Updated March 18, 2011 at 3:59 p.m.
Steamboat Springs The stepfather of the 19-year-old man who died at Howelsen Hill on Thursday described Cooper Larsh as an avid skier with a good sense of humor.
“He’s a very accomplished skier, and he just decided he’d play around on the little hill,” said Mark Squillace, who lives in Boulder with Larsh’s mother, Maureen Ryan. “We didn’t think he could get in that much trouble.”
Larsh, a freshman at College of Wooster in Ohio who had an interest in going into law enforcement, was spending his spring break in Steamboat Springs with Ryan.
After a day of skiing Wednesday at Steamboat Ski Area, where he had skied numerous times, Larsh wanted to check out Howelsen Hill Ski Area downtown, Squillace said.
“Skiing was probably one of his biggest interests,” Squillace said.
Larsh was a graduate of the Colorado Timberline Academy college preparatory school near Durango. Ryan dropped him off at Howelsen after lunch Thursday. Larsh sent his mother a text message at about 2:30 p.m., but she could not reach him later despite several phone calls and text messages.
“We were hoping that he had just met someone and he decided to go out with them,” Squillace said.
Ryan waited for Larsh at the bottom of the ski hill and reported him missing as the ski area was closing at about 8 p.m.
Howelsen Ski Patrol began searching for Larsh and found him at about 9:30 p.m. partially buried headfirst in deep snow by the Alpine slide, an attraction operated at the ski area during summer. Larsh had apparently suffocated on snow in the area, which is off-limits to skiers.
“What it looked like to me is he hit a bump, went airborne, landed, hit another bump, ejected from his skis, went airborne and went headfirst into a snowbank,” Steamboat Springs Police Department Detective Nick Bosick said. “It’s an unfortunate accident.”
Steamboat Ski Patrol is helping reconstruct the accident, Bosick said. An autopsy is scheduled for this morning in Kremmling.
“It’s just a big shock to my wife and the whole family,” Squillace said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com