‘One of a kind:’ Corey Borg-Massanari’s life to be celebrated Sunday at Vail
Corey Borg-Massanari loved a good adventure. Just days after returning from a ski trip to Whistler Blackcomb last month, the 22-year-old Vail local was off again to explore another mountain, road tripping with some friends to Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico.
“He didn’t let life pass him by,” his mother, Bobbie Goron, said Thursday, calling from Minnesota. “He was always fishing and hunting in Minnesota, boating, just always doing something. He loved his family, loved his friends, and just lived his life.”
That life was cut way too short when Borg-Massanari died Jan. 21 in an Albuquerque hospital from injuries sustained from an in-bounds avalanche at Taos Ski Valley on Jan. 17. Borg-Massanari was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital after being pulled from the slide on 12,400-foot Kachina Peak, which also took the life of 26-year-old Matthew Zonghetti.
After days spent on a ventilator, doctors informed Borg-Massanari’s family that there was no detectable brain activity. An organ donor, Borg-Massanari’s final act was giving life to others. Hundreds of medical staffers lined the halls at the University of New Mexico Hospital as he was wheeled into his final operation on Monday, Jan. 21.
To celebrate his life, friends and family will gather Sunday morning at 9 a.m. at Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain for a service at the observation deck overlooking Mount of the Holy Cross at 9. A reception will follow inside Bistro 14. All are welcome. The Lionshead gondola opens for uploading at 8:30 a.m.
‘One of a kind’
Borg-Massanari was born September 15, 1996 in Pueblo, Colorado, but spent most of his adolescence in Brainerd, Minnesota, where he fell in love with hunting, fishing, boating, hockey, and just being outdoors. He wrestled in high school and would come to visit his father, Mark Massanari, in Colorado, during his summers off from school.
After graduation, Borg-Massanari opted to take some time off from school before moving to the Vail Valley in 2016 to live with his dad and attend Colorado Mountain College. He started working at the Patagonia store in Vail Village during the winter and as a guide for Zip Adventures in Wolcott during the summer. And he tried to ski every free minute he had.
“He loved Minnesota, obviously,” said Mark Massanari, who works as a plow driver and does road maintenance for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “When he moved out here, he really enjoyed the mountains, especially for skiing. He liked to ice fish and play hockey and snowmobile. He really enjoyed winter sports out in Minnesota. Then coming out to Colorado, the skiing became his passion. In the summer, he got into mountain biking, then he got more into road biking. Then he got a dirt bike.”
While Borg-Massanari loved to travel and chase adventure, both of his parents said that he was always cautious.
“Corey is not the type that was a daredevil,” Goron said. “He didn’t just jump into stuff. He learned everything about it prior to doing it, and he would start out slow. When he was comfortable, then he’d move up a level.”
“He just always took cautions,” Mark Massanari said. “He definitely wasn’t fly by the seat of your pants. He really wanted to know things, know what he was doing.”
Borg-Massanari had just started back up at CMC in January after a break and was taking an avalanche course. His parents had bought him a beacon for his birthday.
“I asked him if he was planning on becoming a ski patroller, and he said, ‘No, I just need to be informed,’” Goron said. “When he was going to Whistler, I actually asked him, ‘You’re taking your beacon, right?’” Goron said. “He laughed at me … like he was embarrassed. Like, mom, you don’t wear a beacon at a ski resort. He’s like, ‘Those are for the backwoods, not when you’re inbounds.’ And I said, ‘Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?’”
‘We still had some hope’
Borg-Massanari didn’t know Matthew Zonghetti, the 26-year-old man who also died from injuries sustained in the slide at Taos Ski Valley. Chris Bedford, a friend of Liz Matarese, one of Borg-Massanari’s friends and coworkers at the Patagonia store in Vail who was on the trip to Taos, was right behind the two men when the slide broke on Kachina Peak, sweeping them both away.
Medics transported Zonghetti, to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, where he died before 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17. Borg was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital, and his father was alerted that his son had been in an avalanche after Borg’s Vail friends who were on the trip — Matarese, Caitlin Collins and Hattie Aaron — frantically called CDOT’s customer service line.
Mark Massanari then called Goron, who said the rest is a blur.
“I remember screaming and being peeled off the floor,” Goron said. “At that point, we knew nothing. We didn’t know if he was alive. My coworkers instantly grabbed their phones and my phone and just started making calls and my boss was able to find out at that point that he was on the helicopter on his way to Albuquerque. We knew he was in-flight to there. Instantly, my other boss’s wife, the whole staff at my other job was instantly on the phone and they had plane tickets for my daughter and me to fly down.”
Mark Massanari, after looking at flights, jumped in the car and sped down to Albuquerque, arriving around 4 in the morning.
“When we first got there, we still had some hope,” Goron said. “He was on a ventilator. He was perfect. They had a neck brace on him, just because they didn’t know if he had an injury at that point. But overall, the only mark on him was a bruise from the neck brace. Just a small one. He had no cuts, no scrapes, no bruising, no broken bones, no internal damage. He was perfect. That makes it really hard, because when you look at your son, and he is perfect, it’s like, how can he not be OK?”
After three days of being kept alive by machines, doctors did their final tests on Borg-Massanari on Sunday, Jan. 20, to determine if there was any brain activity. There wasn’t, so the difficult decision was made by his family to say goodbye and let doctors harvest his organs.
“It was something that was important to him,” his mother said of Borg-Massanari listing himself as an organ donor. “He made that decision himself.”
‘The happiest person in the room’
When asked to describe their son, Borg-Massanari’s parents spoke of a fun-loving, goofy spirit who “just lights up the room.”
“Just a love for life, the outdoors,” Mark Massanari said. “He really cared about people. He always wanted people to be happy.”
“He’s just a fun kid to be around,” Goron said. “I could go on for hours. He’s got this smile, and he’s kinda goofy sometimes. I was really angry one day, and his wrestling coach told me, Corey wouldn’t want that. Corey was the one in wrestling practice who whenever somebody got mad, he didn’t like that. He wanted everyone to be happy, so he would just tell some stupid joke that made no sense and everybody would laugh and then you move on. He loved his family, he loved his friends, he loved his dog. He just lived life. He didn’t let life pass him by.”
Goron said everybody “knew the same Corey.”
“He was always true to himself,” she said. “He wasn’t different around his parents than he was with friends … He just loved life and loved the adventure. He wasn’t the type to sit around and watch life go by him. He wanted to live it and he wanted to have fun doing it.”
That said, there were always fun surprises. Goron laughed when she talked about a last-minute trip that her son took to Washington state.
“One day, I saw a picture on Facebook or Instagram, and I looked at it really weird and I texted him, are you in Washington? He’s like, yeah,” she said.
Mark Massanari said Borg, at the urging of a friend, starting studying Catholicism after high school and made the decision to be baptized and confirmed.
“He had a real deep faith,” Mark Massanari said. “He really dove into that. He didn’t tell us until he was actually going to get baptized. He did kind of odd things like that, like, oh by the way. Sometimes it would get kinda stressful. Other times we would just laugh.”
Vail Daily Editor Nate Peterson can be reached at email@example.com
Vail Mountain opens Nov. 15, about a week earlier than normal. But that earlier opening will be out of Vail Village, not Lionshead.