Outdoors

Hot Dog Alley Skier Death Eldora's Fifth in 2021

A screen capture from a video highlighting Eldora's Hot Dog Alley run, where the most recent skiing death took place.
A screen capture from a video highlighting Eldora's Hot Dog Alley run, where the most recent skiing death took place. YouTube
The tragedies keep coming at Eldora Mountain, the popular Boulder County ski area. The December 7 death of a sixty-year-old man on a run called Hot Dog Alley was the second at the resort in just eight days, and the fifth this calendar year.

On November 30, legendary skiing coach Ron LeMaster, 72, also died at Eldora. Two deaths in such a short time span raise questions as to whether the unseasonably warm weather across Colorado could be making skiing more dangerous than usual. During the 2020-2021 season, snow was more plentiful, but that's not been the case since the current one started, and with little terrain open, runs are more crowded — and LeMaster died after a collision with a boarder.

Eldora spokesperson Sam Bass didn't address this issue in his comment to Westword. "We at Eldora offer our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased," he said of the December 7 incident. "As this is an ongoing investigation, we do not have comment beyond the information available from the Boulder County Sheriff's Office," which announced the latest death.

We also asked Colorado Ski Country USA, the state's major trade association for the industry, if current conditions have raised safety concerns at Eldora and beyond. "CSCUSA can confirm that the two separate incidents at Eldora last week and this week have been the only trauma-related fatalities at Colorado Ski Country resorts this season to date," Melanie Mills, the organization's president and CEO, responds in a statement. "They are separate incidents and are under separate investigations by the Boulder County Sheriff’s office. CSCUSA tracks in-bounds, trauma-related fatalities that occur at our member ski areas when the ski areas are open to the public and when such fatalities occur on terrain that is open to the public for skiing and riding."

There's no central repository for information about injuries and deaths at ski resorts, and while independent groups such as Safe Slopes Colorado, which released a comprehensive roundup of such data in late 2020, have tried to fill the gap, tragedies can escape public notice. However, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office is among the most forthcoming law enforcement agencies when it comes to detailing fatalities on the slopes — which is why we know so much about the incidents at Eldora during 2021.

Just before noon on January 14, according to the BCSO, the Boulder County Communications Center received a call about a male who'd sustained serious injuries at Eldora. Witnesses later revealed that they'd seen a skier later identified as Thornton resident David Marquez, 51, fall and slide on the Corona run before striking a tree. A medical helicopter was requested, but the vehicle couldn't land after three separate attempts because of high winds. Marquez was subsequently transported by ambulance to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The next two deaths at Eldora took place on consecutive days. At around 3:50 p.m. on February 28, authorities in Boulder received a 911 call about a snowboarder who'd struck a tree on the Jolly Jug run. The 26-year-old man had been wearing a helmet at the time of impact, but still suffered severe injuries. Bystanders performed CPR on the skier until he was choppered to an area where BCSO staffers and medical personnel had gathered. But despite their efforts, he was pronounced dead at 4:40 p.m.

On Monday, March 1, at around 11 a.m., a similar report came in about a sixteen-year-old male skier who'd smashed into a wooded area on the Lower Ambush run. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident involving LeMaster occured just shy of 11 a.m. on November 30. His collision with a snowboarder occurred on Eldora's Windmill run, and when emergency personnel reached him, he was unconscious and not breathing; attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:43 a.m.

Finally, at 10:25 a.m. on December 7, ski patrol personnel were alerted to the Hot Dog Alley crash. The sixty-year-old male skier was found on the ground near some trees, and investigators believe he may have been there for some time. He was pronounced dead at around 11 a.m. after transport to the resort's first-aid room.

"At this time," the sheriff's office adds, "it appears that the male had been skiing alone and there are no suspicious circumstances."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts