While I was at Epic Ski, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Weems Westfeldt, a true pioneer in the sport of skiing, and author of the book Brilliant Skiing Every Day.
Weems is a man with contagious humor, the feeling when he enters the room is one of abject joy. Even though I had only JUST met him, Weems took time out of his busy schedule to encourage me to ski my best, he was hooting at me from the lift, waving at me from the ground, and sharing the experiences of his life in skiing when we got to walk and talk together.
On Saturday, we were walking down the hall of the Huntly with Squatty, and talking about our kids, my two boys and their skiing, and Weem's TRIPLETS! They are all 22 years old, and all very accomplished skiers and riders. Weems was smiling and laughing while he was relating the crazy things his kids can do on skis, and his pride in them was obvious. This is a man who loves his kids with everything he's got, and he puffs up proudly while laughing at their antics.
The first thought that I had was that this is parenting to emulate. The family seemed tight, happy, accomplished and encouraged. This is the kind of parent I hope I can be. When they told me one of the kids was a racer, I immediately thought of the dangers of the sport, and asked myself if I would be able to let go of my own personal fear in able to be able to encourage my kids if that's the path that they choose. Could I, like Bode Miller's parents, stand on the side and watch Ethan or Bodhi ride a fence line, possibly into a horrific crash? Could I, like Mike Hickey's parents, watch him and his friends ski off the roof of the bar because, hey, there's powder up there? Can I learn to be like Weems and just be proud of the passion my kids have, and encourage it, smiling? I hope so.
The next day, Weems and Squatty left for Aspen, and called to leave me a good luck message. Later that day, Saquatty called to tell me that Wallace Westfeldt, one of Wemms boys, had died in a skiing accident while filming a movie for the Aspen Skiing Company.
No words can even express the devistation his family must be feeling. A parent should never have to outlive thier children.
Weems, I just want to tell you that in the few days I got to meet you, I felt an enormous fondness for you and an incredible amount of love and support from you. Your boys are so lucky to have a father like you, and all I can think is how tremendously happy Wallace must have been in his life to feel the love and support and enthusiasm that lives inside you. All my love and thoughts are with you and your family.
Memorial set for Wallace Westfeldt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
April 6, 2008
ASPEN — A skiing and riding memorial service for Wallace Westfeldt, who fell to his death Friday in the Tonar Bowl near Aspen Highlands, will take place Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Sandy Park at Snowmass.
Sandy Park is off the Elk Camp lift — the gathering will take place in the vicinity of the picnic table.
Afterward, there will be an indoor gathering, possibly at 3 p.m. at the Snowmass Conference Center, according to an e-mail from Westfeldt’s father, Weems. There, a slide presentation of Wallace’s “magic in the snow” will take place, as well as shared memories from those in attendance. All events are open to the public.
Westfeldt, 22, was a world-class freeride snowboarder, and was taking part in a Aspen Skiing Co.-sponsored backcountry film shoot by Futuristic Film, a Denver-based production company, when the accident occurred, a skier with the group said Friday.
“We have received the worst blow we could imagine and, at the same time, the deepest kindness and warm hearts of the people of this valley,” Weems said in the e-mail. “We are moved and grateful to hear, both directly and indirectly, from all of the friends and families and colleagues…who have been touched by him.”
In a telephone interview Saturday, Weems Westfeldt said he did not know the cause of his son's death, but said he expected to hear some time Sunday.
“He was pretty much out of sight [when he fell],” he said. “I know very few details.”
The elder Westfeldt commended all those involved in the recovery effort.
“We would also like to thank the Highlands Patrol for your fine work, and the Aspen Skiing Company generally for your support and caring,” his e-mail said.
“I am grateful for the way they responded,” he said Saturday. “It was a wonderful outpouring…and well organized.”
Westfeldt, the former director of operations for Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass, said Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan visited him at home Friday to deliver the news.
Westfeldt said the family is doing all it can to cope with the loss. One of Wallace's brothers, Patrick, is an alpine racer, and his other brother, Ben, is a park and pipe skier. The three triplets graduated from Aspen High School. Their mother, Nancy, has been a ski instructor in the valley for many years.
“It’s hard,” Westfeldt said. “These are good kids. We have a wonderful group of friends who we are rallying behind. We’re being held together by a group.”
Weems Westfelt then spoke of memories of Wallace, and his popularity in the valley and abroad.
“He was a magic kid who was full of joy and compassion — sweet,” Westfeldt said. “He had a big smile all the time. He was popular for a reason.”
Sheriff’s deputies received a report around 11:34 a.m. Friday of an unknown male skier who was receiving CPR after a fall from a cliff on the west-facing slope of Tonar Bowl, an area accessed by traveling out of bounds beyond Highlands Peak. Deputies dispatched Aspen Highlands ski patrollers, who were first on scene.
Wallace Westfeldt was pronounced dead shortly after patrollers arrived, according to the sheriff's office.
Mountain Rescue Aspen and Highlands patrollers set up a staging area near T-Lazy 7 Ranch, while officials borrowed motorized vehicles for the recovery.
Mark Welgos, an Aspen freeskier, skied the line just before Westfeldt’s accident. After dropping the cliff, Welgos skied out of the way and did not witness Westfeldt’s fall.
“The line we decided to ski today was discussed and all safety precautions were taken. Everything was planned out thoughtfully,” Welgos said Friday. “After he fell, he kind of fell out of view from everyone.”
Weems Westfeldt said Saturday that the crew had been filming for a couple of weeks and that the entire production appeared safe and professional.
“There’s nothing in my imagination that says it wasn’t proper,” he said.
Westfeldt’s brother, Patrick, skied down to find Wallace unconscious, Welgos said Friday. Patrick Westfeldt and Jacqui Edgerly, another skier with the group — as well as the crew’s safety personnel — performed CPR for more than an hour and a half.
Wallace Westfeldt had recently placed well in a number of snowboarding competitions, including a first place at the Colorado Freeride Championships at Snowmass in 2006. Last month, he earned a third at this year's Freeride Championships at Snowmass.
Among his sponsors were High Society, Obermeyer, Smith and Radio, according to the High Society website. Westfeldt had been snowboarding for 15 seasons.