Vail Daily column: Nothing promised in life
Ryan Summerlin January 9, 2014
The young man already had an outsized footprint in our community.
Athletic, gregarious, a natural leader. A great skier and known since childhood as something of an adrenaline junkie. Born and raised here, still a small town in all the best ways.
Throw on the family name and his untimely passing in that avalanche became national news. However briefly, a country perked its ears in dismay and mourned.
Of course the ripples, waves really, rose highest at the epicenter. Life stopped for everyone here, at least upvalley.
I swear I haven’t had or overheard a conversation that didn’t include Tony Seibert since Tuesday afternoon, and I didn’t know him. I might be the only one.
He was 24 when he dropped into Charlie’s Death Chute east of the resort at around 11:30 Tuesday morning with three others, triggering the avalanche that took him.
My son, 25, and daughter, 22, are downvalley products who didn’t know Tony, but know friends of his. My son’s Vail-born wife and family knew him, too.
Friends of a certain age, with kids roughly my kids’ age, had stories to share of him as a youngster. I know God was questioned, tears shed, memories shared throughout the valley. Facebook buzzed, and our website set records for hits on coverage of folks not named Kobe or Michelle Obama.
The name — royalty in this valley — was part of it, no question. But this guy went beyond his granddad’s mountain and had established his own place in the valley’s lore when the big wave that snapped trees took him.
This is a sport that only grows more dangerous as its practitioners get better. Tony was a renowned skier who was filmed in the new Warren Miller film about the 10th Mountain Division, “Climb to Glory,” which was scheduled to play at the Vilar last night. The screening was postponed.
He gained an extra appreciation for the 10th and his grandfather while strapping on the awkward gear and skis they used, a bridge between generations.
As his ability grew, so did his range, including into the too-often deadly East Vail Chutes. Here lies the stark fear — I’ll admit it — that local parents have when their kids grow from mastering Arrowhead to Beaver Creek to Vail to beyond.
Not so much my kids. They found other focuses that have kept them just in-bounds. But friends of theirs, and to the quick for me, those friends’ parents. I identify now with their parents. Never mind their and my own adventures in youth that would have scared the … out of our parents if they knew.
This raises the question about how best to live your life. Nothing is promised, and there is no such thing as true safety, not really. A ride in a car is far more dangerous than a day on skis, just not nearly as spectacular.
I understand Tony as a kid jumped out of trees just for the thrill, skied hard and lived big — this was part of what people loved and admired about him. This wasn’t a person who would die with many regrets.
He left us too young, to be sure. His name attracted headlines and perhaps highlighted dangers too quickly forgotten after others who have died in these chutes.
He’s on his way to being memorialized locally not so much as a cautionary about the chutes, but for how he lived — aiming for the fullest, something so few of we timid souls really do.
But never mind all that. His parents just wish he would have lived.