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January 8, 2013
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Avalanche information center issues report on fatal slide

SNOWMASS VILLAGE --Snowmass ski patroller Patsy Hileman triggered the avalanche that killed her Dec. 30 in the same area where the ski patrol had performed control work three days before the accident, according to a report filed Jan. 4 by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The ski patrol used explosives to trigger an avalanche in the Ship's Prow Glades Dec. 27, the report said. The report didn't say if Hileman was aware of the previous avalanche-control work. She was skiing alone on Dec. 30 and there were no witnesses to the accident.

"By examining the ski tracks, it appears the skier descended through the Ship's Prow Glade," the avalanche center's report said. "Near the bottom of the glade she skied on to the crown of the previous avalanche. The crown was directly below two small stands of trees.

"As she passed between the trees and onto the crown, the slope angle increased from 34 degrees to 40 degrees. She likely triggered a portion of the existing crown on the 40 degree slope."

The avalanche that Hileman triggered was small in size but "probably large enough to move the skier over the edge of the cliff below," said the report, filed by Ethan Greene and Brian McCall of the avalanche center.

Hileman was last seen at work at around 10:30 a.m., according to the report. Another member of the ski patrol tried to reach her unsuccessfully by radio at around 12:30 p.m. and a search was started by 12:45 p.m.

"Several two person teams of patrollers split up and searched likely locations surrounding her work station," the report said. "Two members of the ski patrol found the victim below the Ship's Prow cliffs at 1:23 p.m. by a visual search."

Hileman was found on the snow surface rather than buried. She was on top of debris from the Dec. 27 avalanche. She was pronounced dead at 1:37 p.m.

The Pitkin County Coroner's Office said Hileman died from blunt force trauma to her body.

The rescuers searching for their missing colleague triggered another small slide at the crown of the previous avalanches, the report said. That exemplified just how avalanche-prone conditions were at the time.

The full report and current avalanche conditions can be found at https://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php.

Hileman was the first avalanche victim in Colorado this winter. A celebration of her life was held Jan. 5 at Elk Camp Restaurant at Snowmass Ski Area.

Hileman, 49, of Snowmass Village, was a well-liked woman who had worked for Aspen Skiing Co. for 26 years.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 8, 2013 05:44PM Published Jan 8, 2013 05:37PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.