Tragedy on Mount Sopris – Lathrop Strang Dies in Ski Fall

Post by blogger | April 26, 2008      
Lathrop Strang

Lathrop Strang on Mount Sopris in 2002, Terry Bannon photo

Lathrop Strang, a good friend of several folks we know, and son of former Colorado U.S. Rep. Michael Strang, perished yesterday after falling down one of the “Laundry Chute” couloirs on Mount Sopris, near here in Colorado.

Yesterday was a cold day and we suspect the couloirs on Sopris were quite icy in places, which may have contributed to the accident. On the whole, it appears to have been a difficult situation for all involved (see below). Local mountain rescue and Flight For Life performed the rescue. Our heartfelt condolences to all Lathrop Strang’s family and friends.

Aspen Times preliminary report.
Aspen Times full report.

Laundry Chutes
The Laundry Chutes (above) are located on the northerly face of the east summit of Mount Sopris. While being skied and climbed since the 1960s, they’ve become a somewhat popular destination in recent years. Sources tell us the accident occurred in the chute at lookers right. The longest chute is about 900 vertical feet, the ones on the left are more frequently skied.

As frequently seems to happen, preliminary news reports had some glaring inaccuracies. Out of respect to all the individuals involved, so there is accurate info out there, here is an edited and slightly condensed first person account of what happened (received in email from friend). Tough stuff to publish on a usually light hearted blog, but we felt it necessary.

We left the trailhead at 5:30 A.M., 5 skiers, Kirsten and Penn Newhard, Fletcher Yaw, Anda Smalls and Lathrop Strang.

At just after nine we reached the summit ridge above Thomas Lakes bowl, the standard winter ascent route. Conditions were sunny, solid, with 2-3 inches of new snow and temps warming from a cold night. Our group was experienced and in good spirits. Strang mentioned he had skied Sopris every spring since 1984.

Penn Newhard descended from the ridge forgoing the summit as he had work obligations. Kirsten Newhard accompanied Yaw (her brother), Strang and Smalls to the summit. At 10:00 A.M., the four decided to ski two different routes down. Smalls and K. Newhard went down their ascent route while Strang and Yaw headed down the steeper Laundry Chute directly below the East Summit of Sopris. The four agreed to meet at the car at the trailhead as opposed to the lakes so as not to miss each other.

After entering the chute together with Yaw, Strang went first and fell from near the top of the couloir. Due to difficult conditions in the lower couloir, Yaw had to take a circuitous route to reach Strang who was conscious but unresponsive. Yaw evaluated Strang, made him comfortable and put extra clothes on him and then left for help.

Due to the experience level and strength of Yaw and Strang, the rest of the group gave them some time when they did not arrive at the trailhead as planned. It was hoped they were simply dealing with broken gear or a bushwack while exiting their descent.

When Strang and F. Yaw were several hours late, the other three skiers contacted the sheriff’s department, knowing that time for a rescue might be needed before darkness set in.

The group would like to thank the sheriff department, Mountain Rescue Aspen and all involved for their timely, excellent and professional efforts.

Lathrop Strang will be greatly missed.

(Note, the correct name for the couloirs in the photo above is indeed the “LAUNDRY” Chutes. One is reluctant to present trivia in a post such as this, but it appears some folks think the word “Laundry” is a typo so I need to set the record straight. The name comes from Chris Landry’s nickname when he was ski racing, which was Laundry Chute. Back in the 1960s or 1970s, Chris enjoyed climbing the chutes and some folks got to calling them after his nickname. It’s unknown who did the first descents of any of the chutes, nor if Chris actually ever skied them. In those early days they were viewed more as snow climb challenges then ski descents.)


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29 Responses to “Tragedy on Mount Sopris – Lathrop Strang Dies in Ski Fall”

  1. Frank April 25th, 2008 7:57 pm

    Condolences… It’s been a tough stretch in the RFV. 🙁

  2. Andy April 25th, 2008 8:42 pm

    Condolences to Friends and Family.

  3. randosteve April 25th, 2008 10:08 pm

    So sorry to hear this Lou.

    Condolences to all involved.

  4. NealB April 26th, 2008 10:28 am

    Such a sad day for Lathrop’s family, friends and the Roaring Fork Valley.

    Lathrop was one of a handful of truly accomplished adventurers in our community, but you’d never hear about any of that unless you knew him personally or joined him in the fun. He was as fit as anyone, climbed with skill and passion, and was one of the best skiers around — period. Lathrop embodied enthusiasm and support.

    But Lathrop was so much more than that.

    Lath worked diligently to secure valley lands into trusts for generations to come because he thought it was the right thing to do. He worked hard to be a conscientious architect with resources and design. He was a great and steady friend to many people which I count myself lucky to be one of since our childhoods. And most importantly to him, he was a loving father.

    We will all miss a wonderful human being.

    Godspeed, Lathrop.

  5. David J. Rothman April 26th, 2008 11:25 am

    This is a heartbreaker. It’s a dark day.

  6. Jay J April 26th, 2008 11:39 am

    MOST sorry inded to all the friends and family of a fellow BC skier and lover of the High Country!!

  7. BJ Sbarra April 26th, 2008 11:48 am

    Lathrop was a great guy, he will be missed.

  8. Taya April 27th, 2008 8:51 am

    This is such a sad weekend! Lathrop and my brother have been best buddies with a group of guys (those reading this know this group well) since they were kids. They never lost that “kid spirit”, especially when they got together. My sister and I were talking about it yesterday and realized that he really was just like a brother…always there in our lives from as far back as we can remember.

    I know that Lathrop’s daughter will have many God Fathers in the valley watching over her and helping her to know her Daddy through them.

    We love you Lath!

  9. Ken Lum April 27th, 2008 10:45 am

    Many will miss Lathrop…

    Having grown up in Aspen as well, growing up in the valley we all had this wonderful “back yard” to play in, like Lathrop, many of us grew up hiking, biking, skiing and running around the valley.

    I ran into Lathrop and his mom and dad on Wednesday in Carbondale, Lathrop had told me he was planning on skinning up Sopris and skiing down, I told him to be careful and have fun.

    My concern was for avalanche danger, after we spoke more we decided that there had not be a lot of new snow over the last few days so the avalanche danger should “not be to bad”…Being the experienced skier that he is, it was not Lathrop’s ability that I was concerned about…

    I was one of the many fortunate that was in Lathrop’s circle of friends, it is so hard to fathom that he is no longer with us; I will truly miss his positive out look on life and his genuine friendship.

    Ken “Kenny” Lum

  10. Lou April 27th, 2008 3:14 pm

    Nice words you guys…

  11. Casey Clark Hall April 27th, 2008 3:29 pm

    The hardworking and loving history of the entire Strang family and
    friends are the essence of this beautiful Roaring Fork Valley. Lath was
    a friend a mentor, an amazing brother and son that was carrying the
    Strang torch. He was an accomplished extreme athlete and now a
    young great father.
    Our valley raises our men and women to be mountain men and live life
    with respect and to reach their personal best. Lath went to school and
    worked hard,and mastered architecture all the while maintaining him
    families ranch and friendships of all the families.
    We have all lost a son and a friend, as many before him. Lath skied
    crossing over doing what he loves best. I am happy for him. We will
    miss him and his laugh and warm smile. it takes all of us to try and
    carry his torch. I am so sad and feel so lucky. Plant a tree for Lath or a
    Lath will always live on strong in our hearts and in his
    daughter, Jessie.
    Our love to and sincere sadness to all of you,

    Casey Clark Hall

  12. Lou April 27th, 2008 4:25 pm

    Thanks Casey, very moving. We do have a special thing going on in this valley with our relationships to the mountains and each other as modern day mountain people. It’s got its downside, but is still on the whole so good.

  13. Susie von Mettenheim (Lum) April 27th, 2008 7:39 pm

    Having heard the sad news about Lath from my brother, Kenny, I was completely taken back by it. I knew Lath from CU as well as having grown up in Aspen and from my brother, who was his roomate and good friend. I have been thinking alot about him , the memories I have and especially about his famly and beloved daughter. I had not seen Lath in awhile but always would ask about him from other mutual friends. I live in Nederland, outside of Boulder and work in the Outdoor industry where some other people who are also his friends also work. I would inquire through them how he was doing, and was always glad to hear he was doing architecture and living on the ranch. I will miss his great smile, and his joie de vive! He will forever be apart of the Roaring Fork valley, and those who were blessed to have known him will have his spirit within.

    Susie von Mettenheim (Lum)

  14. Lou April 27th, 2008 8:43 pm

    Thanks Susie

  15. BVMoyer April 28th, 2008 10:05 am

    I realize this is a blog about backcountry skiing, but I thought everyone here might like to know that Lathrop was also an extremely gifted architect and I feel lucky to have known him. I knew Lathe during our first year of graduate school together and he was such an imaginative and soulful designer. I could always count on him to inspire me. I wouldn’t be the designer I am now if I hadn’t sat next to him then.

  16. Lou April 28th, 2008 10:32 am

    BV, thanks, when an alpinist gives his all, it’s nice to hear about the wonderful contributions he’s made in all walks of life.

  17. Jill Kass April 28th, 2008 5:37 pm

    My sister called me Saturday morning to give me the news about the tragedy of Lathrop. My heart hasn’t stopped aching since. It has been many years since I have seen him, but it is like yesterday when I think of him. Lathrop was my first love, and he was a huge part of my life growing up in Aspen. I am so grateful for those memories.. He was not only kind and a great friend to me, but he was a great brother and son. He loved his family and friends. A great athlete. He had such good friends and they all loved each other dearly. I am sure there are some great stories that will be shared. I remember how proud he was of his green Toyota truck, and I often think of him when they have those Toyota commercials where the people are standing by their cars and trucks bragging about how many miles they have put on them, he had them all hands down. I do know that I am a better person because of Lathrop. I am so grateful that I was blessed with such a wonderful man to teach me how to love. My heart goes out to his daughter and family, and to the many friends that he leaves behind. I know that Lath died doing what he loved, skiing. He will always be in my heart

  18. Jenifer Pedersen April 30th, 2008 3:25 pm

    I had a student with a sunshine smile – the only blythe spirit I have ever known. There was never a need to encourage Lathrop to think outside the box because to Lathrop there was never a box. I have ‘visited’ with him the past few days through the ACDS year book. He was one of the special people. My love to his family, daugher, and all those who were touched by his smile.

  19. Pegi April 30th, 2008 7:51 pm

    Our kids go to school together. I met Lathrop a few months ago when he began picking his daughter up on Fridays. I am sad I didn’t get to know him better. We worked in the classroom together before they would take off after lunch. His daughter BEAMED when he arrived. They positively cherished each other. I just thought I would pass on that we at school will do our best to support where we can.

  20. Scott Stricker May 2nd, 2008 9:01 am

    Lathe and I went to Carbondale Elementary and ACDS together (hello Mrs. Pedersen!) and then we lost track of each other. I heard of him through the years from Dan Sherwood and the Eustis’. That goofy kid, who could ski back to school from the top of Loge Peak (before you were allowed to), but was probably missing a mitten, had grown into this incredible guy, with real talent and humility.
    I even met a woman here in Austin that knew him and all she could say was how cute he was. My memories of Lathrop are distant but deep, I wish I had known the man he became. All the Strangs are heavy in my heart right now.

  21. shelley spalding May 3rd, 2008 1:49 am

    Living here at the ranch,watching Jesse grow Seeing Lathrop as such an incredible parent…and a custodian of the Land.There isn’t a bluebird in the sky that doesn’t fly in honor of all he has initiated in this Valley.He leaves a legacy of right thinking,backed by right action.To honor everything our great friend stood for, walk in his footsteps.Talk the talk.Conservation in this valley is crucial.Development, with future generations in mind-our children-is essential.My brother…our love is with you.As we feel your Love…Blessings

  22. Valerie Alexander Yaw March 13th, 2009 8:37 pm

    Not a day goes by that we don’t think of you… Lath, you continue to inspire us to better ourselves… you make us smile. We miss you dearly. We will always celebrate you.

  23. Lou March 14th, 2009 5:31 am

    Thanks for dropping by Valerie. We’re headed up there today and will be thinking about Lathrop. ‘best, Lou

  24. Bridget Strang April 25th, 2009 10:15 pm

    It has been a year…. and if I could take that day away I could. We all miss him so much. Remember him, carry his torch. Enjoy and save this wonderful valley and world we live in. Sopris was amazing today from down here- I can only imagin what it was like on top. Thanks for taking that run today.

  25. Lou April 26th, 2009 6:24 am

    Thanks for dropping by Bridget. Condolences and our best wishes to all Lathrop’s friends and loved ones during this one year marker after his passing.

  26. Patty Strother April 6th, 2010 9:15 pm

    Hello Mike…..remember me from Columbus? I just read that you lost your
    son and this note is simply to express my deep regret and sadness that
    he left you and his mother so soon.
    I am terribly, terribly sorry. Never having lost a child, it is difficult to know
    the depth of the pain you all must feel.
    Please except my sincere sympathy.

    Patty Strother Dunkle

  27. Lou April 6th, 2010 9:19 pm

    Thanks for dropping by Patty…

  28. Lou April 21st, 2010 4:04 pm


    I saw local backcountry skier Terry Bannon yesterday, he mentioned he had some nice photos of the late Lathrop Strang. He fired one my way to add to the is post, so I did so. Nice photo Terry, thanks.


  29. Kevin May 31st, 2010 8:31 pm


    There are very, very few days Lathrop does NOT cross my mind… often, so silently, but with the terrific power that our friend shared so freely with us…

    This evening, a friend who had never known Lathrop sent me an e-flare about a project she has been working on… about Ruedi Beglinger’s life… (… and all I could think of was how much she would have appreciated Lathrop and how much I wanted to introduce them… so I looked for your posting and blog… and was SO grateful and profoundly moved to find the steady input… Terry Bannon’s photo… and no real surprise that the persistence that embodied our friend is alive and well…

    Lou thank you.

    Kevin Mulcahy

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