Joseph Shematek's death means 2012 Colorado ski season tied for most lethal ever

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a 100x95 joseph shematek.jpg
On Sunday, Joseph Shematek, a 71 year old from Windsor, died at St. Anthony's Hospital following a skiing accident in Loveland.

By our count, he's the seventeenth person to pass away as a result of injuries on the slopes of a Colorado resort this season, tying it for the deadliest on record.

On Tuesday, the Summit Daily shared the barest of facts about what happened. According to the paper, a 71-year-old, helmet-wearing skier had an unspecified accident on an expert run at Loveland around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. He was transported to St. Anthony's Hospital in Jefferson County, where he died on Sunday.

Employees of Clear Creek County, which encompasses Loveland Ski Area, would normally have been involved in the response to the incident, but according to a representative of the sheriff's department, the victim was transported to the Denver area via Flight for Life so quickly that he was already gone before a local ambulance crew arrived. Hence, the office never generated a report on the case that might have named the man. However, Dan Pruett, Jefferson County's assistant deputy coroner, confirms his identity. Shematek's cause of death has not been formally determined, but Pruett believes the finding will involve neck and spinal-cord injuries.

Shematek's Facebook page connects him to Shematek Consulting Services LLC, which specialized in software quality assurance testing and project management. He graduated from Hampton High School in Virginia in 1958 and subsequently attended Cal State University Dominguez Hills. And, as you can see above, his profile picture shows him having fun on a ski slope.

Unfortunately, his death from an injury at a Colorado ski resort is far less rare than usual. As our William Breathes has reported, the state's resorts tend to average about a dozen deaths every year, but that figure was reached and then surpassed in February. Using Breathes's figures, Shematek's death stands as the seventeenth, which ties the all-time record, set during the 2007-2008 ski season.

At this point, no one has able to pin down why 2012 has been so lethal for skiers. Ski Country USA spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph told Breathes last month that deaths on the slopes "are unfortunate, but they are also isolated. 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."

Our condolences to the Shematek family, as well as to the other victims, including Truitt Hunter of Castle Rock, a 23 year old who died at Keystone last week. His memorial service takes place today.

Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our News archive: "Second skier death this week brings season total to eleven: On track for a record?"

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valle nevado tres puntas
valle nevado tres puntas

Colorado ski areas are always open to welcome customers for reservations and vacation plans to their establishments when the time comes for families and individuals, local or foreign, to enjoy themselves in the snow.


I am recovering from the only major ski injury of my life: several broken ribs as well as internal organ damage. It happened on the same run as the above skier.  Needless to say, I've been reflecting on why and don't buy the "coincidence" line from ski officials. In my case a binding popped as I hit the flats (don't know why -- my DIN is tight; I probably was a dumb-ass and didn't kick all the snow off my heel).  But binding releases rank with "catching an edge" as the greatest excuses for skier wipeouts. 

My injuries, I assume, were caused by the impact -- high speed x hard ice = pain. So while I don't have an answer to why we have a higher number of fatalities and accidents (I also was taken to the same hospital as the above skier where they said the number of injuries this season has skyrocketed), I wonder what may be different this year and if it is related to what caused my injuries.

First, clearly our snow pack is poor, with variable conditions and rock hard ice both the cause of accidents and subsequent injuries (this has also led to the deaths from slides, but that's a different issue). Second, it also appears most of the deaths were skiers, not snowboarders -- and is there something in that?

I know that my heavy, fat, rockered boards are allowing me to go much faster on steeps like Loveland's Ridge -- and yet with incredible stability.  When above treeline I often don't realize my speed until I hit the groomers or flats.  I also have noted that a lot of skiers lacking good technique are moving to the fatter, heavier skis -- and often look out of control.

Unlike with the shaped ski revolution of 10-15 yrs ago, which made getting on edge much easier, the fat/rocker evolution requires more effort and skill to get the boards on edge.  So....could the combo of icy/variable conditions, fast boards and skiers without the skills to get on edge (and therefore reduce speed or stop) be leading to the rising injuries and deaths?

Or am I just in Rush Limbaugh mode: taking loads of Oxy and coming up with inane and insane theories?  I do like the Oxy....

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

If 17 people died every year from Marijuana the government would have it outlawed in no time !


The spike in fatalities may just be a correlation to the front ranges population growth?

your post is confusing
your post is confusing

What? How are you even trying to tie the laws surrounding marijuana to the content of this article? You're statement doesn't even make sense. The federal government has outlawed marijuana. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you don't adhere to that particular bit of legal "mumbo jumbo". At the very least it's a poor forum to try and win one for the pro MJ movement.But don’t let me interrupt your deep, introspective thoughts on the universe, how everything is interconnected … and most importantly, whether or not you should get one doritos locos taco or two.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for the link. We're following up on this report. Appreciate your help.

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Only if that population actually went skiing ...

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