Snowmass ski patroller dies in avalanche

Victim ID'd as Patricia Hileman

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. - A 49-year old, female Snowmass ski patroller was killed Sunday in a permanently closed area within the Snowmass ski area boundary.

The Pitkin County Coroner's Office identified the victim as Patricia Hileman of Snowmass Village.

Hileman was skiing alone in an area known as the Ship’s Prow Glades adjacent to Upper Ladder, when she was swept over a cliff by a small avalanche.

Hileman was overdue to her station and a search was initiated at 12:45 p.m. She was located by patrol at approximately 1:23 p.m. and medical treatment was begun immediately. Hileman was pronounced dead at the scene from unspecified causes at 1:37 p.m. and transported to the Snowmass Clinic.

"This is a shocking and tragic accident that deeply affects everyone in the company," said Mike Kaplan, president and CEO, Aspen Skiing Company. "Our deepest sympathies and condolences are with her family and friends at this time."

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported that the avalanche was on a northeast-facing slope at about 11,800 feet.

The avalanche danger has been rated as considerable across nearly all the Colorado mountains the past several days, with natural slides possible and triggered slides likely, after new snow fell on an unstable base layer.

This was Colorado’s first avalanche fatality of the season. Last winter, avalanches claimed seven lives in Colorado, including two deaths within ski area boundaries, at Winter Park and Vail.

So far this year, avalanches have killed three people in the U.S., with all three deaths occurring in or near ski resorts. The first two deaths of the season came on Dec. 24 in California, when an Alpine Meadows ski patroller was killed during avalanche control work. The same day, a snowboarder was killed at Donner Ski Ranch, also in the Lake Tahoe area.