I've struggled with how to handle what happened that afternoon after completion of the second run after lunch. I shot a lot of video that day, it was a classic windy, high alpine skiing day with really fun and challenging snow conditions. The terrain was fantastic. Our guides Andy and Kelly had made the day pretty special keeping the conversation light, short and simply let us all just ski it up. Members of their crew had done some avalanche control work in a section of the terrain which had not been skied in two seasons. After lunch our group was elected to be the first to ski this terrain in nearly two years, we were deemed worthy of the task.
John P. Rathbone was with us on this day, and John and myself had a couple of brief chats, mostly small talk, about the skis we were skiing on that day, mine a two year old Armada JJ and his this years version. Every time we jumped in the snowcat for another run (we had done 10 runs prior to lunch), I had a pretty big shit ass eating grin on my face from the fun we were having, primarily because I knew we had all stole another day of fun from our time here on earth. Roughly every other ride or so in the snowcat on our way to the next run, John would look over at me and say "he's still smiling". My reply was simple, and I went into a brief explanation of how good the simple things in life are, good people, a snowcat, great guides, incredibly awesome terrain and super fun snow conditions. What else does one need?
I've wanted to reach out to John's family since he passed away that day apparently from a massive heart attack after skiing a simply amazing run. I did not know John's family. I had been in his ski and bike shop, Foothills Bike and Ski once before while riding my road bike around that area last summer to ask for directions. I did not attend his memorial gathering this past Sunday. I've been struggling with what happened that day like many. There are more than likely so many questions asked by John's loved ones and friends as to what happened that day. I was there, all day. I was there when John collapsed and I thought he had simply fallen while skiing out of the woods and onto the cat track just 30 yards or so from the snowcat. When he did not move for more than a few seconds, I screamed it out to our crew and the effort to save his live began immediately and vigorously. CPR was performed for nearly an hour, it was surreal and shocking at the same time. The word hero does not apply to those who tried, there were so many. Our guides, medically trained in our group, and Monarch Ski Area ski patrol were way beyond heroic. It was a very tough deal. It was not fair. Our entire group rode out in the snowcat, and at the high point of our journey back to the ski area, we were asked if we wanted to ride the cat or ski back down to home base. It was a dumb question....everyone jumped out of the cat and we skied one last run down for John.
Being the first group to ski this terrain in two years, I had recorded a good portion of the hike and skiing on my camera. I have struggled terribly with whether or not to put something together. I will guess that some people may be offended that I publish video of our last run that day prior to John's passing. On the other hand I think it is very important for family and friends of John to be able to see where we were that day prior to his passing. It was a glorious place on a glorious day. This video shows our group exiting the snowcat and hiking to a safe spot to click in, then ski over to the drop in point, receiving instructions from our guides on how and where to ski the line, and our group eager with anticipation to drop in. When one of our guides Andy asks in the howling wind "who wants it?", being the greedy snow pig that I am I simply dropped in first and skied to our safety zone and waited for the rest of our crew. The last little dot coming down the top of the bowl before it cuts out to John standing next to me is John dropping in...way up in the frame. The last shot of this video is John dropping in one of our morning runs before we stopped for lunch. The video is raw, as it was shot. John is wearing the dark blue parka with the hood up and white gloves in this video
It was an honor to ski with you on this day John P. Rathbone, may you rest in a place as beautiful as the spot where you left this world. May time heal the pain that both your family and friends will endure on behalf of your passing.....