Avid skier remembered | SteamboatToday.com

Avid skier remembered

Jay Pearson died Jan. 20 in backcountry skiing accident

Steamboat Springs resident James “Jay” Pearson, 29, who died Jan. 20 in a backcountry skiing accident in Jackson County, was taking time away from his professional career to spend a second winter skiing at Steamboat, a close friend said this week.

“Jay and I were the best of friends — brothers, if you will,” Matt Carrigan said. “He had moved to town in the fall of 2003 and was working for a large engineering firm based out of Birmingham, Ala. He was well-liked due to his extreme generosity, easy-going, comforting and personable demeanor.”

Pearson died when he fell into a steep band of rock interspersed with snow on an east-facing slope above Lake Agnes, near the base of Cameron Pass. A ropes team from Routt County Search and Rescue worked through the night with emergency personnel from Jackson County to retrieve Pearson’s body from the steep couloir near Mount Richthofen and the Nokhu Crags.

Carrigan said when Pearson first came to Steamboat, he worked retrofitting coal-fired power plants in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming with pollution-control devices. But the mountain lifestyle caused him to rethink his future.

“Once the skiing bug got to him, he decided to take a hiatus from the professional work force and enjoy all that Steamboat had to offer,” Carrigan said. After skiing here last winter, Pearson spent time with family and friends in Alabama and Georgia before spending two months on the big island of Hawaii.

“From several excerpts he shared with me, it was a fantastic experience,” Carrigan said. “The Hawaiian lifestyle, he said, was very similar to that here in Steamboat — laid-back, friendly folks, beautiful scenery and amazing biodiversity.”

But once the ski area opened in Steamboat, Carrigan began calling his friend and urging him to return for ski season.

Pearson arrived the first week of December and secured restaurant work — taking lunch shifts at Ragnar’s and working evenings at Three Peaks Grill. Pearson was able to arrange his schedule to afford ample skiing time as well as time to spend with his beloved dog, Cletus, Carrigan said.

On the day he died, Pearson was part of a group of Steamboat skiers enjoying a hut trip in the extreme southern end of the Colorado State Forest, not far from Gould. Carrigan was not on the trip.

The party of 11 had been staying at rental huts at Seven Utes Mountain and skied into the Lake Agnes area. The terrain is steep and much of it is above 11,000 feet. Rescuers who took statements from Pearson’s companions said he was skiing down toward another member of the party when he fell and tumbled as much as 70 feet through a band of rocks. He was wearing a helmet, but died at the scene of massive head trauma.

Carrigan said Pearson was looking forward to returning to Hawaii this summer because he had received an invitation to become a paddler on a racing outrigger canoe. It was an invitation not often extended to mainlanders, Carrigan said, and Pearson wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity.

Carrigan said he would remember Pearson as a man who always had time for friends.

“He always had a story to share or was quick to make time for you when you had something to say,” Carrigan recalled. “He always had some idea going through his head that he had to tell you about or wanted your opinion on. All in all, (he was) a positive soul who wasn’t selfish and always put a smile on your face.”

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com