Tyler James Updegraff, 27, was a lifelong skier with an "unparalleled zest for life" and a passion for the outdoors, teaching children and cooking.
Updegraff, who lived in Silverthorne with his close friend Brad Hanshaw, died at Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort in a single-skier accident Thursday, according to a Pitkin County Coroner's Office news release.
Hanshaw, a friend of Updegraff's since high school, was on the mountain with Updegraff Thursday, he said, a place the two spent a lot of time together.
Hanshaw said the two always talked before doing any big tricks, but this run was just supposed to be a normal one.
Updegraff and Hanshaw exchanged a head nod and Updegraff hit the jump in front of Hanshaw.
Snowmass ski patrol received the crash call at 2:34 p.m. and found Updegraff unresponsive in the jump's landing zone.
Patrol attempted life saving measures and transported Updegraff to the ski area's clinic, where he was pronounced dead.
"We got down to him and that was that," Hanshaw said. "I'm still pretty numb. It was heartbreaking. I'm heartbroken."
Updegraff suffered an undisclosed injury on the first jump feature at Little Makuna Park in the Aspen Snowmass ski area. His cause of death is under medical review, but the coroner's office declared the manner of death accidental.
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Updegraff was a lifelong skier and moved out to Colorado to focus on the sport, his close friend Olivia Rogers said.
He graduated from Drake University, which he attended on a football scholarship, in 2018 with a business degree.
After college, he spent a year in China trying new foods and expanding his cooking skills, one of his favorite hobbies, Rogers said. Updegraff wanted to get back into skiing and the mountains, drawing him to Colorado.
"He's a phenomenal skier, a top-notch skier," Rogers said. "Which is why it's really hard to understand what went wrong."
Rogers got the call that her friend died from a mutual friend. At first, Rogers didn't believe him.
"He'd sent me a TikTok that morning, so it just didn't make sense," Rogers said. "I'm still in a state where I feel like he's just going to come around the door and be there."
Hanshaw and Updegraff grew up skiing their local mountain near Pittsburgh, Hanshaw said.
"I didn't know him when he first started skiing, but I remember hearing his name around the mountain, how good he was," Hanshaw said.
His love for nature and being outdoors drew him to a job a Keystone, where he and Hanshaw coached kids through the Mountain Mentors program at Summit County Public Health Department.
Updegraff loved coaching and helping people get better at their sport, Hanshaw said.
"He loved teaching and mentoring kids and you really saw those traits in him shine exponentially when he was coaching, just that enthusiasm," Rogers said.
Updegraff was a mountain boy his entire life, Rogers said, growing up by the Appalachian Mountains and moving later to the Rockies. He spent all of the time he could in the mountains rock climbing, skiing, running and hiking.
"He really connects with nature and feels really emotionally centered in those spaces," Rogers said. "His happy place is in the mountains, snow or no snow."
Updegraff was the kind of person who lit up rooms with his smile and energy, Hanshaw said.
"The energy Tyler put off was just always positive and vibrant to the people around him," Hanshaw said. "He would do anything for anyone whether you were his friend or not."
Updegraff drew people to him with his outgoing, kind and curious energy, Rogers said, always wanting to get to know people.
"His zest for life is unparalleled in any human I've ever met," Rogers said. "He's one of the best people I've ever known."