Joshua Allen's Keystone death adds another fatality to lethal ski season

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Update: Sadly, the number of ski deaths in Colorado this season has grown again. On Sunday, 24-year-old Joshua Allen of Tampa, Florida, was found in the trees of the Elk Run underneath the Outback lift at Keystone and airlifted to Summit Medical Center, where he later died.

Though he was wearing a helmet, Allen died of massive facial injuries and brain trauma. Allen is the fourteenth skier killed at a resort this year.

Our condolences to Allen's friends and family.

Original item (Feb. 20): On average, Colorado sees about a dozen deaths each year on the ski slopes. But this year has been particularly rough, with an average of about a death a week. At this rate, over the next two months skiers and riders are on pace to catch and surpass the record of seventeen deaths set during the 2007-2008 season.

On Sunday, fifteen-year-old Massachusetts resident Hanna Rudolph died after colliding with a tree on the black-diamond CDL run at Copper Mountain, becoming the twelfth skier death at a Colorado resort this year. The Summit County Coroner's office did not have any other information on the girl's death.

Despite the unusually high number of deaths, industry officials contend that this is no trend. As Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for Ski Country USA, told us for our February 7 post on ski deaths, they "are unfortunate, but they are also isolated," she maintains. "There's no specific cause or trend or rhyme or reason. Skiing is inherently risky, and skiers and snowboarders need to be responsible for their own safety."

Two other skiers were killed this week in avalanches in the backcountry, bringing the total avalanche deaths in the state to six -- two of which occurred in-bounds at ski areas.

Though his name has not been released, a Keystone resort ski patroller originally from New Zealand was killed last Thursday in a slide near Wolf Creek Pass. According to the Summit Daily News, the patroller was caught with three other skiers who all managed to escape without major injury.

And last Monday, Telluride local Nathaneal Soules was killed while skiing in the side-country terrain known as Little Bear Creak that is accessed by a gate at the top of Telluride's chair 9. According to the Telluride Daily Planet, Soules, who was regarded as an expert-level skier, was wearing proper avalanche safety equipment, including a BCA airbag like the one shown in the video below. Two other skiers found Soules, who was riding alone, buried under four feet of snow.

Avalanche experts have been warning for weeks about unstable snowpack in the backcountry, and the Denver Post ran a detailed article this past weekend on the unpredictable conditions.

John Snook, forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in Boulder, says there are definitely issues to be concerned with right now in the backcountry. CAIC monitors avalanche conditions in ten zones around the state, updating its website every morning. Currently, Snook says, anything steeper than thirty degrees is at risk.

Though it isn't CAIC's job to tell people what to do, Snook stresses that there's a big risk for slides right now. He urges riders to ski with partners, travel one at a time across suspect terrain, and always carry proper equipment, including a beacon, shovel and probe.

Listen to the man. He's trying to keep your ass alive and out of things like this:

(Video shot on Feb. 17th at Red Mountain Pass, Colorado)

More from our news archive: "Justin Martinez, featured in our Life Skills story, dies; school could go next";
"Medical marijuana: Seed sales "gray area" with the state"


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12 comments
Ausitn
Ausitn

this was my cousin, i was at his funeral. it makes me sad to find out a total of 14, thats fourteen people died here. why isnt this shut down?

Greg
Greg

I think you need to change the headline, since this latest fatality didn't take place at Copper.

Pat
Pat

Jon I am so sorry for your loss. I thankfully have never had to bury a child like this 15 year-old girls family, but, I have had the recent loss of my 51 year-old brother, my rock and friend January 28th 2012. He was at Copper Mountain on his 18th reunion with friends and his 16 year-old son. His favorite run is Far East a double black diamond. The slope was closed until the fateful day of Jan. 14th, safety awareness week and Martin Luther King weekend, and has been closed since. My helmeted brother just started down the slope when a snow serpent, tree falling and rerooting itself, stopped him completely falling forward and hitting a 5.5ft, 24"across, tree stump on the slope. Thankfully his son was ahead of him. His fellow skiers started CPR, ski patrol came and he was flight for lifed to a trauma center where he spent the next week in a coma until his death on the 20th. One of his fellow skiers had also fallen after hitting a tree stump on the slope at the same time. I understand there are laws protecting the very lucrative sport in Colorado but there does not appear to be any accountability toward the safety of the paying customers for their safety. What would it take to cut down these stumps and make skiing a safer sport. 

Jon
Jon

Don't make skier deaths just sound like a statistic. Each one is a real person, with a real family and with real friends. Also the number of people who die each year in no way reflects the number of people who are seriously injured to the point of never being able to recover to being the person they were before their injury. What makes something a trend? How many deaths is too many? How many injuries are too many? Could they be avoided? Could lives be saved or protected with in some cases a few simple changes? Ask my son, he'd answer you if he could. I'm sure that he'd say he would give it all back in order to have his life back as he knew it.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

 I echo William's comment. Our condolences for your loss.

William Breathes
William Breathes

Pat,

Very powerful comment. Thank you for taking the time to tell us your brother's story. He sounds like an outstanding man and one that will be missed.

-WB

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

 A very moving post, Jon. Thanks for sharing it with us. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. In the meantime, our thoughts are with you.

William Breathes
William Breathes

Jon,

Thank you for your comment. In no way do I mean to make these sound like just a statistic and I agree that each of these is a life that has been taken that represents a lot of love left behind. I've lost some very good friends in the mountains and understand where you are coming from.

My condolences for the loss of your son. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Kris
Kris

I'm sorry for your loss but that's like saying don't drive your car on the road because you might get into an accident. Life is risky and sometimes tragic, but you can't stop living your life and doing things you love because something bad might happen.

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