As often happens over the holidays, sadness raked over our town with the loss of yet another beloved Ski Patrol. As reported by the Aspen Daily News, “A 26-year veteran of the Snowmass Ski Patrol was killed in an avalanche Sunday while skiing in a permanently closed area of the Hanging Valley Wall, marking Colorado’s first avalanche-related death of the winter. Patricia “Patsy” Hileman, 49, of Snowmass Village, was skiing alone in an area known as Ship’s Prow Glades, near the Upper Ladder section of the Hanging Valley Wall, according to an Aspen Skiing Co. press release. The wall includes some of the most extreme terrain in Snowmass, and sections of it opened for the first time of the season last week.
While skiing, Hileman triggered a small slide and was swept over a cliff, according to SkiCo’s statement.”
Honoring our Ski Patrol:
In honor of Patsy and our ski patrol, I wanted to share something that is going around on our facebook pages from noted Aspen historian Tim Cooney:
“Had I known I would be an Aspen Mountain ski patroller for 30 years, I would’ve punched out my ski boots when my feet first began to hurt and held on to that Apple stock I bought in the ’80s. But as it stands, my feet are lumpy with bone spurs and my retirement plan is kaput. Still, it’s been worth every turn. We patrollers are a ruddy bunch—from talented misfits to law-school dropouts—with duct-taped gloves and dirty uniforms. Our headquarters are ripe with banter and tradition, and the clannishness can be thicker than an inch-an-hour blizzard. We have more words for snow than Aussies have for vomit. (Our lexicon—“snirt” is snow and dirt—often sends French exchangers home with a near-useless English vocabulary.) We’ve coolly out skied avalanche slabs with packs full of explosives and igniters tucked into our goggle straps (though since 9/11, stricter protocol has prevailed). We’ve brought people back from death (once setting off lift-line cheers at the announcement of a pulse). I’ve retrieved a hysterical man’s wig after his fall and replaced it on his head backward. I’ve rescued a woman with an exploded breast implant. I’ve broken up fistfights and skied with the King of Spain. We are rescuers, referees, and ambassadors. But above all, we are a modern, professional outfit. Today patrols provide care on the slopes equal to what EMT-Ps provide on city streets. This profession can hijack your intentions—vocational, romantic, academic. Instead, you’ll learn how to save lives, find free food, and drink beer from a cowboy boot. The years will leave you with rich friendships, stories, and epic ski days—and a bone spur or two.”