Nicholas Blake Davidson, a Snowmass Village resident, was killed in an avalanche in the general vicinity of Rayburn's Chute at Snowmass on December 21, 2006. Rayburn's Chute is a small rock lined chute between the Upper Ladder and Lower Ladder area of the Wall and is named after Don Rayburn (*See note on Rayburn's Chute below.) Rayburn's Chute is not shown on the trail map, but there are signs there that say "Rayburn's Chute" and also "Danger: Cliffs." A photo of those two signs is below. Along the left side of Rayburn's Chute is a cliff called Medusa or Superfly.
Davidson was 25 years old. An Aspen Daily News article by Troy Hooper (quoted below) tells the story. Three more newspaper articles about his death are also quoted below: An Aspen Times article of December 28, 2006, a Summit Daily News article of December 22, 2006, and an Aspen Times article of December 22, 2006. Finally, also quoted below is an Aspen Daily News article of March 4, 2007 regarding a sushi roll named after Blake by the Kenichi restaurant. (Thanks to Vincent Shimp for telling the author of this shrine and supplying much information and photos, and to John Dresser for mentioning the "Blake Roll" story to the author.) See these articles below, in the section following the photos.
The Nicholas Blake Davidson Shrine is on Snowmass. It consists of a built structure, several swings hung by ropes from beams, a pair of crossed skis, a sign that says "Blake D. Skis With Me, High Society" and other items.
If you have any photos of or information about this item that you would like to share for use on this page, please send to the author at [email protected].
Avalanche claims expert skier
Writer: Troy Hooper--Aspen Daily News--December 21, 2006
A semi-professional skier was killed in a closed section of Snowmass Ski Area on Thursday after he apparently triggered an avalanche within the resort boundary, the Aspen Skiing Co. said.
Snowmass Village resident Nicholas Blake Davidson, 25, was caught in an avalanche 40 yards long and 26 yards wide in the general vicinity of Rayburn's run, an extreme-skiing area marked by cliffs and gullies that has yet to open this season in Hanging Valley, which only caters to experts. The fracture line was approximately 4 feet deep, according to preliminary reports.
Jeremy Rungi, a founder of High Society Freeride Co., was among the last people to ski with Davidson. He said Davidson, he and two other riders entered an open section of Hanging Valley, in the area of West 1, before separating. Davidson was a team member of High Society, an Aspen-based upstart ski manufacturer that also sponsors up-and-coming athletes.
"My last run with him was up in the headwall right before it happened," Rungi said. "He dropped a 30-foot cliff, nailed the landing and we both raised our ski poles in the air. ... He was the best skier around. He could ski big mountains, ski the park and he was a good friend to everyone and very polite. It sounds cliché but he was definitely a great guy. I'm in shock."
But there appears to be confusion pertaining to what actually happened. SkiCo reported that Davidson was skiing in a closed area. But at least one skier said she didn't see any ropes or closed signs.
An investigation into the death was still under way Thursday night but a coroner's report confirmed Davidson died after getting caught in a slide that is believed to have started at 1 p.m. A ski patroller spotted the avalanche from the Elk Camp lift and response was immediate, according to SkiCo, which dispatched search crews and an avalanche dog. Davidson was located at 1:32 p.m. and pronounced dead at the scene at 1:59 p.m., officials said.
Many residents in the Roaring Fork Valley and elsewhere are mourning Davidson's death.
"Not only was he an incredible skier and athlete, he was just an all-around good guy," said friend Mike Nakagawa. "He was the kind of person to come say hello no matter who he was with. It's a tragic accident. Skiing is what he lived for. He died doing what he loved."
Davidson had been with High Society since its inception a couple of years ago and he recently skied in a photo shoot for Obermeyer Skiwear. Davidson had also been also working as a sushi chef in training at Kenichi restaurant and at Othello's Rail Riding Hood before that.
Dale Atkins, a Boulder-based avalanche safety consultant, said there have been 451 avalanche deaths in the United States over the last 20 years. He said about 6 percent of them, or exactly 28, were skiers or snowboarders killed skiing closed sections of in-bounds terrain.
"The chances of an avalanche fatality in open terrain is incredibly remote but once someone ventures into a closed area the fatality rate for avalanches increase more than 800 percent," said Atkins, noting the importance of skiing with a partner and maintaining visual contact. "The ropes and signs are up for a reason. They are there to keep people safe. In general terms, this accident is an important reminder why it's important not to duck ropes or ignore closed signs."
SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle said there were no eyewitnesses to the fatality and there is no evidence at this time to determine whether Davidson knowingly entered a closed area. He said avalanche work in the area has been ongoing. Snow has been bountiful in Aspen and Snowmass this week. In the 48 hours prior to the slide, SkiCo reported about 16 new inches fell in the area.
Published on Aspen Daily News Online (http://www.aspendailynews.com)
Nicholas 'Blake' Davidson
Aspen Times December 28, 2006
Aspen, CO Colorado
Nicholas "Blake" Davidson, 25, died Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006, in an avalanche in the Lower Ladder section of Hanging Valley Wall at Snowmass Ski Area.
Born Feb. 17, 1981, in Spokane, Wash., Blake lived on and off in both Washington state and the Roaring Fork Valley, and returned permanently to the Aspen area in 1999 to pursue his dream of skiing. He was sponsored by High Society, AspenSnowmass and Obermeyer, and worked as a sushi chef at Kenichi in Aspen. He recently went to Austin, Texas, to further his professional knowledge and, as usual, befriended those with whom he came into contact.
Blake's ability to make those around him feel special was legendary; his humility, ever-present crooked smile and compassion will remain with us always. He was an incredible son, brother, homie and skier. He died doing what he loved and we are all so proud to have had him in our lives. He shined so brightly here on earth, and shines even brighter from where he plays now. We love you man! Ski BIG or go home.
He is survived by his dad, Bruce Davidson; mom, Nikki Angelo; brother, Jeremy (38); sister Brittany (27); nephews and niece, Cade (7), Benjamin Blake (2) and Amara (4).
Aspen skier death ruled asphyixa
Summit Daily News--December 22, 2006
BY JOHN COLSON and NATE PETERSON, pitkin county correspondents
ASPEN — The 25-year-old man killed Thursday in an avalanche at Snowmass Ski Area died of asphyxia, according to Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Scott Thompson.
An autopsy was performed on Nicholas Blake Davidson to determine if he suffocated or suffered any traumatic injuries when he was swept away by the slide. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Robert Kurtzman, a forensic pathologist at Community Hospital in Grand Junction.
Thompson said the asphyxia was caused by snow blocking Davidson’s airways. Davidson was skiing in the Lower Ladder section of the Hanging Valley Wall. He was jumping off cliffs when the avalanche occurred at about 1:10 p.m. His body was found at about 1:30 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:59 p.m.
The Ladder area is within the Snowmass Ski Area boundary, but it was closed at the time of the accident, according to the Aspen Skiing Co. A Skico spokesman said the area was clearly marked as closed.
The Aspen Skiing Co. released a statement Friday evening that said a thorough investigation by its ski patrol produced “indisputable” evidence that the tragic accident occurred in a closed area within the ski area.
“The evidence shows that after skiing past the closed sign at the entrance to Rayburn’s Chute, two sets of tracks lead into the chute 20 and 35 feet below the sign. These are the only tracks in Rayburn’s Chute,” the statement said.
“After traversing a rocky cliff band, the skiers halted, Davidson launched from a knoll in the closed area, landing below the cliffs also in a closed area,” the statement continued. “The resulting avalanche ran down the chute, into an open area where additional ski tracks could be seen. These tracks were in an open area accessed by traversing from Lower Ladder.
“This is an unfortunate and tragic accident that reminds us all to obey all closures posted by the ski patrol,” the statement said.
The Skico said its staff was “truly saddened by this incident and will do everything we can to help [Davidson’s] family through these trying times.”
Davidson, who preferred to be called Blake, had lived on and off in the Roaring Fork Valley region since the mid-1990s, when he moved to Colorado from Washington state to live with his father in Rifle, according to one close friend.
People he met in the Aspen area continue to grapple with his sudden loss.
Aspen native Alex Cassatt, 26, met Davidson 11 years ago when Cassatt was a freshman at Aspen High School, where Davidson attended for a year before moving back to Washington to rejoin his mother.
Cassatt, speaking from Seattle, Washington, said he reconnected with Davidson in 2000 in Aspen after Davidson had decided to come back to town to pursue his skiing dreams. Cassatt, who became general manager of the old Charcuterie in downtown Aspen, hired Davidson to work there.
“We probably hung out every day for two years,” Cassatt recalled, skiing together occasionally but mostly hanging out at night with a group of friends, listening to music and throwing periodic parties.
Cassatt was spinning records around town at the time, he said, and Davidson “would get me to go spin on top of the mountain and stuff. He was always encouraging me. He was a great friend.”
Both Cassatt and Davidson moved around for a while after 2002. Cassatt bounced between Aspen and Boulder before settling in Seattle, and Davidson spent some summers skiing in New Zealand, but they kept in touch, Cassatt said.
“When he was still in Aspen and I was in Boulder, he’d come down and hang out for a weekend,” Cassatt recalled, and even since he moved to Seattle he said Davidson would “just call me to check in and catch up” periodically. They last talked about a month ago, Cassatt said, adding that Davidson was excited about his new job at Kenichi, where he was learning to be a sushi chef.
“He sounded great,” Cassatt remarked. “I just don’t know what to think about it, now that he’s gone. I’m still numb from it.”
Reporter Scott Condon contributed to this report. John Colson can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
Also, see this Aspen Times article of December 22, 2006: quoted below.
Avalanche kills skier at Snowmass
Local pro skier dies in Lower Ladder section
Scott Condon and Joel Stonington
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Friday, December 22, 2006
SNOWMASS — Nicholas Blake Davidson, 25, was killed Thursday afternoon in an avalanche on a closed section of Hanging Valley Wall at Snowmass Ski Area.
Davidson, a native of Washington state who lived in Lazy Glen, was a pro skier.
According to news reports, Davidson, who used the first name Blake, had placed well in big-air and extreme-skiing competitions. Co-workers at Kenichi in Aspen remembered him as caring and giving.
"He was the man, pretty much," said Travis Redd of Missouri Heights, one of Davidson's best friends. "I don't know a single person that didn't enjoy Blake's company. He made people feel like he cared about them."
Davidson was skiing in the lower Ladders section of the Wall around 1:10 p.m. when the avalanche occurred, according to the Skico. Davidson jumped from a cliff band and got caught in the avalanche, which carried into an area with trees, said Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Scott Thompson.
Mike Hogan of Snowmass was among a group of skiers who found Davidson long before ski patrol got to the scene. He said the avalanche occurred below Rayburns Chute, a closed run that led out into a wide field.
"No rope, no closed signs," Hogan said. "There was one on the top of Rayburns Chute, but we stayed skier's left of it and then traversed right. It was very easily accessible to anybody. We were there yesterday doing the exact same stuff."
Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said the run was closed and well-marked, and ski patrolmen investigated the accident Thursday, concluding that the run was clearly closed.
"[Davidson] said there was a cool line to ski, and we followed him but stopped to go to the bathroom," Hogan said. "I was about 30 seconds behind him."
Davidson was skiing with one other person, who called for help when the slide happened, and Hogan's group skied down to start searching in an avalanche he described as a 4-foot slab 50 feet wide and 100 to 150 feet long.
"It went all the way to the ground; there were grass and bushes showing," Hogan said. "It was definitely the biggest slide I've ever seen in an in-bounds area. We were probing, using skis, branches, digging holes throughout the whole slide area."
According to Skico, a patrolman saw the bare ground from the Elk Camp lift and called headquarters at 1:10 p.m., the same time patrol received civilian calls. Skico said Davidson was found at 1:32 p.m. and showed no vital signs at the time. He was pronounced dead on the scene at 1:59 p.m.
Hogan said that patrol arrived on the scene after Davidson was found, roughly 20 minutes after the slide.
"As soon as we found him, we were digging him out, trying to get snow out of his mouth," Hogan said. "That's when patrol took over. He was on his side almost to his stomach, so we couldn't do CPR. He looked like he pretty much suffocated. His face and lips were completely blue."
Thompson, however, said Davidson was wearing a helmet and that the cause of death "wasn't obvious." An autopsy is scheduled for today in Grand Junction to determine if he died of trauma or suffocation.
Team Aspen/Snowmass, a group of area athletes such as Gretchen Bleiler, Chris Klug and Chris Davenport, recently added Davidson to its roster.
"It's a really terrible tragedy," Davenport said. "It's one of those reminders that we face. Yes, things are dangerous out there."
By Thursday afternoon, numerous friends of Davidson had posted comments on his MySpace page.
"I love you ..." a friend wrote, "don't be gone ... call me and tell me this isn't true."
Another friend wrote, "Blake, I don't know what to really say or think right now. I just want you to know that I will always remember and cherish the times we spent together."
The Aspen Times was unable to reach family members for comment, though friends said Davidson's father lives in Glenwood Springs and his sister lives in Seattle.
<i>Joel Stonington's e-mail address is [email protected]
Scott Condon's e-mail address is [email protected]
Sushi roll memorializes fallen skier
Writer: Troy Hooper--March 4, 2007--Aspen Daily News
Blake Davidson's legacy is on a roll.
Kenichi restaurant recently named a sushi roll in memory of Davidson, who was killed in an avalanche at Snowmass Ski Area in December, three months before his 26th birthday. A semiprofessional skier, Davidson was also an up-and-coming sushi chef at Kenichi. Above all, Davidson was a great guy who genuinely cared for people.
"He was a sushi chef here, he was a good friend to everyone and he touched all of our lives," the restaurant's general manager Andy Hopp said on Friday. "We thought it was the right thing to do to honor his memory."
The sushi roll was actually Davidson's creation. It was only listed on the menu just a few weeks ago, but before his death customers were increasingly requesting the tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado roll served inside out and topped with spicy tuna and spicy teriyaki. Davidson served the roll as a special to patrons seeking something spicy and slightly out of the norm. Its delectability traveled word of mouth. Now it's listed on the top of the sushi menu as the "Blake Roll" — an $18 treat.
"The roll showed the progress he made as a sushi chef," Hopp said.
Davidson had worked at the restaurant for about 1 1/2 years.
In addition to the Aspen eatery, the "Blake Roll" will also be added to Kenichi menus in Austin and Dallas, Texas, and two others in Hawaii. The Dallas restaurant and the second one in Hawaii are slated to open in April. Kenichi, named after co-owner Ken Kenichi, debuted in Aspen in 1991 and has expanded nationally in recent years.
Davidson's coworkers are planning on setting up an exhibit in the Aspen restaurant where pictures of Davidson and his sushi knives will be on display. They are also looking into funding a sculpture of Davidson to be stationed either in the restaurant or somewhere downtown. A fundraiser for the project will be held this spring.
Until then, a small shrine consisting of a burning candle and a photo of Davidson in front of Kenichi's sushi bar will continue to memorialize the fallen skier. The candle was lit the day Davidson died.
Nicholas Blake Davidson — whose friends called him by his middle name — was born in Spokane, Wash., and split his time between the Roaring Fork Valley and Washington until moving to the Aspen area permanently in 1999. An expert skier, he was sponsored by High Society, the Aspen Skiing Co. and Obermeyer Skiwear. He lived in Snowmass.
Davidson died Dec. 21 in a snow slide within the Snowmass Ski Area's boundaries in an extreme area that was closed.
[email protected] Published on Aspen Daily News Online (http://www.aspendailynews.com)
The article below mentions the Davidson Shrine and was written by David Wood for the Snowmass Sun newspaper.
Snowmass memorial shrines
Snowmass Sun, March 21, 2012
After Aspen Mountain, Snowmass has the most on-mountain shrines and memorials of the four Aspen/Snowmass mountains.
The Harland Adams' shrine
Harland Adams was a longtime local who died at age 73 on Nov. 28, 2005. In 1983, the Snowmass ski run “Village Bound” was renamed after him and became “Adams' Avenue,” as a result of a $40,000 charitable donation he made to the Aspen Foundation.
He was a grandson of Col. Harland Sanders (Col. Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken-KFC) and was on the board of directors of the company for a time. There is a brass plaque mounted on a tree on Adams' Avenue dedicated to him, which reads: “In Loving Memory of Harland Morrison Adams 1932-2005, Life was finger licking good, I had a great time.” Below the plaque is a laminated photo of him, in which he appears to be licking his fingers. The Aspen Skiing Co. spells the name of the run three different ways on its on-mountain signs: “Adams Avenue,” “Adams' Avenue,” and “Adam's Avenue.” On the trail map it is shown as “Adams' Avenue.”
Nicholas Blake Davidson's Shrine
Nicholas Blake Davidson was a Snowmass Village resident who was killed in an avalanche in the general vicinity of Rayburn's Chute on Snowmass on Dec. 21, 2006, at the age of 25. His memorial shrine is located within a couple of hundred yards of where the avalanche occurred, and consists of a built structure, several swings hung by ropes from beams, a pair of crossed skis, a sign that says “Blake D. Skis With Me, High Society” and many other items. There is also a bench nearby with the phrase “In memory of Blake Davidson, Freedom is a Word Not Heard From Those That Own It,” carved in the seat-back. This is the last quote he posted on his Myspace page, and it is also part of the lyrics from a song called “My Cadillac” by Atmosphere, one of his favorite hip-hop groups. After his death, the Kenichi restaurant in Aspen named a sushi roll after him.
The shrine for Paul Krauss
Paul Krauss has two memorial benches at Snowmass. One is on the Snowmass Mall and is made of red snowboards and has a plaque that states: “In memory of Paul Krauss. He brought snowboarding to Snowmass and snowboarders to Burnt Mountain. Enjoy your ride with Pablo.” The other bench is near the top of Burnt Mountain and has a brass plaque on it which states: “Paul L. Krauss, Snowboard Pioneer, 1963-1999.”
David Wood ([email protected]) 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.