Sunday, December 28, 2008

It is the greatest privilege to die doing what we love

For those of you who don't know, Randy Davis died skiing at Squaw on Christmas Day. I didn't know him very well, yet i will always remember his energy and spirit. Here is a copy of the sacramento bee article on Randy and what happened. Passion for skiing ended in disaster By Cynthia Hubert Published: Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008 | Page 1A On Christmas morning, as he had done on countless winter mornings since he was a toddler, Randy Davis woke up thinking about the snowy slopes of Squaw Valley. "I'm going skiing," he whispered to his girlfriend of four years, Kelsey Hudson, before he kissed her goodbye. "I'll see you in a couple of hours." Then Davis left for what would be his final runs at a ski resort that had been his second home. That morning, the mountain that had given so much joy to the competitive freestyle skier turned on him. About the time he was to be returning to celebrate Christmas with Hudson and her family, a friend reported that Davis had disappeared from the slopes. A ski patroller and his search dog later found his body buried under snow in steep terrain above Poulsen's Gully. He apparently died after hitting a tree following an avalanche. "His stocking and presents are still under the Christmas tree," Hudson said Friday, fighting tears. Davis was 21 years old, an adventurer and stellar skier with curly, unruly hair. He was a fine student, majoring in exercise biology at the University of California, Davis, and thinking about the possibility of medical school. He was a devoted friend and family member who always said "I love you" before hanging up the phone. "He was very kindhearted and very spirited," said his mother, Nanci Davis of Tahoe City. "He was always in the middle of things." Born in Avalon, on Catalina Island, Davis began to fall in love with skiing after his family moved to Tahoe City when he was 2. His father, Bud, taught at the children's ski school at Squaw Valley, and Davis became a fixture there. "Before he was 3, he was skiing black diamond runs, making three turns on every mogul," his mother said. Davis counted the days that he skied each season, she said, always shooting for at least 100. He was a longtime member and a coach of the Squaw Valley Freestyle Team, and enjoyed the thrill of "bumps, jumps and aerials," Nanci Davis said. He performed double and even triple back flips, spent summers training in Utah and had Olympic aspirations, but wanted to finish college first. Off of the slopes, Davis had many interests. He tackled challenging trails on his mountain bike, played football and the trumpet in high school, loved swing dancing and recently started playing the guitar. "He was learning 'Stairway to Heaven,' and he played it badly," his mother joked. At UC Davis, he organized an intramural, coed flag football team. He was coach, manager and quarterback, and his sister Jessica played on the team. But skiing was his ultimate passion, family and friends said. Because of his fearlessness on the slopes, Nanci Davis said, "I worried about him every day, all the time." Once, when he was a young teenager, his helmet struck a tree during a ski run and he suffered a serious head injury, lapsing into a coma for four days. "That's when I stopped thinking that something like this couldn't happen to us," his mother said. He made a full recovery and was back on the slopes a month later. "I didn't encourage it, but he loved it so much," she said. On the day before he died, Davis had an unexpected reunion on the slopes with five friends he has known since preschool but had not seen in some time. "They just happened to meet on the mountain," said his mother. "He called me about this wonderful day of skiing that he had just had, one of the best days ever." Nanci Davis cannot help but think, she said, that her son died the next day doing what he most loved. Davis spent Christmas Eve with his girlfriend and her family, having dinner, sharing stories and, Hudson said, teaching her grandmother to play the music video game "Guitar Hero." He got up the next morning excited about "the perfect powder" at Squaw Valley, said Hudson, who is studying cognitive science at UC Berkeley. Nearly 2 feet of snow had fallen overnight. The mountain was calling him. Later that morning, after the ski patrol phoned his mother with news of her missing son, the family gathered in a somber vigil at Squaw Valley. The news was devastating. The young man's death marked the first inbounds avalanche fatality at the resort since 1963, said spokeswoman Savannah Cowley. Davis had been skiing inbounds on a steep but established trail, said Cowley. Earlier in the day, she said, ski patrollers had taken avalanche control measures in the area. Avalanches, sudden and unpredictable, generally occur when layers of snow build up and slide down the mountain. Squaw Valley has received more than 5 feet of snow during the past six days, but avalanche conditions Friday were listed as moderate by the Sierra Avalanche Center. The Christmas Day tragedy has deeply affected employees at the resort, said Cowley. "The entire Davis family has been part of the Squaw Valley family for over a decade," she said. "Their involvement has touched the lives of countless people. Randy will not be forgotten." After learning of his death on Thursday, Hudson opened her Christmas present from Davis. It was a pair of beautiful pearl earrings. "I'll think about him every time that I wear them," she said.

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