Aspen remembers fallen snowboarder
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Aspenites came out in force to remember one of their own Tuesday.
Tuesday’s Snowmass mountain memorial ceremony for fallen snowboarder Wallace Westfeldt was far from somber. It was held in the shadow of “the Wall” section of Snowmass, an area Westfeldt was known to love. Westfeldt, 22, died while snowboarding the steep cliffs of Tonar Bowl near Aspen Highlands on Friday.
Snowboarders shouted “freedom” as they turned backflips above a crowd of 300 to 500 people who came out to celebrate Westfeldt’s life.
One by one, friends and family took the mic to share remembrances of the adventurous, ever-smiling young man known for a keen sense of humor. “We are absolutely stunned and thrilled and grateful for the outpouring from this community,” said Weems Westfeldt, Wallace’s father and a longtime Aspen Skiing Co. instructor.
Yellow daffodils were handed out, an homage to the color that Wallace’s parents used to distinguish him from his two brothers in one of Aspen’s most well-known set of triplets. (Westfeldt also is survived by an older brother, Dylan.)
And shortly before the ceremony, skiers and snowboarders rode “the Wall” section above Sandy Park, an area that Nancy Westfeldt, Wallace’s mom, called the “playground” where Wallace and his brothers honed their skills.
He was known as “Turtle” as a young Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club skier because he showed up at a session with an oversized jacket and helmet. Westfeldt also broke the mold in a family of skiers and willfully strapped himself to an adult-sized snowboard at the age of 6.
It was a move that would take him as far as sponsorships and a career as a professional snowboarder. Young snowboarders remembered Westfeldt as a teacher, and friends and family on Tuesday told of Westfeldt’s deep impact on their lives.
At 3:30 p.m., the celebration moved to the base of Buttermilk ski area, where the group filled Bumps Restaurant to capacity.
“I come before you as a mother whose world has been torn apart,” said Nancy Westfeldt regarding the loss of her son.
But Tuesday’s ceremonies celebrated the spirit of a young man who’s love of life and the mountains that took him will endure, she said.
“Wallace will be there with [his brothers] because Wallace is one of them,” Nancy Westfeldt said.
A former snowboard coach, Miah Wheeler, remembered the evolution of Wallace Westfeldt from “Turtle,” the fearless snowboarder kid, to “Wally-do,” the fierce competitor eager to “do” just about anything.
“Wally is my new definition of a champion,” Wheeler said.
Westfeldt died after dropping a cliff in Tonar Bowl during a film shoot with Denver-based Futuristic Films. He landed on his back in firm snow and suffered broken bones and died of internal bleeding, according to the Pitkin County coroner.
But there was no blame or regret during Tuesday’s ceremonies.
Weems Westfeldt told the gathered crowd that living in the mountains means that sometimes the mountains “just come and claim one of us” as part of the natural rhythm.
“You can’t choose how long you live; you can choose how well you do it,” Weems Westfeldt said.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.