ASPEN " Cory Brettmann was a bear of a man, standing 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighing about 250 pounds, but friends remembered him Monday as a "gentle giant" who loved being around people.
Brettmann's family and friends battled their grief Monday after learning Sunday night that he was caught and killed in an avalanche on the backside of Aspen Mountain.
Tom Schramer, who befriended Brettmann in the early 1990s as a fellow ski patroller for the Aspen Skiing Co., said the guy was a pleasure to be around.
"He always said, it's not what you were doing but who you were doing it with," Schramer said. "That's Cory right there."
Brettmann was an accomplished mountaineer, an excellent skier and an avid cyclist, friends said. But first and foremost, they remember him as a dedicated family man. He is survived by his wife, Killeen, and their two girls, Chloe, 8, a second-grader at Aspen Elementary School; and Eryn, 5, a kindergartner.
"He adored his kids, and his kids adored him," Schramer said. "Daddy was the man."
Brian Link of Basalt, a former Snowmass ski patroller and longtime friend of Brettmann's, said Brettmann's smile was as memorable as his size. Brettmann was the guy who first introduced Link to his wife, Katie Link, and in recent years their friendship revolved around family as much as the mountains. Killeen and Cory met while skiing on Aspen Mountain in 1997.
"He was so proud of his girls and cared so much about his wife," Brian Link said. "I know his heart is broken at not being able to watch his girls grow up."
Link said Brettmann had a passion for the outdoors and could find the upside of almost any situation.
"He grew up in Nebraska, but it was the classic story of the kid who came to Colorado and fell in love with the mountains," Link said. "In addition to being a patroller, he was a big-time climber. He climbed El Capitan [in Yosemite National Park, Calif.], climbed Mount Hunter in Alaska, along with numerous other accomplishments I can't remember right now."
Schramer said it was incredible to see how adept Brettmann was at climbing, given his size.
On Monday, Link said, the Brettmann household in the Little Elk Creek subdivision in the Old Snowmass area was busy with friends dropping by to comfort the family or help with tasks. As he spoke with The Aspen Times, Link was interrupted several times by phone calls, most of them related to the stricken family.
Brettmann worked on the ski patrol for 26 years " from 1980 to 2006 " first at Breckenridge, then at Aspen Mountain. He worked at Breckenridge when it was owned by the Skico, then came to the Roaring Fork Valley because the climbing was better, Schramer recalled.
Schramer worked at Snowmass while Brettmann worked at Aspen Mountain, but they got to know each other as neighbors in Aspen Village in the early 1990s. They became good friends, with both serving as a groomsman in the other's wedding.
Brettmann quit the patrol in 2006 to help raise his daughters, Schramer said. He also was self-employed in finish construction and furniture making. Brettmann worked construction during summers while he was on patrol.
Friends were amazed by his broad array of interests, ranging from outdoor pursuits to reading to snow science.
"He was a real intellectual," Link said. "He was as comfortable talking about pouring concrete as he was discussing classic literature."
Another friend, J.T. Welden of Carbondale, called Brettmann "one of the most trustworthy and caring guys that ever was." Welden also knew Brettmann through the ski patrol, and enjoyed many days in the outdoors with his buddy.
"Everything you did with Cory was an adventure," Welden said, "and he was always up for anything."
Schramer said Brettmann's family and friends will miss the "big bear hugs" he so freely gave.
Two funds have been set up, one in Cory's memory and the other for his daughters' education. Funds can be given to Mountain Rescue Aspen in his memory.
Contributions also can be given to a scholarship fund to Chloe and Eryn Brettmann at Wells Fargo in Aspen.
Autopsy indicates Brettman suffocated
ASPEN " Former Aspen Skiing Co. ski patroller Cory Brettmann suffocated when he was buried in an avalanche Sunday off the back side of Aspen Mountain, according to the Pitkin County coroner.
Dr. J. Steve Ayers ruled Brettmann's cause of death as asphyxia with multiple traumatic injuries as a contributing factor, according to a brief press release sent out via e-mail in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
Brettmann, 52, was buried in the avalanche and snow obstructed his airway, according to the press release. He also suffered "multiple blunt trauma" but those injuries were not fatal, according to Ayers.