Aspen says goodbye to freeskier |

Aspen says goodbye to freeskier

Charles Agar
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times"I will always follow you" Willie Volckhausen, of Aspen, writes on a photo of John Nicoletta during a memorial service Monday.

ASPEN, Colorado ” John Nicoletta approached life as he skied ” hard-charging.

Nicoletta, 27, died Friday afternoon in a fall at the Freeskiing World Championships at Alyeska Resort in Alaska, and Monday more than 200 friends and fellow skiers gathered at the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel to remember him.

Nicoletta smiled his signature toothy grin from below a mop of curls in a slide show of images from his many adventures ” from getting set to drop something steep and full of powder to hopping waves at the beach to embracing his friends at a party. The pictures were a testament to Nicoletta’s love for life, his friends and the mountains that claimed him.

“He touched a lot of people in Aspen; just look around,” said Warren Klug, manager of Aspen Square and a member of Nicoletta’s adopted family in Aspen.

A Massachusetts native, Nicoletta studied economics and philosophy at Colby College in Maine, where he met Klug’s daughter, Hillary Klug.

It was with Hillary that Nicoletta made his first trip to Aspen, a town he would call home for three years, first as a bellman at Aspen Square and most recently as a bartender at Campo de Fiori while his freeskiing career took shape.

A video monitor at the memorial service Monday showed Nicoletta doing what he loved, making high-speed turns through glades of fresh snow or slashing powder turns far above treeline.

And the gathering heard a mix of laughter and weeping, as friends remembered Nicoletta as an erratic sleeper, a smart alec behind the bar, a hard-charging skier and a good friend.

Aspen skier Ted Davenport brought a message from the group of skiers still in Alaska at the recent competition.

In the note Davenport read, local skiers Kiffor Berg, Jacqui Edgerly, Mark Welgos and Adam Moszynski remembered a recent day in the Alaska backcountry when only Nicoletta had the guts to tackle the treacherous final 100-feet of a steep climb.

“I’m an American; I like to get to the top,” the group remembers Nicoletta yelling as he bootpacked up the 50-degree pitch for a panoramic view.

The group of Aspen skiers still in Alaska recently took a moment to remember Nicoletta with a group run down the face of the competition venue, Davenport said.

“He made skiing look like the coolest thing in the world,” said close friend Kate Olson.

Nicoletta’s death came just one week after local snowboarder Wallace Westfeldt, 22, died after falling from a cliff while on a film shoot in Tonar Bowl near Aspen Highlands.

Westfeldt’s father, Weems, attended Monday’s memorial to Nicoletta.

Nicoletta is survived by his mother, his father, Stephen, and sisters Denise, 24, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Adele, 22, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The family is planning a funeral in Boston on Friday, and friends are collecting remembrances of Nicoletta by e-mail at

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