In Memory of Brooks “Hoot” Brown

Brooks Hoot Brown

Brooks “Hoot” Brown

Madeleine Miller, Staff Writer

Fifteen years ago, Telluride High School lost one of their students due to an accident on the ski hill. Sixteen year-old Brooks Brown, more commonly referred to as Hoot, died on May 24, 2006 after falling off the back of a Sno-Cat and he got caught underneath the Sno-Cat and tangled up in the treads of the machine. His legs had been shattered and one of his ribs had impaled his lung. Hoot was pronounced dead at 7:23 that evening and the driver of the Sno-Cat, Aaron Apanel, was arrested for criminally negligent homicide. 

 

Hoot was on the ski hill attending a photo-shoot at the top of the hill. Apanel drove six snowboarders and skiers on the back of the Sno-Cat, a vehicle designed to carry two passengers at most, up the hill to the photo shoot. The police arrested him but he was not charged with a crime. 

 

Brooks Brown is still remembered at Telluride Middle High School with a memorial dedicated to him just past the entrance of the school, near the staircase. It’s a small corner with a wrap-around platform that students sit on and also holds a small waterfall with a glass pane with trees and mountains on it. Three colored spotlights shine down at the waterfall and a large photograph of Hoot on a canvas is hung on the wall right beside it with a small gold plaque. The plaque, engraved with Hoot’s full name, reads, 

 

“Dedicated to Brooks “Hoot” Brown

“1989-2006

“Hoot was a fearless individual. His beautiful smile and open heart will continue to inspire us to embrace life.”

 

The photograph on the wall at the memorial is of Hoot skiing, a skill he was known for and experienced in. The Denver Post’s article, titled, “Telluride teen’s ski skill held promise,” covering Hoot’s death, describes the sixteen-year-old’s skill to have “came naturally” to Hoot. He was a part of the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club where he was said to have been a leader to the 220 other people in the club. He embraced freeride skiing, one of the four skiing styles used in the club, and he entered skiing competitions, including the Junior Olympics that took place in Telluride in 2006 where he placed 34th, ranking 57th in slope-style by the U.S. Skiing Association. 

 

Hoot was a unique individual with incredible skill and a strong passion for skiing. The club’s freestyle team coach, Caleb Martin, was one of the coaches that admired the enthusiasm Hoot had for skiing. “Hoot had his own style, and lived in the now,” he said. “When you’re flying 60, 70 feet through the air. . .the amount of focus you need is tremendous. Your life and limbs are on the line. That was part of his love for it—not only the adrenaline, but that focus, and living in the moment.”

 

Hoot’s funeral took place the same week that he died. The majority of Telluride showed up at the community center, and even the surrounding areas. People stood up and told stories of Hoot and made speeches, one of them being a man named Mr. Lambert who is a Telluride math teacher. Mr. Lambert read a portion of one of Hoot’s essays where he quoted the movie “Van Wilder.” A young woman that was in Hoot’s algebra class wrote in a blog, “This quote is now embedded into my heart, ‘Don’t live life too seriously, you will never get out alive.’ Hoot did just that, and although he died for what he loved, he still lives in the hearts of everyone that knows him.”