VAIL - Drew Krantz's iPhone saved his life last month.
The story actually started a couple of months earlier, when Drew, 14, was bugging his dad, David, for an iPhone to replace his old flip-phone. David, who's a big believer in rewards for a job well done, told his son he'd get the new phone if he earned a spot in the semifinals of a regional tennis tournament in their hometown of Cleveland.
Now, fast-forward to a Krantz family trip to Vail a couple of months later. Instead of spending the afternoon with his dad, Drew ventured off to ski the bowls with some school friends and a guide. The friends ended up about halfway down one run, looking for a lost ski pole, while Drew and the guide were at the bottom of the run.
Drew ultimately rode the lift back to the top of the run to try to help his friends, took a wrong turn and got stuck.
The youngster kept his head and dialed both his dad and 911. Within moments, Vail Ski Patrol had blanketed Blue Sky Basin.
David, who was waiting at the bottom of a lift, could only listen while snowmobiles zoomed around the hill and patrollers blew whistles, trying to track down Drew. But Drew couldn't hear any of it.
After more than 40 minutes of fruitless searching, a patroller told the teen, "You aren't where you think you are."
And that's where the iPhone comes into play.
The patroller running the search asked Drew to use his phone's compass and map functions. Drew was able to pinpoint himself on a map of the area and, with the patroller's help, share that map with others. After that, help was just minutes away. Drew was found, safe and unharmed but chilled to the bone, and quickly reunited with his family.
Over the course of more than 90 minutes, the rest of the Krantz family could only watch, wait and worry.
"We didn't celebrate when it was over - we were very quiet," David said. "We were crying for days."
That quiet job and relief is why it took David a few weeks after the trip to write a letter to this newspaper and share the story in a phone conversation.
But the experience left David impressed with ski patrol and the ability of technology to help in a situation that could have easily ended in tragedy.
"(Patrollers) told me it was 100 percent they wouldn't have found (Drew) without that phone," David said. "They said it was one of their best finds ever."
Like many adults with teenagers, David is astonished at what his son's phone was able to do, and that ski patrollers understood the technology well enough to help Drew use it.
The Krantz family will probably return to Vail for another ski vacation. Next time, though, "the kids are all staying with me," David said.