In a world focused on getting social media “likes,” be sure your actions don’t give an entire sport a black eye.
Founder of Virtika Outerwear and self-described “daredevil” Instagram influencer David Lesh was the subject of controversy last July when photos surfaced of him snowmobiling in restricted wilderness areas of Colorado.
Executive director the Independence Pass Foundation Karin Teague and two colleagues conducting biological research came across people on snowmobiles descending the Upper Lost Man trailhead 2 miles west of Independence Pass, and took photos of the encounter. Motorized vehicles are restricted from the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness area.
Not exactly shying away from the feat, photos celebrating the encounter can still be found on Lesh’s Instagram profile.
In a joint statement, the Colorado Snowmobile Association (CSA), United Snowmobile Alliance and Backcountry United condemned the snowmobilers actions, writing in a statement, “This incident and related photos involving three individuals operating snowmobiles without visible snow in a Designated Wilderness area does not reflect the Colorado community of tens of thousands of snowmobilers in any manner. Rather, this behavior is exactly the opposite of the community represented and is deeply troubling. As partners with Federal, State and local managers in maintaining great recreational opportunities, we support strong environmentally friendly regulations as it pertains to state and federal riding areas.”
“My initial response was complete disbelief of the pictures – actions like this absolutely put the entire community in a bad light. The alleged violator has a long, troubling history… I guess there are more videos of him riding in other wilderness areas,” said CSA Executive Director Scott Jones.
Jones said the U.S. Forest Service is still investigating possible wilderness violations, as well as other incidences Lesh has been the subject of – such as a recent plane crash (video of which also can be viewed on Instagram).
“Stupid behavior for social media is never OK, especially when our riding rights are put at risk for personal benefit,” Jones said.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the minimum fine for riding snowmobiles in wilderness areas is $525; however, violations are punishable by up to $5,000, six months in jail and the forfeiture of snowmobiles and other items involved.
Discussing the trend of riders performing stunts for video, to then be posted online, Jones said there’s been a possible uptick in incidents, but “this is the action of a single group that has no respect… If you want to act like a gangster, don’t be surprised when you are treated like one.”
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.