Aaron Joseph Hill, a 30-year-old Aspen resident, was identified Sunday as the victim in Sunday morning’s after-hours snowboarding accident on Aspen Mountain, according to Pitkin County coroner Eric Hansen.
While snowboarding on the closed ski area early Sunday, Hill hit the timing shack near the bottom of Lift 1A, which is officially called the Shadow Mountain Lift and located at the western portal to Aspen Mountain. The cause of death is pending, although the initial report stated Hill suffered head injuries.
Hill was on his second run — while his companion waited at the bottom of the ski area, opting to take only one run — when the accident occurred. The friend, who was said to be visiting from out of town, did not witness the accident but heard the crash, according to Pitkin County chief deputy of operations Alex Burchetta.
Rescuers were on the scene, located about 200 yards above the lift’s entrance, within 12 minutes, he said.
Information on Hill’s Facebook page said he was a former sommelier at the Viceroy Hotel. Attempts to reach Viceroy’s general manager Robert Purdy were not successful. Police Chief Brian Olson said he did not know the deceased.
In a statement, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said the company offered its deepest sympathy and thoughts to the victim’s family at this time.
He wrote that the accident occurred outside of scheduled hours of operation near the bottom of the Shadow Mountain chairlift and that SkiCo was contacted around 2 a.m. on March 3 for help. Hanle said the patrol will assist with the accident investigation.
“Individuals accessing the ski area at any time are expected to act responsibly and exercise prudent judgment,” the statement noted.
The tragedy was the second in two weeks to hit local residents recreating in the snow, though under very different circumstances.
On Feb. 16, Roaring Fork Valley residents Owen Green, 27, and Michael Goerne, 37, were killed in a backcountry accident in Gunnison County outside the town of Crested Butte after being swept 120 feet into a creek drainage which buried them in a debris field up to 15 feet. Both men were Division I athletes in lacrosse who were well known for their contributions to Aspen youth lacrosse. They were training for the upcoming Elk Mountain Grand Traverse between Crested Butte and Aspen at the time of the accident.
On Sunday morning, emergency dispatch initially received the call at 1:30 a.m.and responded with an ambulance to the mountain base on South Aspen Street by 1:36 a.m., according to the report. From there the rescuers hiked the short distance to the accident scene.
“Officers were able to get on scene and have patient contact relatively quickly,” Burchetta said.
Once on the scene they found the victim was unconscious and not responding. Life-saving measures were started immediately but were unsuccessful.
Hill was not wearing a helmet; it’s not known at this time whether alcohol was a factor as that would be part of an investigation, according to Burchetta. Rescuers were out of the field by 5:45 a.m. he said.
SkiCo’s Hanle confirmed the building that Hill struck is the one used for race timing, including the World Cup events of past years.
Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Aspen police officers, Aspen Fire and Aspen Ambulance responded to the scene. The coordinated effort also included Aspen Skiing Co. and Mind Springs Health, according to the county’s statement.
Buchetta characterized it as “a terrible accident” and said that the public should recognize that “just like the backcountry, there are dangers on the ski area too” including unseen obstacles and snowcat operations.