Tuesday, February 13, 2001
Steamboat Springs Prior to this season, the Steamboat Ski Area hadn't recorded a fatality on the mountain for three years. But in a nine-week span this winter, two men have died.
James Lee, 22, was killed Sunday after he tried to perform a maneuver off a table-top jump in the Bashor terrain park.
Lee apparently lost control and landed on his chest and head. Steamboat Ski Patrol responded to the lower-mountain park about 11:35 a.m. Lee was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Results from an autopsy show Lee died from "exsanguination due to internal injuries due to blunt force trauma," Routt County Corner Doug Allen said Tuesday. "Basically, he bled to death internally. It was massive and immediate."
Lee, who lived in the Denver suburb of Westminster, is originally from Virginia, Allen said. The coroner expects for Lee's body to be transported to his home state where he will be buried.
Following the death, Steamboat Ski Area officials conducted an investigation of their own, said Mike Lane, the lead spokesman for the resort. The investigation included collecting witness statements, meeting with the ski patrol unit involved and visiting the site.
"We try to determine if we can be doing anything different or not," Lane said.
The conclusion this time was that nothing needs to change.
"We will be doing the same thing in the park we have been doing all winter," Lane said.
The ski resort has long had a terrain park, but this is the first year the park is on the lower mountain. Traditionally, it's been on the upper mountain just off Buddy's Run.
"This season we moved the park to be closer to the snowboard half-pipe," Lane said. The park now consists of a half-pipe, a quarter pipe, four table-top jumps and two rail slides. "This is a self-contained area. It has its own lift and is easy to get to."
To monitor the park, the ski patrol does routine checks and employees working in the area also are to be on alert, Lane said.
Skiers and snowboarders who use the park are made aware of the park's rules through signs.
"The people who use the park need to know what their abilities are and ski within those abilities," Lane said. "They need to know they are responsible for their actions."
Neither Lane nor Allen knew what type of maneuver Lee was attempting to perform off of the table-top jump. Both men also did not know how high Lee soared before crashing to the snow.
Lee was wearing a helmet, but the injuries that caused his death were to his chest, Allen said.
His death happened nine weeks after Matthew Oscar Westley, 23, of Steamboat Springs died on the mountain.
Westley fell head first into deep snow about 75 feet off an intermediate run on the upper mountain on Dec. 16. The Estes Park native suffocated.
Prior to those two fatalities, the last time the Steamboat Ski Area had a death on the slopes was during the 1996-1997 ski season.