A dislodged rock hit University of Colorado ski team member Spencer James Nelson in the head on Saturday, knocking him 600 feet down Bell Chords couloir to his death. He was 20.
Nelson, who was wearing a helmet, was descending from a climb of a 14,000-foot peak, Maroon Bells, near Aspen with seven other climbers.
The University of Colorado skier was knocked from the view of the other climbers. Two off-duty rescue workers, one of which was a paramedic and registered nurse, were hiking nearby and reached Nelson, staying until rescue crews arrived. Helicopter rescue was impossible in the couloir, forcing rescue teams to enter above the area. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Nelson, of Winter Park, CO helped CU’s ski team to a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships this past winter.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” CU ski coach Richard Rokos said. “For everybody involved – parents, friends, his team, coaches, anybody who had ever met him – it’s a terrible waste of life, talent and ambition.”
He finished his freshman year with nine top-20 performances and finished 21st in the giant slalom and 23rd in the slalom at the NCAA Championships. Nelson was honored with the Lucie Hanusova Memorial Award, given to those who overcome adversity and challenges with smiles and enthusiasm. After the season, he was honored by Colorado Ski Country USA in its Double Diamond Awards as male all-star athlete of the year.