A day to remember
March 31- it’s a day memorialized by the ski patrols at Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Aspen Mountain.
On March 31, 1981: Roberto Gasperl of the Snowmass Ski Patrol was killed by an avalanche in a chute near the Hanging Valley Wall. Candy Ass Chute has since been renamed Roberto’s to honor him.
March 31, 1984: Highlands’ patrollers Chris Kessler, Tom Snyder and Craig Soddy were killed by an avalanche while conducting control work in the G-Zones of Highland Bowl. The area was being used for helicopter skiing at the time.
Mac Smith, director of ski patrol at Aspen Highlands, said a ceremony will be held today to honor all four men. A wreath will be placed on the monument at Highlands, and patrollers will have lunch together before setting off three bombs as a salute.
Snowmass and Ajax will follow with one-bomb salutes.
In January of this year, French patroller Gerard Croz was killed in a helicopter crash in Chamonix. He had participated in the ski patrol exchange at Aspen Mountain in the 1994-95 season. His passing will be honored today as well.
Stan Tenner, a 29-year veteran of the Snowmass Ski Patrol, said he and Gasperl, along with a few other patrollers, were conducting control work 22 years ago today in the Hanging Valley when the slope fractured above Gasperl and two other patrollers.
The slide struck “Little John” Erspamer and Gasperl. Erspamer escaped with injuries to his face and leg.
“I heard Little John calling at me to get down there, Roberto was buried,” Tenner said. “Roberto tried to ski out of it and didn’t make it.”
Gasperl was found buried beneath 6 feet of debris, face down with his hand on his radio, strapped to his chest. He was 40 years old.
Smith said he wants skiers and riders to enjoy Highland Bowl, which has been opened to the pubic due to the hard work and determination of patrollers like Kessler, Snyder and Soddy.
“Give ’em more tracks and enjoy what they did,” Smith said.
The three-bomb salute at Highlands is expected to go off at about 2:40 p.m.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the year that Roberto Gasperl was killed, which was 1981.