Avon woman dies skiing at Beaver Creek
Tracy Simpson of Avon was pronounced dead at the Vail Valley Medical Center shortly after 1 p.m.
Eagle County Coroner Donna Barnes said Simpson suffered a “fracture at the base of the skull” and was in cardiac arrest when she arrived at the hospital.
“(Paramedics) tried to resuscitate her several times, because she was so young,” Barnes said Monday evening. “We think she suffered a basal skull fracture, but we won’t know for sure until the autopsy,” Barnes said, adding that a fracture at the back of the neck, like the one suffered by Simpson, is caused “when the head is suddenly thrown back, like in a car collision.”
“Sometimes they are fatal and sometimes they are not,” Barnes said.
Simpson, described to deputy coroner Kara Bettis as “a very good skier and an aggressive skier,” was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
Eagle County Detective Sergeant Mike McWilliam said ski patrolmen responded to the scene near the Bachelor Gulch Express lift, or Chair 16, at 12:39 p.m. Apparently Simpson, who had been skiing with her husband all morning, was out of his sight just prior to the accident.
They were skiing down Bucksaw, a beginner’s run leading from the top of the Bachelor Gulch Express to the new Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch. The run was groomed at the time of the accident, McWilliam said.
“My understanding is that no one saw her hitting the tree,” he said.
Simpson, who stood about 5 foot, 6 inches and weighed about 110 pounds, was found “leaning up against a tree on the edge of the run.”
McWilliam said Simpson was rushed down the mountain, then transported by ambulance to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 1:34 p.m. Bettis said Simpson’s husband was at her side.
Bettis refused to release the husband’s name or any further details. Simpson’s parents, who live in Phoenix, were notified Monday afternoon, she said.
An autopsy to determine the exact cause of death will be performed today or Wednesday. In accordance with the dead woman’s wishes, hospital staff Monday removed her corneas, skin and other tissue, to be donated to others. “We can’t use her organs, only tissue, because she did not have a beating heart when she arrived at the hospital,” Barnes said.
According to a brief press release issued by Beaver Creek Resort Monday, “the Vail Resorts family extend our deepest sympathy and support to the family and friends of the young woman.”
Last winter, 16 skiers died on Colorado slopes, a record dating back to 1963 and the inception of Colorado Ski Country USA, which keeps track of skiing-related fatalities. Ten of those 16 people suffered a fatal injury after skiing into trees. Beyond that common thread, however, ski area officials say there’s little that appears to link the deaths. Ski Country USA does not track health-related deaths, or fatalities that occurred outside ski area boundaries. Ages of the victims ranged from 7 to 65; they were skiing on beginner to expert runs. Most were not wearing helmets, but at least one man – who died of head injuries – was wearing one.
Six of the 16 deaths last winter occurred at Vail Resorts-owned ski areas, among them one at Vail, two at Breckenridge and three at Keystone. The last skier to die on Beaver Creek Mountain, however, was in the spring of 2000.
This winter, Simpson is the second victim of a skiing or snowboarding accident on Colorado’s slopes. On Nov. 10, at Loveland Ski Area, ski patrollers found a 23-year-old Aurora man dead on the slopes, entangled in a boundary marker rope,
Simpson’s is the sixth fatality, however, at Colorado ski areas since ski resorts opened last month. On Nov. 14, a 65-year-old Denver man died of an apparent heart attack at Keystone, and 10 days later, a Winter Park employee died of a seizure after falling off a chairlift. On Nov. 26, a Keystone employee, 28, drowned in a snowmaking shelter; and Thursday, a 22-year-old Air Force Academy cadet died of an apparent heart attack climbing in Keystone’s Outback area.
Jane Stebbins and Jane Reuters of the Summit Daily News contributed to this report. Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at email@example.com.