‘Unfortunate and tragic accident’ | AspenTimes.com

‘Unfortunate and tragic accident’

John Colson and Nate Peterson

The avalanche fracture line and slide area on Lower Ladder in the Hanging Valley Wall at Snowmass, where a 25-year-old semi-professional skier was trapped and died Thursday. (Charles Agar/The Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO ColoradoSNOWMASS The 25-year-old man killed Thursday in an avalanche at Snowmass Ski Area died of asphyxia, according to Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Scott Thompson.An autopsy was performed on Nicholas Blake Davidson to determine if he suffocated or suffered any traumatic injuries when he was swept away by the slide. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Robert Kurtzman, a forensic pathologist at Community Hospital in Grand Junction.Thompson said the asphyxia was caused by snow blocking Davidson’s airways. Davidson was skiing in the Lower Ladder section of the Hanging Valley Wall. He was jumping off cliffs when the avalanche occurred at about 1:10 p.m. His body was found at about 1:30 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:59 p.m.The Ladder area is within the Snowmass Ski Area boundary, but it was closed at the time of the accident, according to the Aspen Skiing Co. A Skico spokesman said the area was clearly marked as closed.Skico reaction

The Aspen Skiing Co. released a statement Friday evening that said a thorough investigation by its ski patrol produced “indisputable” evidence that the tragic accident occurred in a closed area within the ski area.”The evidence shows that after skiing past the closed sign at the entrance to Rayburn’s Chute, two sets of tracks lead into the chute 20 and 35 feet below the sign. These are the only tracks in Rayburn’s Chute,” the statement said.”After traversing a rocky cliff band, the skiers halted, Davidson launched from a knoll in the closed area, landing below the cliffs also in a closed area,” the statement continued. “The resulting avalanche ran down the chute, into an open area where additional ski tracks could be seen. These tracks were in an open area accessed by traversing from Lower Ladder.”This is an unfortunate and tragic accident that reminds us all to obey all closures posted by the ski patrol,” the statement said.The Skico said its staff was “truly saddened by this incident and will do everything we can to help [Davidson’s] family through these trying times.”

Friends rememberDavidson, who preferred to be called Blake, had lived on and off in the Roaring Fork Valley region since the mid-1990s, when he moved to Colorado from Washington state to live with his father in Rifle, according to one close friend.People he met in the Aspen area continue to grapple with his sudden loss.Aspen native Alex Cassatt, 26, met Davidson 11 years ago when Cassatt was a freshman at Aspen High School, where Davidson attended for a year before moving back to Washington to rejoin his mother.Cassatt, speaking from Seattle, Wash., said he reconnected with Davidson in 2000 in Aspen after Davidson had decided to come back to town to pursue his skiing dreams. Cassatt, who became general manager of the old Charcuterie in downtown Aspen, hired Davidson to work there.”We probably hung out every day for two years,” Cassatt recalled, skiing together occasionally but mostly hanging out at night with a group of friends, listening to music and throwing periodic parties.

Cassatt was spinning records around town at the time, he said, and Davidson “would get me to go spin on top of the mountain and stuff. He was always encouraging me. He was a great friend.”Both Cassatt and Davidson moved around for a while after 2002. Cassatt bounced between Aspen and Boulder before settling in Seattle, and Davidson spent some summers skiing in New Zealand, but they kept in touch, Cassatt said.”When he was still in Aspen and I was in Boulder, he’d come down and hang out for a weekend,” Cassatt recalled, and even since he moved to Seattle he said Davidson would “just call me to check in and catch up” periodically. They last talked about a month ago, Cassatt said, adding that Davidson was excited about his new job at Kenichi, where he was learning to be a sushi chef.”He sounded great,” Cassatt remarked. “I just don’t know what to think about it, now that he’s gone. I’m still numb from it.”Reporter Scott Condon contributed to this report. John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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