Aspen Snowmass Shrine Logo

The Roberto Gasperl Plaque (Snowmass)

On the morning of March 31, 1981 Roberto A. Gasperl, of the Snowmass Ski Patrol, was caught in an avalanche in a chute in the Headwall area of the Hanging Valley Wall at Snowmass.  He was buried, and when finally dug out, he was unconscious, and he was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital.  He never regained consciousness and died early the next morning, April 1, 1981, in the AVH ICU, at the age of 40.  The name of the chute at the time was "Small Chute" but it is now known as "West 2."  Later, a nearby chute that was known at the time as "Candy Ass Chute" was renamed in his honor as simply "Roberto's."  In addition, there is also another chute in the area bearing Roberto's name called "Roberto's Chute" and also known as "Hour Glass" chute; it is the next chute over--skier's left--from "Roberto's."  So there are two runs named for him in this area:  "Roberto's" and "Roberto's Chute."

There is a brass plaque in memory of Roberto mounted near "Roberto's" and "Roberto's Chute."  It is mounted on a rock face near these runs, and the plaque states:

"In Memory Of Our Friend

Roberto A. Gasperl

Born Feb. 22, 1941 Cervinia, Italy

Died In An Avalanche March 31, 1981

Snowmass Colorado

 

The plaque also contains at the bottom the line:  "But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand, and the sound of a voice that is still!" which is from the lyric poem "Break, Break, Break" by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) which he wrote in 1834.  The poem centers on Tennyson's grief over the death of his best friend, Arthur Hallam, a fellow poet.

(Three years to the day later, on March 31, 1984, Aspen Highlands' patrollers Chris Kessler, Tom Snyder and Craig Soddy were killed by an avalanche while conducting control work in the G-Zones of Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands.  The area was being used for helicopter skiing at the time.  See page on this site devoted to plaques to those three:  http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?id=2,52,0,0,1,0)

Many thanks to Vincent Shimp for much detailed information on this plaque and also for the contribution of the the first three photos in the first photo section below.  Many thanks to Eric Obermeyer for the contribution of the last two photos in the first photo section below.

Quoted below is an article ("A Day to Remember") from the Aspen Times of March 31, 2004. https://www.aspentimes.com/news/a-day-to-remember/ 

A Day to Remember  by Allyn Harvey and Steve Benson  March 30, 2004

March 31- it's a day memorialized by the ski patrols at Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Aspen Mountain.

On March 31, 1981 [an earlier version of this article said that the year was 1982; see editor's note at the bottom of the article], Roberto Gasperl of the Snowmass Ski Patrol was killed by an avalanche in a chute near the Hanging Valley Wall. Candy Ass Chute has since been renamed Roberto's to honor him.

March 31, 1984 - Highlands' patrollers Chris Kessler, Tom Snyder and Craig Soddy were killed by an avalanche while conducting control work in the G-Zones of Highland Bowl. The area was being used for helicopter skiing at the time.

Mac Smith, director of ski patrol at Aspen Highlands, said a ceremony will be held today to honor all four men. A wreath will be placed on the monument at Highlands, and patrollers will have lunch together before setting off three bombs as a salute.

Snowmass and Ajax will follow with one-bomb salutes.

In January of this year, French patroller Gerard Croz was killed in a helicopter crash in Chamonix. He had participated in the ski patrol exchange at Aspen Mountain in the 1994-95 season. His passing will be honored today as well.

Stan Tenner, a 29-year veteran of the Snowmass Ski Patrol, said he and Gasperl, along with a few other patrollers, were conducting control work 22 years ago today in the Hanging Valley when the slope fractured above Gasperl and two other patrollers.

The slide struck "Little John" Erspamer and Gasperl.  Erspamer escaped with injuries to his face and leg.

"I heard Little John calling at me to get down there, Roberto was buried," Tenner said. "Roberto tried to ski out of it and didn't make it."

Gasperl was found buried beneath 6 feet of debris, face down with his hand on his radio, strapped to his chest.  He was 40 years old.

Smith said he wants skiers and riders to enjoy Highland Bowl, which has been opened to the pubic due to the hard work and determination of patrollers like Kessler, Snyder and Soddy.

"Give 'em more tracks and enjoy what they did," Smith said.

The three-bomb salute at Highlands is expected to go off at about 2:40 p.m.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the year that Roberto Gasperl was killed, which was 1981.

If you have any photos of or information about this item that you would like to share, please send to AspenShrines@aol.com. 

See this American Avalanche Association page, and scroll down to the "Memorials" section to see this: 

March 31, 1981
Roberto Gasperl
Ski Patroller
Snowmass Ski Area, CO
Avalanche Accident

https://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/awards

Also see the April 1, 1981 article from the Grand Junction (CO) Daily Sentinel newspaper, by James T. Bernath, that is set out below (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page).

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Do you know where Roberto is buried?  If so, please contact the author at AspenShrines@aol.com so that the information can be added to this page.  Thank you.  Also, see this Find A Grave Memorial link for Roberto https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/207691505/roberto-a-gasperl?fbclid=IwAR2EJ7KWvJEvixX1qjnsZ98ULj5E4QA2f82FBloOUtlVgQ_HUsMohpmP0Wk (Thanks to Tim Kovacs).

See this article in the Snowmass Sun newspaper of March 28, 2012, "Many Shrines Honor Tragic Events" by David Wood:  http://www.snowmasssun.com/article/20120328/MISC11/120329986&parentprofile=1039.  (This article is set out in full below at the bottom of this page.) 

For additional photos, including photos of one of his skis, see this Facebook photo album (you do not need to have a Facebook account to view the album):  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.466037063468263.1073741848.100001859201674&type=1&l=4257ee98c5   This ski is mounted on the wall in the Snowmass Ski Patrol shack at the top of High Alpine.  Note the "Leo Gasperl" sticker on Roberto's ski in one of the photos in the Facebook photo album.  See this page for more information on Leo Gasperl:  http://theheritagestudio.com/2013/12/20/leo-gasperl-angel-of-the-sn ow/.

See these 3 pages too:

1. http://www.amazon.com/Leo-Gasperl-Fulvio-Ferrari/ dp/8842207004.

2. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http%3A%2F%2Fde.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FLeo_Gasperl&prev=%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dleo%2Bgasperl%2Bwikipedia%26biw%3D1 143%26bih%3D491.

3. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=http%3A%2F%2Farchiviostorico.corriere.it%2F1997%2Fmarzo%2F26%2FAddio_Leo_Gasperl_una_vita_co_0_97032612846.shtml&prev=%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dleo%2Bgasperl%2Bcervinia% 26biw%3D1143%26bih%3D491.

Also, see this video: http://vimeo.com/30906672.

This plaque is covered in the book, "Sanctuaries in the Snow--The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass."  The book may be purchased on this page on this site:  http://www.aspensnowmassshrines.com/index.php?The-Book
 
 

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Click on images to enlarge.

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Below is a report that appeared in "The Snowy Torrent -- Avalanche Accidents in the United States 1980-86" by Nick Logan and Dale Atkins.  Thanks very much to Kathy Sheldon for giving this material to the author.  It is report 81-17, March 31, 1981, "Snowmass Ski Area, Colorado.  2 ski patrollers caught and buried, 1 killed."  There are 8 images below; click on them to enlarge them.

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Below is an article about the Roberto Gasperl plaque by David Wood that appeared in the Snowmass Sun newspaper.

Many shrines honor tragic events

David Wood

Snowmass Sun, March 28, 2012

 

Many Shrines honor people who were the unfortunate victims of tragic events. The shrine for Roberto A. Gasperl at Snowmass and the shrine for Chris Kessler, Tom Snyder and Craig Soddy at Aspen Highlands are two of those shrines.

On March 31, 1981 Roberto A. Gasperl of the Snowmass Ski Patrol was killed, at the age of 40. He was caught in an avalanche while in a chute in the headwall area of the Hanging Valley Wall at Snowmass ski area. The name of the chute at the time was “Small Chute”, but it is now known as “West 2.”

Later, a nearby chute that was known at the time as “Candy Ass Chute” was renamed in his honor as simply “Roberto's.” There is another chute in the area bearing Roberto's name called “Roberto's Chute” and also known as “Hour Glass” chute; it is the next chute over — skier's left — from “Roberto's.”

There is a brass plaque in memory of Roberto mounted near “Roberto's” and “Roberto's Chute.” It's mounted on a rock face near these runs, and the plaque contains the line: “But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand, and the sound of a voice that is still,” which is a line from the poem “Break, Break, Break” written in 1834 by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). The poem focuses on Tennyson's grief over the death of his best friend, and fellow poet, Arthur Hallam.

Three years to the day after Gasperl's death, on March 31, 1984, Aspen Highlands' patrollers Chris Kessler, Tom Snyder and Craig Soddy were killed in an avalanche while conducting control work in the G-Zones of Highland Bowl. The area was being used for helicopter skiing at the time.

They first set off some explosive charges near the top of the bowl, but nothing happened. Then, the three skied closer to the middle of the bowl and threw more bombs, triggering a slide below them. Before they could escape, a gigantic avalanche fell from above.

A monument in their memory was erected near the top of the Loge Peak lift above the ski runs Kessler's Bowl, Snyder's Ridge, and Soddbuster. A line on one of the plaques in this monument reads as follows: “It is always sad when someone dies in an avalanche. It is sadder yet, when someone dies making it safe for others.”

There are also memorial plaques dedicated to these three men inside the Merry-Go-Round on Aspen Highlands and inside Bonnie's on Aspen Mountain.

David Wood (AspenShrines@aol.com) is the author of the best-selling book about the Aspen shrines, Sanctuaries in the Snow “The Shrines and Memorials of Aspen/Snowmass.” He donates all of his profits from book sales to a local charity, The Trashmasters Scholarship Fund. The book can be purchased in Snowmass Village at Snowmass Sports, the Stew Pot, Sundance Liquor and Gifts, the Village Market, and 81615, as well as at various locations in Aspen.

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See the article below that appeared in the April 1, 1981 issue of the Daily Sentinel newspaper of Grand Junction, CO.  The article does not state the date of the avalanche, but does state, in the first paragraph, that the accident occurred on a Tuesday, and March 31, 1981, was a Tuesday.  In the second paragraph it says he died "today" which was April 1, 1981.