Rachel Dewey, a 48-year-old middle-school teacher, part-time professor and mother of three teenage boys, was killed skiing on Pikes Peak's Little Italy couloir on Sunday, March 19. However, her death will not add to the number of skiing casualties in Colorado during the 2016-2017 season, which has already surpassed last year's total.
Why not? Because she didn't die on the grounds of a current ski resort.
As we've reported, figuring out exactly how many people die as a result of accidents at Colorado resorts each year is tricky. The State of Colorado doesn't monitor such statistics, leaving it to industry groups such as Colorado Ski Country USA to do so.
For a March 13 item, Chris Linsmayer, a spokesperson for CSCUSA, which represents 22 resorts in the state, told us that by the group's calculations, five people had died at ski areas that are part of its association during the 2016-2017 season up until that time.
The victims 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; Andrew Garcia, a member of the U.S. Army stationed in Oklahoma, who died of injuries suffered at Buttermilk resort on February 19; 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 sixth person, for whom death details are unknown at present.
Add that to four people who've died at Breckenridge this season — Kevin Pitts, Sean Haberthier, Ricardo Cohen and Tess Smith — and the number reaches ten. (Breckenridge is not a member of CSCUSA.) In 2015-2016, nine people died skiing at Colorado resorts.
Dewey, for her part, died on Pikes Peak, where a ski resort hasn't operated since 1984 — though the Little Italy couloir is well known among expert skiers. A slew of YouTube videos feature the chute, including this one:
The Little Italy couloir page at PowerProject.com describes the area in positive terms, but acknowledges that it can also be prone to avalanches. The introduction points out that the area is accessible off the Pikes Peak Highway:
Park at any of the several pulloffs below Glen Cove and begin skinning up into the cirque. Little Italy is the very obvious couloir just right of the center of the cirque and left of the large bowl on the west side.
Keep skinning until it gets too steep and you get to the base of the couloir. The climb from here really only requires boots and poles, and kicking steps up the right side of the couloir is rather straightforward and easy.
This is serious avalanche terrain, so be cautious and know the snow conditions before you go. Pikes Peak often has a completely unique snowpack compared to the rest of the Front Range, so it is wise to dig a pit and assess stability before you begin climbing up the couloir.
Climb to the top, rip skins and let 'er rip down the 40-60 ft. wide couloir! It's a very straightforward ski, but as you get to the bottom and the couloir begins to bootleg skier's right, be careful of the convex rollover, which can be a trigger point for a slide in the lower section. You can ski this line all the way down to the bottom of the Cirque.
The note about avalanches is underscored by another YouTube video, which shows a slide that took place in 2013.
According to the Teller County Sheriff's Office, Dewey "was skiing with her husband and her three teenage boys when she fell approximately 1,000 feet to her death."
The sheriff's office release adds: "We're told that the victim and the entire family were all experienced skiers. It's a very unfortunate, tragic accident."
KRDO-TV points out that Dewey taught social studies at Banning Lewis Ranch Academy in the Springs, which will be closed today in the wake of her death. Grief counselors will be present, and parents are encouraged to call the Aspen Pointe Crisis Line at 719-635-7000 or the crisis hot line at 719-633-3819 for additional support.
Dewey was also an adjunct professor at Pikes Peak Community College.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.