Vail Valley man dies while backcountry skiing to hut for his 21st birthday
Paul Cuthbertson, a lifelong local of Eagle and Summit counties, died while skiing up to the Polar Star Inn to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday on Friday night.
Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said the cause of death is pending an autopsy. A representative of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said Cuthbertson left late Friday afternoon and was headed up the usual route to the Polar Star Inn, a popular backcountry lodge that is part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. He apparently deviated from it at some point.
Friday night’s weather was snowy and windy, especially at 11,000 feet in the area where Cuthbertson was skiing. The Polar Star Inn is just below timberline, at 11,040 feet, on the west side of New York Mountain.
After Cuthbertson did not show up Friday night, his friends went looking for him at first light Saturday morning. Vail Mountain Rescue and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office quickly joined the search.
Because of the late-spring conditions, crews took trucks up as far as they could, then switched to snowmobiles.
Cuthbertson was an accomplished ski racer and a 2016 graduate of Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. He was part of VSSA’s first middle school class, along with Zeke Pierce, who died in a mountain biking accident on Vail Mountain in 2013.
According to a post on the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy’s Facebook page, he was the son of Betsy and Mike Cuthbertson.
“Paul was a close friend of the entire VSSA and Ski Club Vail communities and will be profoundly missed,” the VSSA wrote.
In 2017 Cuthbertson joined SYNC, a local firm that builds performance gear and apparel. Like those of SYNC, Cuthbertson’s roots ran deep in Alpine ski racing.
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Many members of the community wrote to laud the former Skico executive and city councilman for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.