BOULDER, Colo., (CBS4) – Employees at a Boulder company that’s served the outdoor community for decades are in mourning this week. On Jan. 1, the longtime president of Backpacker’s Pantry, Rodney Smith, died following a ski accident at Eldora Mountain Resort, the company announced on its Facebook page.

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It’s the first reported ski death in our state this year.

According to a spokesperson for Eldora, Ski Patrol responded to a call from bystanders and found Smith unconscious on Dec. 30. The 57-year-old was taken by helicopter to Boulder Community Hospital, where he died two days later.

“The Eldora team is deeply saddened by our guest’s passing and extends sympathy and support to his family and friends during this difficult time,” a statement read.

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While the father of two was skiing with his sons that day, a spokesperson for the Boulder County Sheriff’s office said no one was around when the original incident happened. It appears Smith suffered a medical emergency.

“We’ll never know exactly what happened because nobody witnessed it that we know of,” said Ron Smith.

Smith had worked with the family business, American Outdoors Products Inc., since about 1990.

His father, Ron Smith, purchased the company California in 1971.

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In the 49 years that followed, both Smiths grew the business from its humble beginnings in a garage to a large facility on Gunpark Drive.

Currently, Backpacker’s Pantry, which produces, packages, and ships freeze-dried and dehydrated meals for outdoor activities, is one of four product lines under the parent company.

“You can’t say enough,” said Smith, who is not only Rod’s father, but the Board Chairman of the company. “It’s a shock.”

According to his father, Smith was obsessed with the outdoors.

“His passion was the mountains. He loved to ski, he loved to rock climb, he loved to backpack,” Smith said.

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Rod’s priorities reflected that as president of the family business, his father said. He pushed for sustainable and environmentally-friendly packaging and practices, as well as healthier food choices.

“Rod was a business person with a passion for the outdoors and the environment,” Smith said. “A lot of our growth is strictly a result of that.”

Ron Smith said the family will hold a service for Rod at the end of the month.

Moving forward, the company will require the next president to have the same passion for the environment that Rod had.

Conor McCue


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