The passing of a local legend is the type of news that hurts to write about. Especially when it’s a skier who countless people, including this author, owe an unpayable debt to for the work they have done, the people they connected with, and for the beautiful person they were.
For many people in Western Colorado, and throughout the ski community as a whole, that person was Sam Coffey.
During my first trip to cover a product launch for SKI, I was introduced to perhaps the happiest person on snow. Sam was former NCAA All-American racer, but still knew when to hang back with the less-confident skiers to help ensure everyone enjoyed the day as much as possible. On that first trip, he was quick to make everyone laugh, and more importantly, to make everyone in a group of strangers feel at ease.
Later on, I got to know Sam as more than a great skier and PR person. Instead, I knew him as a genuine human being. From Alta to Aspen, I can’t remember Sam without a smile every time he went skiing. He was always just so happy to be exactly where he was, always taking the time to catch up with everyone he knew, even if his well-known ski gang was getting ready to leave for the next après spot.
When Sam died on May 20, 2019, his seemingly endless tides of enthusiasm and selflessness turned in reverse. People in different towns across North America demonstrated an unequaled outpouring of love for a person that tied the ski family tighter together.
All too often, it’s an avalanche that takes away someone who so many cherish. Other times, it’s after an excruciating fight with cancer, which took Sam’s father Joe last year. For Sam, it was a swift, seemingly inexplicable series of strokes while on vacation. He was 29 years old.
While that endless smile is now only maintained in photos, we can all be more like Sam in the lives we are living. We can go a little further in helping everyone laugh and feel loved in the family that is skiing. Kind gestures on the ski hill, on social media, and everywhere else you might find yourself is a simple way, and the most enduring, to memorialize Sam daily.
He made our lives better, on the ski hill and off. Don’t forget to smile for Sam next time you go skiing.
More about Sam from our friends down the hall at SNEWS: Skier and industry insider Sam Coffey dies at 29