A celebration of the life of Patsy Hileman, the veteran Snowmass ski patroller who died this past weekend when an avalanche swept her over a cliff, will be held on Saturday, the Aspen Skiing Co. announced.
The memorial service will take place at the Elk Camp restaurant at Snowmass from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Uploading on the Elk Camp gondola will begin at 5 p.m. Attendees are asked to wear pink and bring their best “Patsy stories.” The celebration will continue at Sneaky’s Tavern afterwards for hugs, memories and more stories.
Hileman, 49, who was on duty at the time of her death, entered the permanently closed Ship’s Prow Glades in the Hanging Valley Wall around noon on Sunday. When she was overdue at her station at the High Alpine chairlift, a search was initiated at 12:45 p.m. Hileman was found less than 40 minutes later.
Hileman, who had been a patroller at Snowmass for 26 years, triggered a small slide in the area that swept her over a cliff. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and the Pitkin County Coroner’s report concluded Hileman died of blunt force trauma to the chest and back.
The accident is currently under investigation by the ski patrol, SkiCo, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle said it’s standard protocol to conduct an investigation when an accident occurs on the ski areas or on company property.
OSHA officials were in town on Monday and Tuesday interviewing ski patrol, SkiCo managers and employees, and anyone else who may have knowledge of the accident, said Herb Gibson, area director of OSHA’s Denver office.
OSHA’s investigation is standard procedure for any occupational fatality, Gibson added. OSHA is looking at SkiCo’s programs and other procedures to see if any federal law violations occurred. The investigation will likely take a few months, Gibson said.
The SkiCo issued a statement on Monday, saying it remains unclear why Hileman was in the closed area and the company had no knowledge of her intentions. There was only one set of tracks going into the area at the time she was found, according to the SkiCo’s statement.
A team from the CAIC went to the site on Monday with Snowmass Ski Patrol and officials from the White River National Forest, said center director Ethan Greene.
While a full report has not been posted on the CAIC website, Greene said he and his team are piecing together information about the accident and expect to have a report complete by Friday.
He said Wednesday that the avalanche was between 6 and 9 feet wide, and was considered small in terms of its destructiveness and size as it relates to the slope.
The top of the avalanche was about 30 feet above the cliff, and Hileman likely tumbled between 100 and 150 feet. However, those are rough estimates because the CAIC team didn’t feel comfortable enough to take exact measurements in the area.
They followed her ski tracks as far as they could before stopping, trying to re-trace her steps.
“We tried to re-create her whole route,” Greene said.