Witnesses say the plane was headed toward the Continental Divide and attempted to turn around when it appeared it didn't have enough power to clear the wall of mountains. The plane then crashed near a ski lift and caused a small wildfire that was quickly extinguished.
Authorities believe James Kerker was flying the plane because he was a licensed pilot, Long said.
Investigators still piecing together the cause of the crash are gathering witness accounts and information about the pilot's medical history and experience, as well as other data, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said.
A preliminary report could be finished by early next week.
Aviation expert Greg Feith told KUSA-TV that out-of-state pilots can sometimes be surprised by the mountainous terrain and its other obstructions, including ski resort towers and trees. The weather can also be a factor, he said.