Trauma likely killed avalanche victim

Former Aspen ski patroller caught in slide Sunday

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Former Aspen ski patroller Cory Brettman probably died from trauma when he was caught in an avalanche Sunday on Aspen Mountain, Pitkin County Coroner Steve Ayers said Monday.

Ayers said the investigation into Brettman's death is ongoing and that an autopsy would be performed later Monday. About 50 percent of avalanche victims die from trauma, and 50 percent die from suffocation, he said.

Brettman was skiing in the Power Line area, outside of the Aspen Mountain ski area, when he was caught in an avalanche, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. It is unknown what time the avalanche occurred.

Brettman was found Sunday night at the bottom of an avalanche "approximately 100 yards long and 30 yards wide," the sheriff's office said. He wasn't breathing and had no pulse when he was found by ski patrollers and other Aspen Skiing Co. personnel. Attempts to resuscitate him with an automated external defibrillator were unsuccessful.

Brettman, of Old Snowmass, turned 52 earlier this month. He is survived by his wife, Killeen, and their children.

Brettman was believed to be skiing alone when the accident occurred, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. Friends knew Brettman was skiing on Aspen Mountain on Sunday, and they reported him overdue when he didn't show up at a gathering that evening, said Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff Joe Bauer.

Aspen Skiing Co. personnel notified the sheriff's office about the overdue skier at 8:32 p.m.; the Skico then mobilized a search involving 22 people. Brettman was found at about 9 p.m., the sheriff's office said in a statement.

Skico employees were hit particularly hard by Brettman's death. He was a ski patroller at Aspen Mountain from 1981 until 2006, Hanle said. Killeen also has ties to the company. She is a former public relations and marketing executive with the Skico.

Local avalanche conditions, which were high Sunday, likely will remain so for the foreseeable future, a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said Monday.

Brian McCall, the Aspen zone forecaster with the avalanche center, said the weekend's heavy snow fell on weak layers formed during earlier storms. The weekend snowfall ranged from close to 2 feet in the Aspen and Snowmass area to 30 inches around Marble.

"Problems created by this rapid load of new snow were made worse by some strong southwest winds that accompanied the storm," McCall posted on the CAIC Web site. "North through east aspects near and above treeline have seen some wind slab formation as well, creating dangerous conditions in the back country.

"This new snow has fallen on several tender, weak layers in the snowpack that will make natural and human triggered avalanches likely today," the forecast continued.

An observer saw one natural and several remotely triggered avalanches in the Richmond Ridge area Sunday, the CAIC Web site reported. That is in the same general vicinity where Brettman was killed.

The CAIC is reporting considerable avalanche danger in the Steamboat zone, particularly on north, northeast and east aspects near and above treeline. The danger is moderate on northwest, west, southwest, south and southeast aspects near and above treeline, and for all aspect below treeline.

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