Father of snowboarder who died at Snowmass: ‘He was just one of those good guys’

The Hamm family on the Hyman Avenue mall in 2017 during a visit.
Courtesy Tracy Hamm

Tyler Hamm had big plans and his whole life in front of him.

The 20-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, native had spent the past two years cooking in Aspen during the winter and Alaska in the summer, and had four job offers on the table for next summer, his father, Tracy Hamm, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“There were two in Alaska, one in Banff (Canada) and one in Maine,” he said. “He was trying to figure out what was next.”

Those plans, however, came to an end Sunday morning after Tyler attempted the first jump at the Makaha Terrain Park at Snowmass Mountain Resort. He came down on his head and chest, sustained a head injury and “most likely died instantly,” Tracy Hamm said.

“If there’s any blessing at all — we’ve got to think he didn’t suffer,” Tracy said. “He loved the outdoors. He was doing what he loved. He loved Aspen.”

Tyler wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, an Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman has said. He died of multiple blunt force injuries, according to the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office.

Tracy Hamm was traveling in India for business when Tyler died and didn’t arrive back in North Carolina until Tuesday. One of the first calls he received that wasn’t from the coroner or paramedics came from Mike Kaplan, Skico’s CEO, he said.

“It meant the world,” Tracy said. “He said the same things (the family had already heard) about how the staff was devastated and considered (Tyler) family. You could hear from his voice he was devastated too.”

Tyler worked as a cook at Lynn Britt Cabin, located above the terrain park where he died. His Skico friends and colleagues called him “kind, funny and passionate” and said he was a skilled and reliable member of the restaurant team, according to a statement released earlier this week.

“We miss him deeply,” the statement said.

Tracy Hamm echoed those comments, saying his son was “very personable and outgoing” and that he could talk to anyone.

“He was particularly kind,” he said. “He was always willing to help. He never batted an eye. If you just ask, he’d help.”

Tyler’s journey to Aspen began around 2016, when he and his parents and younger brother took a cruise to Alaska. Tyler was about 18 and met a lot of people his age, which opened his eyes to the larger world outside North Carolina, Tracy Hamm said.

In January 2017, Tyler came downstairs and told his parents he had a job offer for the summer in Alaska.

“It surprised us,” Tracy Hamm said. “He had done a Google search and just applied.”

Tyler loved being outside and enjoyed hiking and camping in Alaska, his father said. When the summer ended, a sous chef he’d worked with invited him to come to Aspen and work here for the winter, Tracy Hamm said. Tyler accepted, moved to town and worked at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain for the winter of 2017-18.

“We were just blown away,” Tracy Hamm said. “We thought he was coming home, but he had an opportunity to work in Aspen.”

Father and son drove out from Charlotte to Aspen together that fall, just the two of them, he said.

“We had the time of our lives,” he said. “He was an adult. I was taking him on his next adventure.”

After that first winter in Aspen, when Tyler picked up snowboarding for the first time, he returned to Alaska for the summer and came back to Aspen this winter. He’d been talking about making Colorado his permanent home and was particularly taken with snowboarding, he said.

“He was finding his groove,” Tracy Hamm said. “He was just having the time of his life.”

In fact, Tracy Hamm had suggested another road trip to whatever destination Tyler chose for the upcoming summer season.

“I was kinda hoping that would work out,” he said.

In addition to his father, Tyler is survived by his mother, Debbie, and his 16-year-old brother, Dylan, who is taking his older brother’s death particularly hard, Tracy Hamm said.

“They were very, very close,” Tracy Hamm said. “That was his first friend and only brother.”

The family plans to visit Aspen in the coming weeks to clean out Tyler’s apartment and meet his friends, Tracy Hamm said. In the meantime, they’re trying to adjust to the “new normal” of life without him.

“He was just very generous and incredibly kind-hearted and good-natured,” Tracy Hamm said. “He was just one of those good guys.”