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Aspen ski patroller dies in avalanche; first of Colorado season
Colorado recorded its first avalanche death of the season Sunday when snow patrol member Patricia Hileman, 49, of Snowmass Village, was swept over a cliff by a small slide, Pitkin County authorities said.
"This is a shocking and tragic accident that deeply affects everyone in the company," Mike Kaplan, president and chief executive of Aspen Skiing Co., Hileman's employer, said in a statement. "Our deepest sympathies and condolences are with her family and friends at this time."
Public records indicate Hileman has lived in Pitkin County since at least 1992 and is originally from Michigan.
The resort said she was skiing alone inbounds in an area known as the Ship's Prow Glades, next to Upper Ladder.
When she was overdue to her patrol station, a search started at 12:45 p.m. and she was located by the ski patrol at 1:23 p.m., according to Aspen Skiing Co.
She was determined to be dead at 1:37 p.m. and her body was taken to Snowmass Clinic.
There were more than a dozen avalanche-related deaths in Colorado in the 2011-12 season, both inbounds and out of bounds.
"It's a pretty similar pattern with the dry start to both seasons," Colorado Avalanche Information Center deputy director Brian Lazar told the Summit Daily. "What we did was create these really weak layers of snow at the base of our snowpack, and then capped it with a lot of snow, more this year than last year."
The result is big slides, easy to trigger, he warned.
Skiers and other recreationalists who strike out into the backcountry should check avalanche forecasts online.
The Colorado high country has been socked with snow the past two weeks, and up to 10 more inches is expected in parts of Western Colorado on Sunday night and Monday.