Skier, 13, dies in accident in Vail

Ashley Stamp was one of Winter Sports Club's brightest young stars

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— A 13-year-old Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete died Sunday morning in a tragic skiing accident on Vail Mountain.

Ashley Stamp, an Alpine ski racer who competed at an international level and was known as one of Steamboat's "brightest talents," was preparing for a race when the accident occurred at about 8:20 a.m. Ashley was skiing down the Golden Peak Race Course of Vail Mountain when she collided with a snowmobile carrying two resort employees assisting with the race.

Vail Ski Patrol responded immediately, and Ashley was then transported to the Vail Valley Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

An emotional Kelly Stamp, Ashley's mother, called her daughter a "perfect child," a charming and loving girl. Along with sister Samantha, 9, the Stamps were blessed with two wonderful girls, Kelly said.

Ashley could not meet a stranger, Kelly said.

"We used to tell her, 'Ashley, you've got a personality like nobody's,'" Kelly said. "She did. She just had a great charm."

Ashley made an impression on everyone who came her way, Kelly said, from friends to coaches to teachers. "She was God's gift down here," Kelly said.

And she loved skiing. Kelly described Ashley as "absolutely dynamite" once she put on her skis.

Aaron Stamp, Ashley's father, called her "the most spectacular individual that you could ever think of."

Services have not yet been scheduled; however, the Winter Sports Club will hold a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. today at the base of Howelsen Hill.

Ashley was a seventh-grade student at Steamboat Springs Middle School. She is the second student at the school to die in an accident this year. Seventh-grader Travis Taber died Oct. 9 in an all-terrain-vehicle accident in Moffat County.

Ashley was at the Vail Ski Resort with other Winter Sports Club athletes competing at a race series sponsored by SmartWool.

At the time of the collision, Ashley was taking practice runs before the race, Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Shawn Olmstead said. She was wearing a helmet.

She reached a "blind spot" on the run where a flat section met a grade, Olmstead said, and a resort snowmobile was driving uphill on the right edge of the run.

The snowmobile, driven by Vail Ski Resort employee Mark Chard, 27, collided with Ashley, Olmstead said. Another employee, 40-year-old Thomas Conville, also was riding on the snowmobile. Chard and Conville were working on the race crew, Olmstead said.

There were several witnesses at the top of the hill, but the closest were 20 to 30 feet away when the collision occurred, Olmstead said.

Olmstead said that the incident is under investigation, and that no charges were being issued at this point. "Right now I couldn't say that anybody's at fault," he said.

Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said Ashley died of blunt force injuries to her chest as a result of the collision. Bettis said there were no signs of negligence on anyone's part and ruled the death an accident.

Andy Wirth, president of the Winter Sports Club's board of directors, said Ashley was a tremendous young lady and an outstanding athlete.

"Ashley Stamp represented the absolute best of this club," Wirth said.

Last April, for example, she competed at the Whistler Cup in Canada, a prestigious international event. She was among a small group of young men and women to represent the United States in the competition.

She recently was asked to compete at the Toponlino Time Trials, which take place next week, a prestigious invitation for someone her age.

Tony Nunnikhoven, former Alpine director of the Winter Sports Club, described Ashley as a tough competitor who loved the sport and her teammates and never missed a practice. She was "the kind of athlete who defines the game for the rest of us," he said.

He called Ashley "one of our brightest talents at the Winter Sports Club and in our community as a whole," an athlete with big dreams and hopes for skiing and everything else life had to offer.

"Her future was so bright," Nunnikhoven said.

Terry DelliQuadri, Winter Sports Club head coach for Ashley's age group, said Winter Sports Club staff and teammates are devastated, as is the entire ski racing community.

Chris Puckett, Winter Sports Club Alpine competitive director, said he first heard about Ashley from other parents and coaches, who not only praised her skiing, but also said she was a "great person."

When Puckett met her, he said he could see why.

"She just made everyone feel good," Puckett said. "There are kids in every program who really make a difference in the energy of the whole thing, and she was one of those."

Jen Brown, spokesperson for Vail Ski Resort, said "the entire Vail community is grieving for this family at this time." The incident is being investigated by the resort as well as the State Patrol, she said.

"Our deepest sympathies, condolences and support go out to the girl's family and friends, to the close-knit racing community and to the entire community of Steamboat Springs," said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of the Vail Ski Resort.

The Steamboat Springs School District's Crisis Support Team met Sunday afternoon to plan how to provide students, teachers and others support after the tragedy, said Tim Bishop, principal of the Steamboat Springs Middle School. Counselors will be available throughout all schools today, and a grief counseling session for parents on how to support children who are grieving will be at 5 p.m. today at the middle school.

"Our sympathy goes out to the family," Bishop said. "Our No. 1 concern is to support them however we can and support these students and staff."

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