In January of last year, we reported that there'd been three official ski area fatalities at that point of the season -- but the most high-profile skiing death, of longtime ski patrol vet Patsy Hileman, wasn't included.
The situation is almost identical this season. Three fatalities, including that of Sean Teater, seen here, are official, but the total doesn't include Tony Seibert, grandson of Vail Mountain's founder.
As we've reported, the resorts themselves have established the rules about whether skiing deaths are counted toward the official total -- and this standard excludes those that are outside boundaries where the public is allowed to ski, even if they're otherwise on the ski area's property.
That was the case with Hileman. She was swept under by an avalanche at Snowmass on December 30, 2012 -- and while one report said she'd been skiing "inbounds," another stressed that the area in question was "not explicitly open to the skiing public due to its inherent dangers."
That's similar to what happened in Seibert's case. Earlier this month, he and friends were in East Vail Chutes, outside the boundaries of the ski area; a Vail Resort plan describes it as "an extremely steep, avalanche prone bowl that drains down to Interstate 70 or to East Vail." And indeed, an avalanche was triggered, taking Seibert's life.
As such, according to Colorado Ski Country USA spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph, there have been three official skiing casualties so far this season.
The first, on December 11, took the life of Norwood resident Scott Harlow; he reportedly died on the intermediate Pick 'N Gad run at Telluride. And more recently, on January 11, Aspen's Jonathan Stuart was found unconscious after getting caught in trees on Aspen Mountain's Bellissimo run and didn't survive.
Between these two dates, on December 21, Sean Teater, a nineteen year old from Fort Collins, died from injuries sustained two days earlier at the Winter Park run dubbed Butch's Breezeway.
Continue for more about ski fatalities in the 2013-2014 season, including additional photos. Teater is said to have been a fairly new snowboarder who'd started the day without a helmet, but had donned one later.
Here's a sports-related photo of Teater, featured on the Facebook page for his memorial service, which took place last week:
In regard to the number of fatalities to date this season, CSCU's Rudolph warns against making year-to-year comparisons.
"There's really no connection," she maintains. "They are very random. It's hard to say if there is anything making them go up or down from one year to another, or what would cause these fatalities to happen. They're just individual, random incidents."
She adds that fluctuations between annual fatality figures at the 21 CSCU-member resorts (all of those in the state, excluding the four at Vail) can't be tied to changes in policies, because "safety is always the number one priority for the ski areas. It's always been number one, and it will continue to be number one."
As such, she describes ski-resort fataltiies as "very rare and very unfortunate when they do occur."
Our condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Harlow, Stuart and Teater.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our News archive circa January 2013: "Ski area death of Patsy Hileman shouldn't count toward resort fatalities, industry group says."
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