Ski patrol supervisor Duncan Draper makes his way back to the slopes at the Steamboat Ski Area on Friday morning after a quick break at the base area.

Photo by Brian Ray

Ski patrol supervisor Duncan Draper makes his way back to the slopes at the Steamboat Ski Area on Friday morning after a quick break at the base area.

Slope safety stressed

Autopsy reveals cause of man's death was asphyxiation


The Steamboat Ski Area's first on-mountain death in nearly two years is bringing increased attention to skier safety and awareness.

Coincidentally, National Skier Safety Awareness Week begins today, and the ski area is offering a number of free programs for skiers and riders of all abilities.

Mark Joseph Stout, a 45-year-old man from Pennsylvania, died Tuesday after falling headfirst into a tree well. According to autopsy reports released Friday, Stout died of asphyxiation caused by suffocation, Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said.

"It appeared to be just an accident," Ryg said. "He didn't have any other trauma - he didn't run into the tree."

Stout was skiing with his 15-year-old daughter and friends Tuesday morning when he fell behind the group in Morningside Park on the upper mountain. Ski patrollers found Stout about 1 p.m. near the Cowboy Coffee trail and administered CPR at the scene. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

Ski and snowboarding deaths caused by suffocation are referred to as Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Death, or NARSIDs.

Of the five deaths at the ski area since 2000, three can be classified as NARSIDs. According to research conducted by Northwest Avalanche Institute Director Paul Baugher, NARSIDs account for 15 percent of all snowboarding fatalities and 5 percent of skier fatalities. During the 2005-06 season, four of the 10 snowboarding fatalities at U.S. ski resorts were NARSIDs.

Tuesday's tragic accident was on the heels of weekend storms that brought between 36 and 60 inches of new snow to the ski area. Such conditions, although considered ideal for many skiers and riders, also can be the most dangerous.

"When we're in the big snow cycle, people have to look out for each other," Steamboat Ski Patrol supervisor Duncan Draper said Thursday.

Tree wells such as the one Stout encountered in an area laden with conifers are one of the dangers that skiers can encounter after periods of significant snow accumulation.

"Remember that the evergreen trees are not your friends," Draper said. "They're your enemies. The aspens are your friends."

Aspens are safer to ski in because they typically don't have low-lying branches, which can hide tree wells and help them form.

Avalanches in the in-bounds area at the ski area are not as much of a concern because they are mitigated with explosives.

If skiers are venturing into deep snow, Draper advises they carry a whistle to signal for help. Having the ski patrol dispatch phone number programmed into cell phones also is advised. The number is 871-5911.

Draper said skiers need to be aware of their surroundings and be cautious when venturing into unfamiliar areas.

"If you don't know where you're going, don't go there," Draper said.

Skiing with a partner and keeping one another in sight at all times is always advised.

"It's always nice to have someone there in case something does happen," Draper said.

Having a plan in case something does happen or someone gets separated from a group also is important. Draper said people should designate a meeting spot.

"In case you get separated, give your kids a piece of paper with your cell phone number," he said.

Draper said educating visitors and locals about ski safety and dangers that exist in deep snow conditions is an ongoing effort.

"Do I think we need to increase the education?" Draper asked. "We always need to increase the education."

Skiers and snowboarders who want to learn more about slope safety have plenty of resources this week; National Skier Safety Awareness Week begins today.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is using the week to launch its new Park Wise safety initiative, an arm of its overall Slope Wise Safety Program. At 1 p.m. every day through Friday, Park Wise ambassadors will lead guided tours of Steamboat's terrain parks and provide safety information.

Ski patrollers also will join Billy Kidd on his daily run with interested skiers and riders. Meet at 1 p.m. at the top of the gondola.

For backcountry skiers, Ski Patrol will host a backcountry awareness course at the yurt at the top of the Pony Express Lift at 1 p.m. today through Monday. The class is free, but participants need to sign up with Ski Patrol dispatch at 871-5911.

Ski Patrol will screen safety awareness videos and conduct helmet checks alongside autograph signings today through Monday. Ski patrollers also will make visits to local schools and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.


teleguy 9 years, 3 months ago

I agree that helmets save lives ( I personally always wear mine ).

The man who died suffocated in a tree well, he didn't hit his head ( the only injury a helmet prevents ).

A big thank you from me to all the hard working ski patrollers out there.


JustAsking 9 years, 3 months ago

After reading through Boatmaster's incoherent and illogical post I can only wonder: Has he has been smoking his old wool hat?


madmoores 9 years, 3 months ago

Sbvor was commenting on the ski patroller in the picture without his helmet on in an article stressing slope safety. A "practice what you preach" approach I assume. A helmet would not have saved this man but is an integral(sp) piece of lifesaving equipment otherwise. This tree well experience happened to me once just off trail from under the sunshine lift(I think, it's been awhile) in some of the pines on the left side. The snow was not too terribly deep and I managed to grab onto a few branches in the midst of my headfirst plunge which is probably what saved me from getting stuck in the well. It scared the .... out of me because even back then I was aware of this danger and normally did what I could to stay away from them and now here I am face-to-face with one. I have had to give up skiing since but will never forget that time. I remind friends and family that go out to watch for this danger. It is time for this to come to the forefront of skier safety.


inmyopinion 9 years, 3 months ago

hey, for once i agree with sbvor. good stuff. after 15 years of snowboarding, i finally purchased a helmet this year and will never go without again. the helmet technology has advanced and they are even making them now that fit my big head. sweet.


BoatMaster 9 years, 3 months ago

You are all crazy for saying a helmet would have helped this person. YOU ARE WRONG .. A HELMET WOULD NOT HAVE SAVED THIS PERSON.

The snow was very deep. I skied the same slope the day before and had a spill . Very scary when my head was buried and I had to clear a breathing path with my gloves. The accident was very unfortunate and there was not a buddy to help. THE LACK OF A BUDDY TO HELP WAS THE PROBLEM!!!! They had all skied to far ahead to help.

in deep snow stay together where you can help if needed. END OF STORY.

Ski safe, dont leave anyone behind when you ski.

As for the helmet.. Helmets are laughed at by my European friends that have not been subjected to the George Bush Repubican scare tacticts that every American should be afraid of their shadow propaganda. Yes, at a few times they can be beneficial but we are running around scared with helmets on because of all of the news reports. in Europe where we ski "off piste" all the time you see few helmets.

Get a life all... remember when we skied with a nice wool hat???

Ha Ha Ha that will never happen again after you are all fooled into being scared of your shadow and voting for a war whenever you are told to by the media!!

Have fun, ...SKi..... Enjoy life... and get over the helmet.


madmoores 9 years, 3 months ago

One cracked open head will change his tune. Snow is just as hard as concrete in some aspects and if falling into a well, you could hit your head on the trunk and knock yourself unconscious, making matters grave instead of hopeful. Wear the helmet, I do(as does my child)for all of the outdoor sports we participate in and george bush has nothing to do with it. Standing in the ER looking down on someone who was in an accident, hit their head, and now have a crushed skull because of it has everything to do with it. Not a pretty sight. Nobody said it would have saved his life, besides, the whole helmet subject started when a couple posters recognized that the ski patrol in the photo was not wearing one when his supervisors were stressing slope safety. He looks ready to hit it to me and I can see two people in the photo with their helmets on and ready. If you want people to follow the rules, set the example.


BoatMaster 9 years, 3 months ago


Your are incorrect in me being a Troll. I have posted many, many times under a different name, but I decided to change the name for my own reason yesterday.

Anyway, who made you the master of the internet dictating who can post and who can not.

Please send me one of your wonderful links to follow describing how you should be the only one who can post and no others. Everyone will ignore that link like they do with all of your others.

Get a life ...bore


BoatMaster 9 years, 3 months ago


You all can wear a helmet and I am sure the statistics will show a decrease in head injuries. It only seems logical.

But take a look at the world these days. Everyone is dictating how to be "safe" and to be scared of the alternative.

I'm just saying live a little. There will always be a new "danger" to be scared of. Don't let it get in the way of life.

As for JustAsking...... :)


BoatMaster 9 years, 3 months ago


Nothing wrong with being a Troll. I know many of them.


skiblue 9 years, 3 months ago

I was skiing with Mark Stout on Tuesday. I'm not sure I should make a comment, but after reading all this, I feel I need to. We (Mark, his daughter Maggie, my self and my 2 sons, Shaun and Ryan) decided to start out @ Morningside Park. I wanted to film the children skiing through the trees and powder. Afterwards, the kids were going their way and we were headed for groomed trails. Ryan and Maggie skied the trail to the lift, our meeting point. Shaun skied down, in and out of trees. Mark and I went in and out of powder, no trees. I stayed on the groomed trail to the bottom. I had no idea my son and Mark were in the trees, different areas. If I did, I wouldn't have thought much about it. We're from PA. We ski on packed powder, ice and have no tree skiing. This was a treat, I thought. When he did not meet us @ the bottom, I called his cell phone. He did not answer and I knew he had poor service. The children went up to look. I stayed at the bottom of the lift waiting for him to come down. They combed the trees somewhat, calling his name. We presumed he was stuck in the snow or lost a ski. When they returned, heard no response, we panicked and contacted ski patrol. It was a while before he was found with us and ski patrol searching. We always ski together, not totally in sight at all times though. I never imagined this would happen. This tragedy will haunt my mind forever. The guilt will never go away. Mark is successful businessman. They have a beautiful family. They helped me during a financial hardship and later invited us to their home in CO. He is an advanced skier and all the children, teenagers, alpine ski race and freestyle. I was somewhat aware of tree wells as far as being stuck, but nothing more. I realize now we MUST keep ski partners in sight @ all times. Not just, "I'll meet you there, or let's go this way." Most comments have been sympathetic and supportive. I'm sure practically no one has ALWAYS kept ski partners in sight every second. It's a terrible accident. My sympathy to his family and all the children cannot be expressed as much as I want. The entire Steamboat family, ski patrol, hospital and strangers I've met were genuinely helpful, sympathetic and more than kind. PLEASE, PLEASE keep everyone in sight @ all times. Even keep an eye on a lone skier. This week is "Skier Safety Week." Steamboat is offering free classes. Enroll. Thank you to those who give their support and regards.


BoatMaster 9 years, 3 months ago

I agree with you and I am very sorry for the situation.

I hope nothing I said made it worse and if it did a apologize. I skied the same area and made the same mistakes of not keeping close to my ski partners. The same tragedy could happen to anyone.

When the snow is deep and you are excited about the powder keep in mind the safety. Stay close to your ski partners.

Again, I am very sorry for what happend that day on the slopes.


skiblue 9 years, 3 months ago


Thank you for your apology. I wanted to blast you also for your orginal comments. In my situation, it wasn't for me to take on. It upset me more than I already was. My boys lost their dad in June, aren't coming to grips with it yet, and now this.... Thank you again everyone for your support from my family and the Stouts.


corduroy 9 years, 3 months ago

skiblue: it can never hurt to know the story from someone there. You guys did all you could, you were skiing pretty much together in one area and being safe. I'm sorry your trip ended in tragedy. hugs to you and yours


seeuski 9 years, 3 months ago

skiblue, I am very sorry about the tragedy all of you have endured and not much anyone can say to make the pain go away but in no way should you or anyone of your ski group live with guilt or second guess yourselves for anything you imagine you could have done differently. The reality is when this type of fall occurs there is very little time to react. Even when people do ski together and are aware of one another it is very difficult to get to the site and then lift someone out in time. I have been involved in a couple of these kinds of events and this one sounds like you did as much as was possible. Please know that we all have said a prayer for the family and friends involved.


skiblue 9 years, 3 months ago

Thank you again for all of your support, prayers and hugs. We love Steamboat and will return when we can.


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