contemporary in its subject matter through the dead trees on display and the art of logsliding being something inconceivable before the invention of the snowboard, but it’s also contemporary in its approach, with a GoPro planted by Cypher able to capture action a videographer may not have the time or patience for. Finally, the living-room-band live recording of the soundtrack, with the track available for free on SoundCloud, serves as the cherry on top of what just might be the most contemporary video production of the decade in Vail.

And just in time, too.