Brettmann honored on Aspen Mountain
December 20, 2008
ASPEN ” If the love for Cory Brettmann could be measured in a quantitative way, it would exceed even the “gentle giant’s” 6-foot-7-inch, 250-pound frame.
Roughly 500 people crammed into the main hall of the Sundeck restaurant atop Aspen Mountain on Friday for a memorial service for Brettmann, 52, who died in an avalanche Sunday.
“It’s just not supposed to happen, but it did,” said Rev. Gregg Anderson, who led the service.
Aspen Mountain was the perfect site for the memorial service. Brettmann was a patrolman there for the majority of his 25 years with the Aspen Skiing Co. He left the patrol in 2006.
Brettmann’s family said his soul will always be there, Anderson noted.
The service brought tears one moment and laughs the next as seven of Brettmann’s close friends shared their thoughts. It’s a safe assumption that everyone was moved as Brettmann’s two daughters, Chloe, 8, and Eryn, 5, cried at the start of the service over the loss of their dad.
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And everyone laughed at a few tales of ski patrol debauchery and more than a few references to Brettmann’s keen awareness of the closest bar and liquor store.
“Cory was the life of the party,” said Chris Haaland, who worked with him at the ski patrol in Breckenridge in the 1980s before Brettmann moved to the Roaring Fork Valley.
“It was just so easy to like Cory ” he was such a great guy,” said Tom Schramer, who befriended Brettmann in the early 1990s as a fellow member of the patrol in the Aspen area.
Brettmann was an excellent athlete ” climber, cyclist and, foremost, a skier. The program for his service featured an awesome picture that Brettmann took of a mountaineering buddy while they were on a cornice-dominated, 21,000-foot high peak in Peru. He also climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, Mt. Hunter in Alaska and numerous other prominent peaks.
Friend Andy Jensen said Brettmann’s speed and agility were amazing for someone so large. Mountaineering and climbing with him was an exercise in “chasing the big man around the mountain.”
Dean Derosier told stories of Brettmann giving it his all, often getting bloodied on intense mountain bike rides, in an informal cycling club called the Wednesday Boys. And more important, building a bond and sharing camaraderie.
“The life of Cory Brettmann has been one rich, full, fun, grand adventure,” Haaland said.
Among his outdoor adventures, skiing was his passion and his work with the ski patrol was a big part of his life. Aspen Mountain ski instructors performed the end-of-the-day sweep for Friday so that patrol members could honor their fallen comrade. A score or more lined the Sundeck hall and wiped tears with the rest of the crowd over stories about Cory. The patrol let off dynamite blasts after the service in his honor and a lone sentinel held a flare on Bell Mountain as attendees departed on the gondola.
“We were brought together by this tragedy,” said patrolman Tim Cooney, a longtime colleague of Brettmann.
Schramer and another friend, Brian Link, brought up the issue that stings the most about Brettmann’s death: How did someone so knowledgeable about skiing get caught in an avalanche? Link said some people are angry with Brettmann for getting caught in a slide, as part of the grieving process. Brettmann ventured into the Powerline area, which is in the Aspen Mountain permit area but out of bounds and not patrolled. It’s an area he knew well, friends said, and where he had found a favorite line years ago.
Friends said Brettmann wasn’t reckless ” his wife Killeen and their two daughters were too important to him. “He’d been there; he’d done that,” Schramer said about Brettmann’s younger, more risky days. It was all about the girls’ ballet, choir practice and catching the school bus these days.
Schramer said Brettmann would have carefully accessed the risk on the backside of Aspen Mountain Sunday and found it negligible. Friends left his ski pass this week in the trees near where he died.
Like Rev. Anderson said, it wasn’t supposed to happen, it just did.