Snowmass teen dies in car crash
Karl Severson accomplished more and touched more people in his 16 years than many do in a lifetime.
The Aspen High School student, who lived part-time in Snowmass Village and Gig Harbor, Washington, died in a car crash near his Washington-state home June 12.
The only child of Snowmass ski instructors Mark and Maddie Severson, Karl was raised on skis and in boats.
Karl began joining his father during private ski lessons at the age of 4. Coworkers said it was just as important to many of those clients, who became lifelong family friends, to have Karl in the lesson, and to them, he was like a son.
“People are coming (to a service in Washington) from all over the world,” Mark Severson said June 16. “I’m overwhelmed at the amount of people that my son touched in 16 years. We’re getting texts and emails and phone calls from South America, from Europe, from Florida, from Texas.”
The year Karl turned 5, he skied 85 days, his father said.
Karl was an alpine ski racer with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club for seven years, said Executive Director Mark Cole, and this past year he competed in the Aspen High School racing program.
Karl also was hired as a pro assistant in the Snowmass Ski School, a family he’d been part of for many years, this past winter, said John Kneiper, Snowmass Ski and Snowboard School manager. Mark Severson said that makes him one of the youngest ski instructors in Aspen/Snowmass history.
“Karl, an already accomplished ski racer in the AVSC program, was very excited about following in his mom’s and dad’s footsteps, and no parents were ever more proud of their child upon this achievement,” Kneiper wrote in an email to Snowmass ski and snowboard pros. “Karl’s dream was to one day become a heli guide in the Canadian Rockies. Mark has asked me to let all of you know that our comrade in arms has now gone on to ski even bigger mountains.”
Spending the other half of his life on the water, Karl earned his skipper’s license at 13. He was good at almost everything he tried, Mark Severson said, and was also very good with people.
“Even when he was a baby, he was so happy all the time,” Mark Severson said. “He would smile and laugh, you could almost feel his kindness and what he was going to be like when he grew up. …
“He was a kind person. I never heard a bad word come out of my son’s mouth about anyone.”
Every spring, he would attend Gig Harbor High School. Students there paint messages on a rock on campus commemorating big events.
Right now, the rock reads “Karl Severson, 1999-2015” and is painted solid blue, his favorite color, Mark Severson said.
At the site of Karl’s accident, a shrine consisting of a ski helmet and set of poles, balloons, flowers, poems and prayers has been set up, his father said.
Memorabilia will be displayed in the Aspen High School front lobby starting June 17.
A memorial service will be held in Washington on June 23. With the help of Aspen Skiing Co., a memorial in Colorado is planned for October.
Some of Mark Severson’s clients are starting a scholarship fund in Karl’s name, which will help young skiers who deserve it but who can’t afford to race to “get to the starting gate,” he said.
“He’s not going to die in vain,” Mark Severson said. “This is his legacy. This is his right.”
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Alex Rager believes that the search for affordable housing in the Roaring Fork Valley can sometimes boil down to luck and timing. “When you least expect it and when you most need it is when things happen,” she said.