For a dude who owns Virtika, the Denver-based outdoor apparel company that bills itself as selling "the best gear on the f*cking planet," the 35-year-old Lesh appears to have precious little respect for the planet. In June, he posted a photo of himself allegedly hanging out at Hanging Lake, which was off-limits to visitors at the time because of its fragile ecosystem. “A first impression with no one there was worth the wait,” Lesh said in the photo’s caption.
But that wasn't our first impression of Lesh. For years, his antics have shown that he needs a serious lesson in the dangers of environmental solipsism, something most of us outgrow somewhere in childhood. But his customers could soon provide him with another kind of spanking: the petition to revoke Virtika’s business license collected close to 50,000 signatures in just a few days last fall.
The head of Virtika personifies his company's own obnoxious motto, which glorifies "doing unsafe things outside." Here are six reminders of David Lesh’s violations of both natural and Colorado law:
2014: Fire. Fire. Fire!
In what was only a taste of what was to come, David Lesh was arrested and briefly jailed for arson in 2014 in Boulder County. According to police records, Lesh “had made a pile of shopping carts, poured gas on them, and lit them on fire." The excuse, such as it was, was that he was with a crew filming a “team video”; after appearing in court, Lesh pleaded guilty to criminal mischief. But he was only beginning his apparent quest to constantly lower the idiot bar.
July 2019: Is It Still Snowmobiling If There’s, You Know, No Snow?
Over the July 4th weekend in 2019, Lesh was photographed operating a snowmobile in designated wilderness areas of Independence Pass, which was closed to mechanized travel for obvious environmental reasons. He was caught by no less a personage than Independence Pass Foundation executive director Karen Teague, who snapped a damning image of Lesh sledding over absolutely bare earth. Lesh was fined $500 and ordered to perform fifty hours of useful public service.
August 2019: No, Really, It Was an Accident
Just a month later, Lesh crashed his single-engine plane into California’s Half Moon Bay. He claimed it was an accident and not a stunt, despite the fact that he managed to catch much of the crash and its aftermath on video. After all, staging an emergency situation, especially one requiring the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct rescue operations, is illegal. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board both began investigations, despite Lesh suggesting that it must have been “bad" fuel that caused the plane to go down. Whether that bears out or proves just a "bad" excuse is still an open question: The investigations are ongoing.
April 2020: Maybe Cut Back on the Social Media, Dudebro
In his second act of snowmobile-related environmental abuse in less than a year, Lesh posted photos on Instagram showing him sledding at a terrain park in Keystone while the area was closed. Lesh’s caption — “solid park sesh, no lift ticket needed” — was charmingly tagged “#FuckVailResorts.” So that’s trespassing, and a violation of Colorado’s Ski Safety Act, to boot — not to mention the violation of human decency that is the use of the word “sesh” without irony.
June 2020: Keep the Indictments Coming
While awaiting a June 16 court appearance for his actions at Independence Pass in July 2019, Lesh posted photos of himself walking on a log projecting out into Hanging Lake Natural Landmark Area, a fragile ecosystem in Glenwood Canyon. He captioned it with this: “a first impression with no one there was worth the wait.” That impression led to five of the six counts (the other was related to the Keystone incident) that landed him in court on October 30, when the judge banned him from U.S. Forest Service land until the case is closed.
October 2020: David Lesh Shows Colorado Who He Is
The week before he went to court, Lesh posted a photo on Instagram that showed him in the iconic landscape of Maroon Bells near Aspen, defecating into the lake; it was accompanied by this caption: "Moved to Colorado 15 years ago, finally made it to Maroon Lake. A scenic dump with no one there was worth the wait." And also potentially worth another charge, since human waste is supposed to be packed out of the wilderness area, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
But it was indeed a rare moment captured on film: A piece of shit taking a shit.
This story has been updated to include the link to the January 2021 New Yorker profile, as well as to note that some charges have been dropped.