Skier found dead

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS A 23-year-old Steamboat Springs man was found dead in deep snow at the Steamboat Ski Area Saturday night.

The body of Matthew Oscar Westley was discovered by rescuers at about 9:56 p.m. about 75 feet off Frying Pan, an intermediate trail on the upper mountain in Morningside Park, said Mike Lane, a spokesman for the ski resort.

Lane said early indications are that Westley fell head first into deep snow off the trail.

"There was a lot of snow up there," he said.

Routt County Coroner Doug Allen pronounced the young man dead at the scene. Allen and officials with the Routt County Sheriff's Office are investigating the death.

Allen said he is going to schedule an autopsy and a toxicology test to determine the exact cause of death sometime this week .

"Hopefully, we will have some concrete results in the next couple of days," he said.

Westley, who worked at SportStalker, was skiing with friends on Saturday, Lane said.

"When he did not show up for work, friends notified us that he was missing," Lane said. The report came in at about 5:30 Saturday evening. Routt County Search and Rescue was promptly paged.

Using lamps and flashlights, 11 search and rescue members and ski patrollers combed the mountain for the man.

Chuck O'Connell, Steamboat Springs area manager for Christy Sports, said he and other co-workers of Westley were saddened to learn of Westley's death.

"He was an outstanding employee who was very well liked by his co-workers," O'Connell said. "He will be missed terribly. It is tragic."

Christy Sports owns the SportStalker. Westley was in his fourth year working at the ski shop at 2304 Apres Ski Way in Gondola Square. He was an assistant supervisor in the shop's rental department.

In the 72 hours preceding the death, the Steamboat Ski Area received 24 inches of new snow at mid-mountain and 32 inches at the summit.

The snow depth the ski area's base on Saturday was 48 inches at mid-mountain and 55 inches at the summit, Lane said.

Westley's death is the first time in about three years that a skier has died on the mountain, Lane said.

During the 1996-1997 ski season, a skier died on the mountain due to a heart attack. During the 1995-1996 season, two people died while skiing, he said. (Gary Salazar is a reporter for the Steamboat Springs Pilot/Today.)

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