With tears, laughter and one lengthy standing ovation for the Snowmass Ski Patrol, more than 300 people gathered alongside Patsy Hileman’s blood family and mountain family to remember the fallen patroller Saturday.
Hileman, 49, a ski patrol veteran and Michigan native, died a week ago in a ski accident on the mountain where she had worked for more than two decades.
She was remembered for her infectious love of skiing, her care for the community, for her radiant smile, and for carving down the mountain with unmatched speed and grace.
A standing-room crowd packed the Elk Camp restaurant at Snowmass Ski Area for the evening memorial ceremony, led by the Snowmass Chapel’s Robert de Wetter.
“This is an extraordinary testimony to what this village is about. It’s also an extraordinary testimony to Patsy and how many lives she touched, and to how loved she is,” de Wetter said of the outpouring of love for Hileman.
Along with many tales of Hileman’s skiing prowess and passion, friends shared stories about her industriously hitching a ride with a trucker after running out of gas on Interstate 80 on her way to Aspen for the first time, of poaching hot tubs around the village late at night, and of once scaring off a charging bear before charging herself up East Snowmass Pass.
“Her smile could brighten anybody’s day,” said her niece, Alena Graves.
A photo slideshow behind the speaker’s podium showed Hileman carving through deep powder, hiking in the desert, smiling on mountain tops and standing proudly with Graves at a horse show.
“She loved to patrol but she loved to ski even more,” said patroller John Beezer, who like many recalled her boundless love of the sport and the way she spread her enthusiasm to countless others during her years on snow.
“I will try and keep this short and sweet, like Patsy’s turns,” said Snowmass patrol director Craig Chalmers. “Patsy will not be forgotten in our hearts and in our turns. She is everywhere on this mountain.”
Grieving colleagues spoke of her skill as a mentor to new patrollers, her patrol shack humor and her inexhaustible excitement for skiing. That joy, they said, will be her legacy.
“I know her spirit and her voice will be with us,” one patroller said, “urging us out the door to take another run, to see if we can keep up with her and see if we can find that perfect turn she so often found.”
Her patrol brethren held flares in a formation spelling out “Patsy” and shot off fireworks on a trail beside the Elk Camp gondola, as mourners made their way down the mountain from the hour-long service. Snowmass firemen also hung a pink banner from a ladder truck in her honor beside the gondola.
“She had that spark in her eye,” recalled Aspen Skiing Co. CEO and President Mike Kaplan, who, like Hileman, started working for the company in 1986. “It was that spark that means, ‘I just skied something great, and you need to get up there.’ It was more than a spark, it was a fire that was burning all the time. It was fire for life, it was fire for the mountain, for her fellow patrollers.”
Hileman, he recalled, was also unafraid to rib the executive for on-mountain developments like the six-pack ski lift and Elk Camp restaurant, with what he called her “plain-talking passion.”
“I loved it, I respected it, and I definitely miss it,” he said.
Hileman’s family respectfully requests the omission of flowers for Patsy. Instead, those that wish to are invited to make contributions to the Patricia Hileman Memorial Fund. Donations will go toward the creation of a public memorial in the Snowmass Village area commemorating Patsy’s life and her love for the outdoors.
Please make checks payable to “Patricia Hileman Memorial Fund” and mail them to:
Alpine Bank - C/O Patricia Hileman Memorial Fund - 15 Kearns Rd P.O. Box 5490 - Snowmass Village, CO 81615
Learn more at http://memorialwebsites.legacy.com/patsyhileman/Homepage.aspx