Hannah Taylor, a longtime Summit County resident known as a tough-but-beloved coach for Summit Nordic Ski Club and an accomplished endurance athlete, died on Saturday after a mountaineering accident in the Gore Range. She was 39.
In a post on its Facebook page, the Summit Nordic Ski Club wrote that Taylor and the club’s head coach, Olof Hedberg, were out on a mountain run northwest of Silverthorne when Taylor grabbed a rock that came loose on the Willow Peak ridge. The accident led to her fall from the ridge. Charles Pittman of the Summit County Rescue Group, who responded to the scene after Taylor’s fall, confirmed the nature of the accident.
To her local Summit County friends, Taylor, a New Hampshire native, embodied the essence of the Summit County sports and outdoors scene. She’s remembered as a big-hearted, adventure-seeking, do-it-all woman who pulled no punches.
In her 14 years with the Summit Nordic Ski Club, SNSC board president Peter Haynes described Taylor as a pillar for the club, a woman who always provided a source of strength for members.
“She was here through several head coaches. She was our rock,” Haynes said. “This club would not be what it is without Hannah. She was such a strong person and personality, and hard on people. But she loved them so much — the kids especially. She did not give them a lot of breaks, but it was truly because she cared about them so much. She truly made this club better for everybody — coaches, parents and athletes.
“I’m at a loss at what we will do without her, truly,” Haynes continued. “Her ability to hold it all together when it kind of felt like it was too difficult at times, she just got through it all and did everything we ever asked of her.”
“Hannah had a way about her,” Trowbridge said. “You knew where you stood and she had a direct delivery that was easy to understand that also works well with kids and teenagers. It’s pretty straightforward and understandable.”
In its Facebook post, the ski club remembered Taylor as the kind of committed coach who kept a record of every wax used for every race over the past 10 years, crying every time the club missed a wax for a race. “She always wanted every athlete to have the best possible situation to perform,” the club wrote, “and spent hours and hours making sure everyone had the perfect conditions, no matter if you finish first or 30th.”
And Taylor’s effect on members of the club included anyone from a brand new young athlete to a board president like Haynes. In fact, when he joined the ski club, it was Haynes who felt nervous around Taylor.
“None of us ever stopped trying to impress Hannah,” Haynes recalled. “I was scared to death of her. She was so serious, so direct. And until you get to know why — that she uses that directness when racing, coaching or anything else — until you realize how much she loves the kids, that she has such a passion for the sport, then you realize what a lovable person she is, as well.”
Taylor’s distinctive demeanor and do-it-all ambition also stood out to Mike Zobbe and his colleagues at the Summit Huts Association when they originally hired Taylor more than a decade ago.
Coming out to Colorado with a background as a Nordic skier for Middlebury College in Vermont, and with experience working for the Appalachian Mountain Club (Mizpah Fall 2002-2003), Taylor’s first gig with Summit Huts was officially as an office manager. But even when interviewing for that entry-level position, the executive director Zobbe knew Taylor had the kind of beaming confidence and articulate approach to master anything thrown her way. She’d eventually work her way up to doing most anything and everything for the association as its managing director, the effective right-hand woman to Zobbe.
“We had quite a few very, very good candidates,” Zobbe recalled of hiring Taylor, “but I think everybody on the interview team was pretty unanimous we wanted Hannah. She became an indispensable part of Summit Huts.”
In recent years, Taylor lived with her longtime boyfriend in Silverthorne and her trusted dog and adventure buddy Saco, who was a mainstay at the Summit Huts offices. And alongside Summit County friends and colleagues like SNSC coaches Olof and Whitney Hedberg, Taylor excelled at and enjoyed ultra-endurance races. Just last summer, Taylor won the High Lonesome 100 Miler, an ultra-endurance race across the peaks, valleys and forest surrounding Salida.
In remembering his colleague and friend, Zobbe commended Taylor for never wavering from being forceful about the things she believed in. And at the heart of her belief was her adventurous personality, a sporting soul custom-made for the mountains of Summit County.