Skiers Die at Steamboat, Purgatory Ski Areas

Both Wearing Helmets

The body of 23-year-old ski instructor at Arapahoe Basin was found Wednesday morning in a back bowl at Steamboat Ski Area.

It was the second death of a skier this week.

Grace Lynn McNeil of Cedar, Mich., was found dead in a tree well in the Christmas Tree Bowl on Wednesday morning. Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said her body was under 2 feet of snow. McNeil likely died Tuesday afternoon. She was a children's ski instructor at Arapahoe Basin Ski and Snowboard area.

Ryg said McNeil was in Steamboat Springs with four ski instructor friends and became separated from her group at about 1:30 Tuesday afternoon.

Searchers had been looking for her Tuesday afternoon and night, but stopped their search at 10:30 p.m., before resuming at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Ski patrollers found McNeil's body at the base of a double-black-diamond run. An autopsy will be performed to determine how McNeil died. She was wearing a helmet, Ryg said, and there was no obvious head injury. Tree wells are areas of loose snow at the base of evergreen trees that can trap skiers and snowboarders, possibly causing suffocation.

Two men died in tree wells at the Steamboat Ski Area during the 2007-08 ski season, according to the Steamboat Pilot & Today newspaper.

Arapahoe Basin spokeswoman Leigh Hierholzer told the newspaper that McNeil was a children’s instructor who began working with the resort in April.

"She was outgoing, quick with a smile and fantastic with the children she taught to ski," Hierholzer said. "Her supervisor described her as a rock-star employee."

In southwest Colorado, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort officials said a 14-year-old Bayfield, Colo., girl died after hitting a tree Tuesday on an intermediate run.

The girl was wearing a helmet.