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  1. #1
    flibbertigibbet LazyL's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004

    Holy smokes.

    News story out of Mammoth, CA (copied from today's L.A. Times). Emphasis in third to last paragraph is mine.

    In happier news, a snowboarder who was lost for days was recently rescued at Mammoth. Hooray for search-and-rescue!


    By Jordan Rane, Special to The Times

    It was a typical Tuesday morning, minus the office and courtroom. Six days into the new year and nine months into retirement, Chris Foley checked out of his hotel at Mammoth Mountain, gassed up his Honda Prelude for the drive home, parked it in the ski lot and headed out for another fine day on the same slopes he'd been skiing for years.

    In keeping with his new custom, the former deputy U.S. attorney general, a bachelor, had come up to Mammoth alone on Sunday to avoid the crowds. He called Fort Worth that night to chat with Alice, his niece and nearest living relative. The next day he made a tennis date with an old work buddy for the following Friday. On Tuesday afternoon, at Chairlift 1, he flashed his season pass a retirement gift from the gang at the U.S. office of the attorney general in Los Angeles, where he'd put in 30 respected years.

    He was never heard from again.

    Skiers and snowboarders at Mammoth Mountain don't always turn up on schedule at the end of the day. It's an aptly named mountain, with more than 3,500 acres of developed runs and, beyond the rope, a pristine and unforgiving backyard called the Sierra Nevada. When the missing-person alarm is sounded, mountain security usually has the wanderer back in time for a hot tub or an X-ray. Failing that, Mono County's search and rescue team is on call to pluck stranded skiers out of the backcountry safely ahead of tomorrow's evening news. They do it all the time without a hitch when someone tells them to.

    "It's really rare that someone goes missing who we don't locate alive and well very quickly," says Lt. S.J. Maris, Mono's chief deputy coroner. "But this fellow Foley came up for a ski holiday alone. He's retired and has no immediate family. He wasn't expected to be anywhere at any time, like at work or home or anything. So no one notified anybody about him not being around when he went missing."

    Foley's car sat in the ski lot with a tow-warning notice for a week. His missed tennis match was unlike him, but it went unchecked. Eventually the parking authorities kept their word and had his vehicle removed. Even this wasn't a red flag.

    "We have a huge facility with a workforce surrounded by kids," explains Lisa Baker, the ski area's security director. "They might go out drinking for a night or even away for a three-day weekend down south, and they'll just leave their car there because they don't have a place to park at employee housing. It's not out of the ordinary."

    When Foley's car hadn't been claimed after a week, the towing company notified the police that something might not be right. A report was filed. Calls were made to his friends and former colleagues, his physician in L.A., his niece in Texas. His mail was sorted through for clues. The last scan on his ski pass was noted Chairlift 1, 12:30 p.m., Jan. 6, 2004.

    It was now Jan. 19. The retired attorney had vanished nearly two weeks earlier at his favorite ski resort.

    Search and rescue immediately scoured the ski area. It hadn't snowed since Foley disappeared, but there was no sign of him anywhere on the hill.

    "It's almost impossible to go missing within the ski area boundaries, but it can happen," says Maris. "A couple years ago a guy somehow fell off a ski run into a rock well and couldn't get himself out. It was snowing at the time, and he wasn't found until the spring. That's about as rare as it gets."

    Despite advice from Foley's friends, the search moved into the vast wilderness skirting the mountain's back side. "It's huge, like the sea," says Baker. "I've been on the mountain for seven years. I consider myself to be a relatively good snowboarder, and it's not an area that I would ever choose to go." Foley, a conservative intermediate by all accounts, was unlikely to slog anywhere out of bounds, barring an improbable but quickly perceptible wrong turn. Could he have gotten so disoriented, or ill, that he took the back side of the mountain to be the front?

    "We all said, 'Don't bother to look on the back side of the mountain,' " recalls Jack Kerry, a fellow Los Angeles attorney and one of Foley's longtime friends. "This is not a daredevil, never was a daredevil, and he's 63 years old. That's the last place any of us thought they were going to find him."

    On Feb. 1, after nearly two weeks of searching, Foley's skis and poles were found at the bottom of the back side of the mountain in Pumice Flat a popular summer campground that's about as vacant as the moon in the cold season. They were in a bare, 4-foot-deep ditch surrounded by a level plane of deep snow. The ski bindings had released from a possible slow-speed fall, and it's fairly clear that this is where Chris Foley somehow died.

    His ski pass was recovered there. His boots and feet turned up nearby, where animals apparently left them. The next day a snowstorm blew in, burying for now any further clues.

    One theory is that, incapacitated by a fall, he died of hypothermia. Foley's identification remains "circumstantial."

    More mysterious is what apparently led, by all accounts, a pleasant, sharp-witted, risk-wary government attorney with two adored cats, some unfinished screenplays in the drawer, a wide circle of friends and a well-earned lifetime of Saturdays ahead of him to ski off course thousands of vertical feet into nowhere.

  2. #2
    Do Nothing Tantrum's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Boulder, Colorado

    I guess it reinforces the idea to ride...

    with others. I can't tell you how many times I have snowboarded and mountain biked alone in some isolated areas. I may have to quit that.

    "I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different." Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

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