Sanctuaries in the Snow

The Rich Kerr Shrine (Aspen Highlands)

Rich Kerr died in an avalanche in Canada on January 8, 2004. His Shrine is on Aspen Highlands. It consists of his skis and boots, a cow bell, and a brass plaque containing his likeness. There is a beautiful view from the shrine.

See this January 12, 2004 Aspen Times article by Naomi Havlen, Aspen Times Staff Writer:, "Canadian slide kills local." An Aspen man was killed in an avalanche while skiing in the backcountry near Revelstoke, British Columbia, on Thursday.  Richard Theodore Kerr, 46, was head of maintenance at the Hunter Creek Condominiums.  He was vacationing in the Mount Justin-Mount Devine area in Canada when the avalanche occurred.  According to a press release from the Royal Canadian Mountain Police, all 10 skiers on the trip were from Colorado, and they were with two area guides.  The group was skiing 500 yards from the backcountry lodge where they had been staying when the slide, about 80 yards wide, swept Kerr down the mountain.  The release says Kerr struck a tree during the avalanche and suffered severe injuries. As a doctor in the group attempted to resuscitate him, other skiers contacted Revelstoke rescue personnel, and a helicopter and guides were dispatched.  Kerr was airlifted to Revelstoke and pronounced dead at Queen Victoria Hospital. None of the other skiers were caught in the avalanche.  Snowmass Village resident John Wilkinson, Kerr's longtime friend, said on Friday that Kerr loved to ski and planned the annual trip to Canada with a group of friends from Crested Butte.  "When it's snowing, Rich is skiing, and when it's not, he's bicycling," Wilkinson said.  He said Kerr was a regular at Aspen Highlands and the Highlands Bowl who proudly wore a "Ski the Trees Foundation" button.  An Aspen resident since 1979, Kerr moved here from his hometown of Princeton, Ill. He lived in the Smuggler Trailer Park, and the job with Hunter Creek was the only job he ever had in Colorado, Wilkinson said.  The skiers were on their third run of the day when the avalanche occurred. When the group was interviewed by police, they said they had climbed up to a starting point where their guide said to remain to the skier's right of the ski area.  The guide had descended safely first, telling the group to follow one at a time in single file, keeping to the right. The press release says Kerr was the first person to begin his descent. However, "he proceeded to skier's left, a significant distance from where he was instructed to ski by the guide."  Kerr made one or two turns and then cut to the right to meet up with the guide when the avalanche occurred, the release says. It goes on to say that all of the skiers were experienced and "well aware of the dangers of the area."  Wilkinson said he'd like to talk to one of the skiers who were there before he makes a judgment about what actually happened.  "If he was alone, and he thought the area looked inviting, he probably would have skied it. But if the guide told him what to do, I don't see him falling out of that," he said. "If the police didn't talk to someone there, it could be a case of CYA [cover your ass] on the guide's part. I'd have several questions for them if that story is true."  Wilkinson said he would consider his friend a certain type of risk-taker, since he often skied backcountry areas using his avalanche knowledge to decide which areas were safe.  According to police, the skiers are typically flown from Revelstoke into the area for six to seven days, stay at a remote lodge and ski tour to various runs.  Sherri Zickefoose, a reporter for the Calgary Herald, said the lodge where the group stayed, the Selkirk Lodge, is a small, bare-bones cabin that only sleeps 12. Kerr's death is the first avalanche-related death of the season in British Columbia, she said.  There were 29 avalanche deaths in Canada last year--24 in British Columbia.  Naomi Havlen's e-mail address is [email protected].    

See this October 11, 2003 Aspen Daily News article by Troy Hooper:  "Aspen skier died doing what he loved."

Also see this Paul Andersen column:

Also see this page for a report on his death:   

Many thanks to Paul Tefft for his help with this page.

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