Ski area death of Patsy Hileman shouldn't count toward resort fatalities, industry group says
Update: In a post yesterday about ski area deaths thus far in the 2012-13 season (see it below), we noted that resorts have established rules to determine whether or not fatal accidents count toward the total. As evidence, note that Colorado Ski Country USA disagrees with the claim that three people have died on the slopes thus far, arguing the accident that killed longtime ski patrol member Patricia "Patsy" Hileman shouldn't be included.
On December 30, as we've reported, Hileman was swept under by a small avalanche at Snowmass. One report said she was skiing "inbounds" at the ski area, while another said the section was "not explicitly open to the skiing public due to its inherent dangers."
Does the accident that took Hileman's life qualify as inbounds? No, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. When it comes to total deaths at resorts, the organization excludes those that are outside boundaries where the public is allowed to ski, even if they're otherwise on the ski area's property.
At a memorial for Patsy Hileman, members of the Aspen Ski Patrol skied down the mountain holding red lights.
By CSCUSA's standards, then, Hileman's death should not count as a ski-resort death.
Hileman's "particular incident was on terrain that is closed to the public, so it does not qualify as a ski-resort-related skier fatality," explains spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph.
This designation is not meant to diminish the loss felt by Hileman's friends and loved ones, Rudolph emphasizes.
"We never like to see fatalities happen in the ski industry," she says. "Sometimes, it does come down to splitting hairs, and any loss of life is important. But it's also important to distinguish these nuances."
Regarding the other two deaths noted in our original item -- Tristan Bartlett, thirteen, who died at Copper Mountain on January 4, and Doae Oh, twenty, killed in a January 9 accident at Keystone -- Rudolph can speak definitively only about the former. That's because Keystone is not part of Colorado Ski Country USA. But from reports she's read about Oh's death, she believes it, as well as Bartlett's, "meet all the qualifications" to be considered official ski-area deaths.
By her count, then, two people have died on the Colorado slopes so far this year, not three.
"Obviously, the ski industry doesn't want to portray an inflated number of fatalities," she says. "But we do want to give the public a sense of the relevant risk."
Continue to read our previous post about ski deaths so far in the 2012-13 ski season.