Skier fatality hits Vail Mountain |

Skier fatality hits Vail Mountain

Tamara Miller

VAIL MOUNTAIN ” A 28-year-old Minnesota man had a fatal accident on Vail Mountain Saturday.

Jacob Vanvalkenburg was skiing on Blue Ox, an expert trail, when he fell down and injured his neck, said County Coroner Kara Bettis. The neck injury was the cause of death, Bettis said, adding that he did not run into anything, even a tree. Her office is not doing an autopsy, she said.

He was not wearing a helmet at the time, said Vail Mountain spokeswoman Jen Brown.

Tim Szurgot, an Eagle-Vail resident, was skiing down Blue Ox just after ski patrollers had taken Vanvalkenburg away.

“We were coming down Blue Ox and there was a (ski patrol sled) laying by a tree on Blue Ox on the west side,” he said. “There was a lot of displaced snow by the trees.”

Later on, Szurgot said he came across the rescuers. Ski patrollers were taking someone down the mountain on a sled. A ski patroller was on a sled next to the man performing CPR, Szurgot said.

“I asked a ski patroller later if he made it,” he said. “She said no.”

Saturday’s accident was the fifth time a person has died on the mountain or as a result of injuries on the mountain this ski season, but only three of those deaths were ruled to be caused by an accident or collision. Saturday was the first day of National Skier Safety Awareness Week.

Michael Combs, 42, died while snowboarding at Vail in December. Bettis ruled that Combs’ death was caused by a seizure disorder. He was the boyfriend of actor Clint Eastwood’s daughter, Allison.

Ashley Stamp, 13, died in December when she collided with a snowmobile while warming up for a ski race. The snowmobile driver was a Vail Resorts employee. The accident is being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office to determine if any criminal charges will be filed.

Francisco Pauly-Brillembourg, 26, hit a tree while snowboarding. Friends of the man, who was from Venezuela, said he died from injuries caused by the accident a few days later.

David John Luttropp of Fort Collins collapsed on Blue Ox while skiing earlier this month. He was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead.

There were 15 skiing related deaths in Colorado last ski season, according to Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade organization representing 24 of the state’s ski areas. The organization defines a skier fatality as one in which a person has died due to a trauma-related collision with another individual, tree, sign, structure, etc., within ski area boundaries during resort operating hours.

The organization does not track health-related deaths, such as from seizures or heart attacks.

Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or

Vail, Colorado

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