A 46-year-old skier who died at the Steamboat Ski Area on Sunday afternoon was trapped head first in a deep pile of snow for about an hour before skiers found him.
A group of skiers found Thomas Dolven at about 2 p.m. near the bottom of Chute 2 on the right side of the run. Dolven was a Denver lawyer who was visiting Steamboat Springs with his son and friends, Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said.
Passing skiers noticed Dolven's skis sticking out of the snow about an hour after the accident occurred, Ryg said. Dolven went head first into a deep pile of snow near rocks and slightly away from the usual traffic coming down the chute.
"He got stuck upside down and was unable to get up," Ryg said.
Dolven was an experienced skier, Ryg said.
The Jefferson County Coroner's Office is scheduled to do an autopsy on the man this afternoon. Until then, the coroner said the cause of death could be a number of scenarios: heart attack, suffocation or head injury.
Ryg said there was no indication of severe head injury. The coroner's investigation indicates Dolven was not wearing a helmet.
At about 1 p.m., Dolven was the last person in a group of three or four to go down Chute 2, a double-black-diamond run marked as extreme terrain. Dolven's companions waited at the bottom of the chute for Dolven to come out of the area. When he did not, the group decided to reski the area, which from the bottom of the slope takes two ski lifts and two runs to access.
The group did not find Dolven on the second round, but another group of skiers did locate him after seeing his skis sticking out of the ground. By the time Dolven was dug out of the snow, he had no signs of life, Ryg said.
Ski Patrol attempted life-saving efforts and brought the man down from the chutes.
Ryg said investigators are not sure what caused the accident. No snow was triggered and Ryg said the man's tracks appeared to go around, not off, a jump. Powder snow conditions existed in that area at the time of the accident, ski area spokesman Mike Lane said.
Sunday's was the first skier death of the season for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. The last death occurred in March 2002, when a woman fell on the mountain and later died of complications.
The chutes were closed for about 30 minutes Monday morning as the coroner's office continued to investigate the scene. Ryg said his office had hoped to take photographs, but snowy weather hampered those efforts.
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