Sanctuaries in the Snow

The Nicholas Blake Davidson Shrine (Snowmass)

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.

Many thanks to Vincent Shimp for taking the the first five photos shown below, which show different views of the shrine, the Rayburn's Chute sign, and a "Blake" sticker which is visible on the "Danger:  Cliffs" sign above the Rayburn's sign.  (*A note on Rayburn's Chute:  Rayburn's Chute was named after Don Rayburn.  Rayburn was a member of the ski patrol, was an early guide for snowcat tours on Snowmass, and was one of the early planners at Snowmass.  He ran a rooming house in Aspen called the Fabulous Garret, and he named Garret Gulch and Garret Peak after this rooming house.  See pages 111 and 134 of Neal Beidleman's 2006 book, Aspen Ski and Snowboard Guide.

Many thanks to Jedidiah Goodwin (one of Blake's good friends) for the final three photos shown below, which are of a bench in the area that is dedicated to the memory of Blake.  On the seat-back of the bench it states:  "In memory of Blake Davidson" and then below that is a quote, "Freedom is a Word Not Heard From Those That Own It."  This is the last quote Blake put up on his Myspace page, and it is also part of the lyrics from a song called "My Cadillac" by Atmosphere, one of Blake's favorite hip hop groups.

See this video, "A Tribute to Blake D" by Drew Lederer:

See this video, "A tribute to Blake Davidson" by Shades Of Gray Productions:


See this article by David Wood in the Snowmass Sun newspaper issue of March 21, 2012, "Snowmass Memorial Shrines."  This article is set out in full below at the bottom of the page.

For even more photos of this Shrine, see this Facebook photo album (you do not need to have a Facebook account in order to view the album):

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].

This shrine 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:


Click on images to enlarge.


Avalanche claims expert skier 

Writer:  Troy Hooper--Aspen Daily News--December 21, 2006

Nicholas 'Blake' Davidson

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.

Skico reaction
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.”

Friends remember
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].</i>


The article below mentions the Davidson Shrine and was written by David Wood for the Snowmass Sun newspaper.



Snowmass memorial shrines
David Wood
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.



Sanctuaries in the Snow

The Shrines of Aspen/Snowmass (Including Plaques, Memorials, Displays and miscellaneous items) All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission from the author. For any such permission contact [email protected]

  • David C. Wood
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