Avalanche info center issues report on fatal Snowmass slide
Ryan Summerlin January 5, 2013
SNOWMASS – Ski patroller Patsy Hileman triggered the avalanche that killed her Sunday in the same area where the ski patrol had performed control work three days before the accident, according to a report the Colorado Avalanche Information Center filed Friday.
Ski patrol used explosives to trigger an avalanche in the Ship’s Prow Glades on Dec. 27, the report said. The report didn’t say if Hileman was aware of the previous avalanche-control work. She was skiing alone Sunday, 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 Information 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 Information Center.
Hileman last was seen at work around 10:30 a.m., according to the report. Another member of the ski patrol tried to reach her unsuccessfully by radio 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 are available at https://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php.
Hileman was the first avalanche victim in Colorado this winter. A celebration of her life takes place Saturday at the Elk Camp restaurant at Snowmass. The Elk Camp Gondola will begin loading at 5 p.m. The ceremony will go until 6:30 p.m. and then continues at Sneaky’s Tavern.
Hileman, 49, of Snowmass Village, was a well-liked woman who had worked for Aspen Skiing Co. for 26 years.