VAIL — Ryan Palmer’s family says he’s “shredding the hills of heaven” as they attend funeral services for the West Vail snowboarder today in Erie, Pa.
Palmer, 35, fell to his death while hiking the north face of Capitol Peak in Pitkin County on July 19.
Palmer’s family said they intend to spread his ashes here in Vail on Dec. 25, Palmer’s birthday, as a celebration of life for the man they describe as having an extraordinary love of the mountains.
“You could never get him to leave Colorado because he loved it so much,” said Kim Madara, Palmer’s sister.
The last time Palmer’s family gathered together was October in his home state of Pennsylvania.
“He wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to travel to Erie, but I begged him to make it happen and he made it happen,” Madara said.
Palmer was very close with Madara and their sister Kristin, with about four years spanning between them.
Devastated by their loss, Kristin said she is taking comfort in the fact Ryan died doing what he loved.
“He loved hiking and loved the outdoors,” she said.
Madara hiked to Booth Falls with Palmer last year on a visit to Vail, a vacation she says she’ll always remember as the best she’s ever had.
“It was great seeing him in his element,” she said. “He had an amazing group of friends.”
Among those friends was Palmer’s roommate, Aaron Page, who met Palmer here in Vail.
“He was the nicest guy to all of his friends,” Page said.
Michael Dropcho lived with Palmer in Vail and had been friends with him since high school.
“Here’s the thing about Ryan — he was a super-smart guy, and was awesome with computers and stuff; that’s what got him to Vail in the first place,” Dropcho said. “Very quickly though, he realized that he didn’t love that, and having tech jobs didn’t allow him to ride and hike and bike when he wanted to. So he got serving jobs just so he could do what he loved. He literally worked to live, instead of living to work.”
Page said in his years living with Palmer, he didn’t see him sleep much.
“It didn’t matter how tired he was, he was always up two hours before me wanting to get on the mountain,” Page said.
Local snowboarder Dave Pleshaw said Palmer was a guy you’d see at night after work, as well as the morning.
“I used to see him out after work when he worked at Sweet Basil, and then I’d see him up early in the morning wanting to shred,” Pleshaw said.
Pleshaw is among the officials responsible for administering members into the Ravinos crew of local snowboarders, and he said after seeing Palmer repeatedly attempt to land a backflip, not quite stomp it and continue trying, the group intends to award Palmer with his Ravinos colors posthumously at his celebration of life Dec. 25.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about him, but I knew he was dedicated to snowboarding,” Pleshaw said.
Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 or jlaconte@vail daily.com.