Skier dies at Loveland Ski Area, is state’s 14th skier death of season
Kevin Fixler wrote a three-part series examining skier deaths at Colorado ski resorts since the 2006-07 season.
Part One: At least 137 skiers have died at Colorado resorts since the 2006-07 season. With 58 fatalities, Summit County accounts for more than 40 percent of the state’s ski deaths over the last 10 years. Specifically, Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort account for by far the most ski deaths in the state. However, Colorado’s residents and visitors are largely kept in the dark when it comes to making informed, safety-based decisions on where to ski.
Part Two: Why has the Summit County Coroner’s Office only called for five autopsies relating to ski deaths over the past 10 years, when it is considered the standard among coroners across the state to conduct such postmortem exams on most accidental deaths?
Part Three: What does a family go through when they lose a loved one on the slopes? The resorts have a script that they follow with remarkable consistency. It’s little comfort for those struggling with the pain and asking questions that often go unanswered. We’ll also explore the limited legal options that exist for families seeking redress.
A 59-year-old Boulder man died while skiing at Loveland Ski Area on Friday, April 28, the Clear Creek County coroner confirmed Tuesday. The Boulder Daily Camera was first to report the incident early Tuesday morning.
Kevin Edwards, an attorney with the state Attorney General’s Office, was involved in an accident in the trees of the ski area’s double-black diamond West Ropes run off Lift 4. According to information from the ski area, Edwards was reported missing at approximately 12:35 p.m., which initiated a search by ski patrollers. He was located a little after 1 p.m. and rescuers performed CPR, but Edwards was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Loveland Ski Area wishes to extend its deepest condolences to the friends and family of the skier,” Loveland wrote in the statement provided to members of the media.
Coroner Chris Hegmann said the incident is still under investigation to determine both the manner and cause of death, and results from an autopsy completed Tuesday morning are expected in the coming days. Hegmann did confirm Edwards was not wearing a helmet.
Fellow Boulder resident Brad Gilbert, who paid tribute to his close friend in a post on his blog Monday, wrote that the two were together at Loveland at the time of the accident. He said he was also unclear how Edwards died Friday afternoon.
“While skiing in the woods with me at Loveland, something happened,” wrote Gilbert. “I’m not sure exactly what and may never know, but the end result is that Kevin is no longer with us. I cannot tell you how sorry I am I was not able to help him when he needed me most. I cannot believe I will never share another run with him again.”
Edwards’ death is the second at Loveland this season after 35-year-old Cole Barker, of Georgetown, died following a collision with a tree while skiing on March 24. It’s also the resort’s fourth fatality in the past decade after the deaths of 35-year-old Dan Beckenholdt of Lutherville, Maryland, in March 2013 and 71-year-old Joseph Shematek of Windsor, Colorado, in March 2012.
Colorado Ski Country USA, an industry trade association for most of the state’s resorts including Loveland, confirmed the incident also marks Colorado’s 14th inbounds, ski-related fatality during the 2016-17 season. That’s the highest total since the 2011-2012 season, which recorded 22 deaths. Summit County’s Breckenridge Ski Resort, which closed April 23, leads the state this season with five, now followed by Loveland’s two. Seven of Colorado’s other 27 resorts have had a death this winter.
Gilbert and Edwards spent more than 15 seasons hitting the slopes together. He noted his friend was an expert skier who took yearly trips to Alaska and British Columbia, Canada, for a week of heli-skiing. The two also made annual visits to Wolf Creek Ski Area.
“Wolf became our sacred place — the place where we could always go to worship at the altar of deep powder,” he wrote. “We’d go a couple of times a year and hike the ridge lines that surround the ski area — getting fresh tracks all day.”
Due to the difficulty of the surrounding terrain, ski patrol called and requested the coroner’s approval to relocate Edwards’ body to the resort base following their on-hill investigation. Hegmann and the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office previously confirmed Loveland ski patrol mishandled Barker’s remains earlier this year and prematurely cleaned up the scene before a formal investigation could be completed.
Loveland Ski Area is one of the last resorts still open in Colorado, and plans to close this upcoming Sunday, May 7. The 1,800-acre ski area receives upwards of 290,000 skier visits each season.
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