Longtime friend says avalanche victim had huge smile, thirst for finding best time on or off slopes

Victim was grandson of Vail founder

VAIL, Colo. - The Colorado skier who died during an avalanche in Vail is being remembered as "a wild man in every good way possible."

Tony Seibert, grandson of Vail founder Pete Siebert, was skiing with three friends Tuesday in an area known as the East Vail Chutes when a wall of heavy snow let loose from the mountain.

Seibert’s friends survived the slide. He did not.

"I was pretty stunned to be honest," said John O'Neill, a longtime friend who grew up with Seibert.

O'Neill said he'd heard about the avalanche earlier in the day, but didn't hear any details.

"At first you think, well, there's a lot of people skiing back there and it's dangerous. And then you find out that it's somebody like Tony, who's skied back there hundreds of times, and he's one of the best skiers, not only in the state, but in the world."

O'Neill said he works for a nonprofit and that it was the chairman of the board who told him about the 24-year-old Seibert’s death.

"It's one of those things that hits you immediately on the surface, but takes a while to sink in," O'Neill said.

O'Neill told 7NEWS that Seibert always "had a huge smile and kind of a thirst and ambition for finding the best time in any situation."

"I think that's how he's going to be remembered," he said.

When asked what the East Vail Chutes are like, he replied, "On a good day, it's the best run you'll have in your life." He said the terrain is steep and fun.

He said the chutes, which are outside the main Vail Ski Area, are called "side country" instead of "back country," because you can access it from the Vail Mountain resort's chairlifts.

"There are signs posted and you're very well aware of that when you leave the gate and go in that area that you're doing it completely at your own risk," O'Neill said.

He said there's an element of adventure to it.

"You know the risk is there, you know it's exciting," he said, "but you get to leave the hustle and bustle of the ski mountain and go find fresh snow almost every day of the winter back there."

O'Neill said that what happened to his friend is just a painful reminder of how powerful the mountains can be, and also how unpredictable.

"You can ski there a hundred times and it just takes one time for there to be something as sad as this," he said.

O'Neill added that avalanches are always in the back of your mind.

"You do what you can," he said. "You take classes and buy beacons, shovels and probes."

He said Tony was skiing with an incredible group of people.

"It was a great group of skiers who knew that area just as well as he did and it just goes to show that if it can happen to them, it can happen to anybody," he said.

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