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.