Skier who died after hitting tree at Keystone Resort ID’ed by coroner

Elk Run, an intermediate run at Keystone Ski Resort. A snowboarder died after hitting a tree in the area on Sunday afternoon.
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The skier who died after hitting a tree at Keystone Ski Resort Sunday afternoon was 32-year-old Leon Harding Christopher III of Raleigh, N.C., the Summit County Coroner’s Office confirmed Monday afternoon. Christopher’s death was the second at Keystone so far this season and the third ski area death statewide.

Christopher hit the tree at around 12:50 p.m. while skiing on Elk Run, an intermediate trail serviced by the Outback Express Lift, Summit County Sheriff’s Office sergeant Mark Watson said. Keystone Ski Patrol attempted CPR and then transported Christopher to St. Anthony Keystone Medical Clinic.

Christopher was pronounced dead at the clinic at 1:49 p.m., the coroner’s office said. His death was deemed accidental and caused by blunt force trauma to the head. He had been wearing a helmet.

“Keystone Resort, Keystone Ski Patrol and the entire Vail Resorts family extend our deepest sympathy and support to our guest’s family and friends,” Keystone Resort vice president and general manager Geoff Buchheister said in a prepared statement.

Watson said that Christopher is thought to have been skiing alone at the time of the accident but was on vacation with his family. There were several witnesses to the collision, including some who saw it from the chairlift, but sheriff’s office investigators haven’t interviewed them yet. Watson said he expected to have more details by Wednesday.

“We have some people that saw from above, so I’m hoping we get somebody who could see from below as they were coming up the chair that would help us corroborate and understand what exactly happened,” Watson said.

Christopher was one of two mountain fatalities on Sunday. Gabriel Wright, 47, died near Telluride while snowboarding in the Bear Creek backcountry area after possibly hitting a rock in shallow snow at high speed, the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office said.

Wright, a longtime local, was riding with two friends when he got separated, the Denver Post reported. His friends found him unresponsive and gave CPR for roughly 30 minutes. A search and rescue crew later arrived by helicopter to remove his body.

Christopher was at least the third in-bounds fatality this season. On Dec. 5, 21-year-old Nathan Enright of Libertyville, Illinois died several days after losing control and hitting a tree while snowboarding at Keystone. The coroner’s office said Enright wasn’t wearing a helmet.

On Dec. 2, the same day as Enright’s accident, 23-year-old Colin Zak died after snowboarding into a tree at Monarch Ski Area. He was wearing a helmet, Chaffee County authorities said.

A spokesman for the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA confirmed on Monday that Zak’s death was the only fatality at a member mountain so far this season. CSCUSA represents all major ski areas in Colorado except Keystone and other Vail Resorts-owned mountains.


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