Arin Trook of Aspen ID’d as skier who died in Monday avalanche near Ashcroft
Trook, 48, was education director at area nonprofit ACES and worked with kids
Arin Trook was remembered Tuesday for his work as a stalwart for the environment, using his passion for the outdoors and his unique personality to teach the next generation as well as his peers about the importance of environmental justice and responsibility.
Trook, who worked at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies as its education director for more than five years, was identified Tuesday morning by the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office as the skier who died Monday in an avalanche on Green Mountain near Ashcroft. Trook, 48, leaves behind a wife and two children. Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Eric Hansen said Tuesday the cause is accidental and the manner is pending further autopsy results.
Chris Lane, the CEO of ACES, said his friend’s unique approach was dubbed “edu-tainment,” using his background as an educator and his talents as a guitar player and storyteller to engage people about the environment.
“He brought a radically progressive way of thinking. He truly was one of a kind,” Lane said in a phone interview. “You can’t find very often in this world people who could educate people in that way, I’m talking from kindergartens to adults.
“He had the raw environmental science background and expertise, but he put that out to the world that no one had done before. It really is a skill. He had a passion every second of the day.”
Trook started as ACES’ education director in September 2013, but he was a naturalist and educator at the nonprofit from 1996 to 2000. He was a graduate of Stanford and had a master’s degree in education from UC Berkeley.
During his career, Trook worked with Outward Bound, the National Park Service and at Lesley University in Massachusetts.
In his role as ACES’s education director, Trook was in charge of the organization’s environmental science education programs and worked at elementary and middle schools in the Roaring Fork Valley and out to Rifle.
Basalt Elementary School principal Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo said Trook worked to bring the ACES program to the school full-time, and he also helped her put together staff retreats that really united her team.
“His passion was contagious for me and helped me lead the change at BES,” she said Tuesday night. “As we worked side by side to grow educators and the new program in our school, I became inspired by Arin’s passion for infusing environmental education into the fabric and culture of our school community.
“He helped pave the way to ensure that all of our students experienced and learned about the natural world that we are surrounded by in Basalt and Aspen.”
Lane said one of the programs that he was proud of was Trook’s challenging high school students to “think outside of the box on what’s going on in today’s world with the environment and politics and social justice.
“He brought that to ACES and that was a turning point for ACES, the whole environmental, sense-of-justice component, and that we need diversity.”
In March 2014, Trook wrote on the ACES blog that “the children of the Roaring Fork Valley give me hope for the future. As a recent transplant to the Roaring Fork Valley, and as a new member of the ACES community, I want to send out my appreciation to the youth of this amazing valley.
“My previous work and wanderings have allowed my family to travel and live around the world, from the temples of south India, to homesteading in Yosemite, to teaching English in the Sahara Desert.”
Wheeler-Del Piccolo said his passion for teaching students and adults “was contagious, joyful, fun, heartfelt and an inspiration for me as an educator. He embodied the spirit of the ACES organization and his impact at BES will be felt for years to come.”
Trook was a well-respected yoga teacher who used the practice in nature. According to ACES, Trook created and taught the country’s first nature-based yoga teacher-training program. He worked at a number of environmental organizations in his career, including the Balanced Rock Foundation in Yosemite National Park.
Besides a co-worker, Lane said he lost his “skiing partner” and good friend. The two did a number trips together along with Pierre Wille, owner of the Tyrolean Lodge on Main Street. Neither was on the hut trip when Trook was killed.
Trook was at the Markley Hut with his family and friends, officials said Monday, when he and another man went out to ski in the morning when the avalanche broke and buried him.
“We just had the same interests in backcountry skiing and rafting and hanging out in the wilderness,” Wille said. “I was pretty surprised when I heard. … It can happen to anybody, obviously.”
Brian Lazar with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said Tuesday the state agency continues to investigate the slide and a full report should be finished later this week.
“It’s a shame he died in an avalanche because he is a very safe skier. I chalk this up to bad luck,” Lane said. “He’s safe. He’s smart. He’s cerebral. He’s athletic. He’s not brash. He’s not bold or arrogant in any way. He’s the most humble guy you’d meet in your life. He balanced his life out with yoga, meditation and spirituality, and that was something I was learning from him to balance my life out.
“When you’re a go, go, go guy you have to have that counter balance and that counter balance was the outdoors and yoga.”
After the avalanche the friend who went out with Trook was able to ski down to where he thought Trook disappeared, poked around in the snow and located him, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office officials said Monday. The man uncovered Trook and performed CPR on him, but could not revive him, said Capt. Jesse Steindler, patrol supervisor for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
The man then went back up to the Markley Hut to get help and returned with others — including a Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteer who was in the backcountry with another person on a separate trip — and CPR was started again, but they could not revive Trook.
Two funds have been set up to help the family, ACES announced Tuesday. A GoFundMe page has started on the website, and as of Tuesday evening nearly $15,000 had been raised. The Arin Trook Memorial Fund has been created through Alpine Bank, and donations can be done in person at any Alpine Bank or checks sent to the bank office in Aspen on Hopkins Avenue.
“The loss of Arin truly is one of these community ripple effect things,” Lane said. “When you have a guy who was in the yoga world, in the education world, in the ACES community, in the adventure sports community, the climbing world. When you have a guy who touched so many people, I think this is so much bigger than just an average person. This is sad for everybody, not just ACES.”
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