Friends, family, colleagues gather to honor Paul Allen Cuthbertson in Vail

Paul Allen Cuthbertson's personal effects are displayed on a table as his friends and family gather at the 21-year-old Vail local's memorial on Thursday, June 13.

VAIL – A cross section of the community gathered to pay their respects to the family of Paul Allen Cuthbertson on Thursday.

Cuthbertson died on May 19, a day after his 21st birthday, after suffering injuries while skiing and hiking on New York Mountain in Eagle County. He was remembered as a mountain sports athlete with a zeal for life who internalized the phrase “live for those who cannot” after losing his sister at a young age.

Longtime builders and developers, educators, and members of the ski racing community were in attendance on Thursday. R.A. Nelson founder Chupa Nelson, World Cup ski racer River Radamus, and State Sen. Kerry Donovan were a few of the most recognizable faces.

Donovan attended as a former advisor of Cuthbertson’s at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, where he attended high school, graduating in 2016. Cuthbertson was chosen to speak at the 2016 graduation; in his speech he honored teacher Mike Kimmel through repetition of the phrase “there was never a day where we did not learn something new in Mr. Kimmel’s class.”

On Thursday, Kimmel – through a speech delivered by Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy science teacher Sam Bennett – said Cuthbertson was a deep thinker who longed for a better understanding of time and space.

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“It never seemed like (Cuthbertson) worked a class for the sake of completion,” said Kimmel, as recounted by Bennett.

Wiz kid

Cuthbertson’s curious nature was the subject of fond reflection by many on Thursday.

“(Cuthbertson) was more than smart, he was clever,” said former Ski & Snowboard Club Vail executive director Aldo Radamus. “He figured things out; he sought to understand things. But he didn’t worry about having to validate that understanding through things like schoolwork and tests and things like that. There was no need to validate that to others; he just wanted to understand.”

Bennett said Cuthbertson was frequently “in deep thought about solutions to some problem too complex for his peers, or even the teachers.”

Cuthbertson’s deep thinking, scattered behavior and messy hair gave him a “wiz-kid persona among his peers,” Bennett added. 

‘He was fearless’

In delivering a speech on behalf of Cuthbertson’s peers, former U.S. Ski Team member Florian Szwebel said Cuthbertson thrived when he was embracing the unknown.

“He was a sure call whenever we were planning any kind of adventure,” Szwebel said. “You could always count on him to come with a well researched plan, then abandon that plan.”

Szwebel said Cuthbertson’s fearlessness carried over into the social realm of life, as well.

“He could befriend strangers and make them feel like they’ve known each other their whole lives,” Szwebel said. “I never met someone who could so quickly find a fast friend.”

Cuthbertson’s confidence in social situations helped him on the job, as well, said Matt Anderson with RA Nelson LLC.

“He began to impress me the first time he firmly shook my hand, looked me directly in the eyes and introduced himself,” Anderson said. “His solution-based approach and constant positive attitude were priceless assets to both our projects and our lives. I still grin when I think about Paul’s quiet confidence, taking large issues head on with men over twice his age on construction sites. He was fearless, and I’m grateful to know that a person with such character has been able to accomplish so much in such a small amount of time. He may have been cheated with a short life, but I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t feel that way.”

Cuthbertson’s friends and family have started a foundation to support mountain youth who have a passion for life and a dedication to achieving excellence in their pursuits. You can donate at or at any Alpine Bank location.

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