Skier died doing what he loved

J.K. Perry

VAIL A dozen locals gathered upon Loveland’s slopes Wednesday to honor friend Matt Horton, who died Tuesday during a backcountry ski trip near Vail Pass.”That’s what he would want us to do – that’s how big a part of his life skiing was,” Matt “Tooth” Toth said on the phone while driving to Loveland. The two worked together at Vail Ski Tech in Lionshead.Horton, 32, died hiking Shrine Ridge west of Vail Pass with friend Beau Jacobs.The morning began without incident, Jacobs said. The two skinned up and ate lunch and drank water before ascending the ridge’s main pitch.Jacobs went first. He lost sight of Horton and twice climbed higher to get a better view. Jacobs yelled down, and hearing no answer, he skied down to find Horton. He lay face down in the snow, dead.”He had already lost color and was getting cold,” Jacobs said.Jacobs performed CPR for an hour until paramedics arrived in a helicopter and pronounced his friend dead.”If he knew he was going to die that’s how he would want it to be – he had his ski boots on,” said Craig Arford, Horton’s friend and boss at Vail Ski Tech.Horton likely died of natural causes, although the exact cause won’t be known until an autopsy is performed this morning, said Summit County Coroner Joanne Richardson.By all accounts, Horton was in good health.”I’ve been hiking with him for awhile and he’s always been in front of me,” Toth said.Toth and Horton met 10 years ago and worked together at Vail Ski Tech. The two actively began backcountry skiing four to five years ago. They often searched in the summer for new areas to ski the following winter.”Him and I pretty much got out there as much as we could,” Toth said.The two received local fame for their exploits in a 2003 newspaper article titled “Addicted to skiing.” The story chronicled Horton and Toth’s ski trips to Mt. Massive and the Tenmile and Gore ranges.”I remember going up the lift at Vail and looking across at the Gore Range and saying, ‘Wow, how do I get up there?'” Horton had said. “It’s really like going out and playing. It’s actually easier in the winter because you can wear your gear instead of carrying it. You get out your ax and crampons and go.”Horton grew up in Virginia. He went to college at Colorado State University for less than a year and moved to Vail to be near the mountains.”I wouldn’t say he was an extremist,” Jacobs said. “He lived for the day, lived for the moment.”Funeral arrangements are still pending.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or, Colorado

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