Cole Barker, in a photo from a GoFundMe page created after his death.
Cole Barker, in a photo from a GoFundMe page created after his death.

Cole Barker and Michael Black: 11th and 12th to Die at Colorado Ski Areas in 2017

This past Saturday, April 1, Cole Barker, a 35-year-old living in Georgetown, was laid to rest in Mount Vernon, Texas, after suffering a fatal ski accident at the Loveland Ski Area. Barker died on March 24, one day before the passing of Michael Black, a 56-year-old Floridian and part-time Pagosa Springs resident, who succumbed to injuries suffered on March 21 at Wolf Creek Ski Area. They are the eleventh and twelfth people to die at a Colorado ski resort during the 2016-2017 season, which was already deadlier than that of 2015-2016.

Last month, as we reported, Andrew Garcia's death at Buttermilk, an Aspen Skiing Company resort, pushed the fatality total at Colorado resorts this season to ten, one more than the nine who lost their lives last season.

Four deaths have taken place at the Breckenridge ski area, where four people also died skiing in 2015-2016. They are Kevin Pitts, who died on December 19, 2016; Sean Haberthier, who died on January 13; Ricardo Cohen, who died on February 10; and Tess Smith, who died on March 6.

The other official victims in addition to Barker, Black and Garcia are San Antonio mom Kelly Huber, age forty, who fell to her death from Granby Ranch's Quick Draw Express ski lift on December 29, 2016; Alicyn Mitcham, a seventeen-year-old from Colmesneil, Texas, who died after crashing into a tree while skiing at Winter Park Resort on February 15; Kressyda Ming, a New Mexico mother of five, whose death at Purgatory, in southwestern Colorado not far from Durango, took place on February 25; Tien Tran, a Buckley airman from Hawaii, killed while snowboarding at Eldora; and a fifth person, for whom death details are unknown at present.

The death of Rachel Dewey, who died while on a Colorado ski outing with her family on March 19, isn't included in this total. Neither federal nor state agencies track skiing deaths in Colorado, leaving that task to industry groups such as Colorado Ski Country USA. These organizations don't include skiing deaths that take place outside the grounds of resorts; Dewey died on Pikes Peak's Little Italy couloir, which isn't part of a recognized ski area.

According to the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office, Barker died after crashing into a tree not far from the bottom of Lift 8 in Loveland. He was wearing a helmet at the time.

A Facebook photo of Cole Barker from 2016.
A Facebook photo of Cole Barker from 2016.
Facebook

Here's an excerpt from his online obituary:

Cole was born Jan. 23, 1982 to Ronny and Sue Scott Barker. He was delivered by Dr. Robert White, and was the first baby born in Franklin County that year. He graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 2000 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Baylor University in 2005 and is a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He moved to Georgetown, Colo., working as a drilling fluid engineer for M-I SWACO for 9 years.

Cole married Allison Rennemo of Seattle, Wash. in August 2013. They worked together to restore an old mining cabin and a Union Pacific caboose. When the oil industry went into recession, Cole started his own excavation business, working in Breckenridge and Idaho Springs, Colo. During the winter, he enjoyed driving a Snow Cat, transporting skiers to the top of the Continental Divide at the Loveland Ski Basin.

He died doing what he loved, skiing, Friday, March 24.

At this writing, a GoFundMe page created after his death has collected pledges of more than $3,600 toward a goal of $5,000.

The Summer Days run at Wolf Creek.
The Summer Days run at Wolf Creek.

As for Black, he was skiing on the Summer Days run at Wolf Creek when he lost control. According to the Durango Herald, he sustained broken ribs and a collapsed lung — and while hospitalized at St. Anthony's hospital in Denver, he suffered a blood clot in his brain that proved fatal. He was removed from life support on March 25.

Black, who was also wearing a helmet at the time of his crash, is said to have had a season pass at Wolf Creek for the past twelve years, as well as a second home in Pagosa Springs. He leaves behind a wife and a thirteen-year-old daughter.

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