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Worcester man dies in Colo. avalanche

Free spirit's dream led to Vail's slopes

JESSE BRIGHAM JESSE BRIGHAM
Email|Print| Text size + By Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / January 6, 2008

On his snowboard, Jesse Brigham of Worcester loved to tear down snow-capped mountains with dizzying speed.

"He was very adventurous," his sister, Allison, said last night from her home in Worcester. "He even went to Argentina last summer to snowboard. He was all about snow."

Brigham, who was 27, died Friday in an avalanche in the White River National Forest in Vail, Colo., where he had moved for the winter. He was found buried in 6 feet of snow in an area known as East Vail Chutes, a popular area for skilled skiers that is not monitored by the Vail Ski Patrol, leaving people to ski at their own risk, according to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office in Eagle.

"It is backcountry skiing," said Shannon Cordingly, a department spokeswoman. "There are no groomed trails. . . . It's a very popular area for extreme skiers."

Brigham was snowboarding with two friends on Friday morning. He was halfway through his run when the avalanche struck at 11:50 a.m., Cordingly said.

His two friends, who located him by the beacon sounding from his helmet, spent 10 to 20 minutes digging him out. But they were not able to revive him, Cordingly said. The pair, who have not been identified, used a cellphone to call the Vail Ski Patrol. The Eagle County Sheriff's Department also responded to the avalanche, which happened in cold, sunny conditions and was the 14th to hit Colorado this winter, according to the department.

"All three skiers were very skilled," Cordingly said. "They did everything right. It's just one of those things where nature got the best of them."

Brigham worked as a Zamboni driver at RocksResort in Vail. The son of Chester Brigham of Worcester and Susan Tivnan of Sterling, he had planned to return to Worcester in April and resume his job as a licensed plumber at Catino Plumbing & Heating, where he worked for several years, his sister said.

"He was obsessed with steam heat and boilers," Allison, 28, said. "He loved fixing radiators and everything."

But Brigham's love for fluffy white snow was stronger. Three years ago, after reading a book called "The Alchemist," he decided to follow the novel's theme of people following their dreams. He spent last winter working and snowboarding in Vail. On his way home, he stopped in New Orleans to help rebuild a home lost in Hurricane Katrina.

"My brother always said, 'I do what I want,' " Allison said.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com.

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