The man killed in a fatal accident at Keystone on Sunday, February 25, has been identified as 32-year-old North Carolina resident Leon Harding Christopher III. He's the third person to die at a Colorado ski area during the 2017-2018 season and the second to lose his life at Keystone, following an accident that took the life of Nathan Enright in December.
Christopher's Facebook page lists him as a resident of Cary, a community near Raleigh. The page's intro section notes that he attended Athens Drive High School and studied at North Carolina's Lees-McRae College, where he's said to have been a "national champion ski team member."
There's only one photo of snowy environs among Christopher's Facebook gallery, but plenty of shots showing him engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking, racing and four-wheeling.
His employer is listed as MHC Kenworth, a trucking firm.
As for what happened on the 25th, the Summit Daily reports that at about 12:50 p.m., Christopher hit a tree on Elk Run, which has an intermediate rating. Here's a video showing the trail.
Christopher was vacationing at Keystone in the company of family members but was skiing on his own at the time of the accident. He was wearing a helmet, yet the Summit County coroner has determined that he died from blunt force trauma to the head at 1:50 p.m. on Sunday, after being transported to St. Anthony Keystone Medical Clinic.
A number of people saw what happened, including a CU Boulder student, who wrote, "I witnessed the full crash from the chairlift about 50 yards below. Sending prayers to Leon Christopher's friends and family."
A similar statement of condolence was offered by Geoff Buchheister, Keystone's vice president and general manager. His statement reads: "Keystone Resort, Keystone Ski Patrol and the entire Vail Resorts family extend our deepest sympathy and support to our guest's family and friends."
Keystone didn't suffer a skiing casualty during the 2016-2017 season. Enright was the first person to die at Keystone since Boulder artist Jason Taylor in January 2016, during the 2015-2016 season. What happened after Taylor's accident is recounted in "Grief Over Skiing Death Compounded by Organ, Tissue Donation Failure," published earlier this month.
But according to the Summit Daily, which produced an impressive series about skiing deaths in April 2017, the destination has seen more than its share of tragedy. The paper, which documented 137 deaths at Colorado ski areas over the previous decade, listed 22 deaths at Keystone, including that of ABC reporter John McWethy, who died there in 2008. Westword contributor Teague Bohlen included McWethy in his list of the ten Colorado ski accidents that made national headlines last year.
The deaths of Enright and the latest victim bring that sum to 24. But the current total of three in-bounds skiing casualties is considerably lower than the fourteen who died at Colorado resorts during the 2016-2017 season. And Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs for the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association, recently stressed to us that the pastime is less risky than many people realize. In his words, "I think there's a misperception out there about how dangerous the sport of skiing is. The fatalities are low compared to the number and volume of skiers we have nationwide, and we try to place that into context. For example, people are surprised when they find out that fewer people die skiing than die by lightning."
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