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Mountain News: Disabled ski champ didn't dwell on past

Avalanches are taking lives at an alarming rate



BISHOP, Calif. — You think you had a bad day? Think about Jill Kinmont Boothe, whose early life you may have seen depicted in a movie, "The Other Side of the Mountain."

One of her first loves, skier Dick "Mad Dog" Buek, died in a plane crash, and a second, Buddy Werner, died in a an avalanche. Steamboat's Mt. Werner is named after him.

Then, the person who inspired her passion for academics at the University of California at Los Angeles, Lee Zadroga, died just a few years after she met him.

And, of course, there was the accident. She was a national ski champion, and had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated — when, in the winter of 1955, a skiing accident left her a quadriplegic.

She didn't spend much time looking over her shoulder. After moving to Seattle with her parents, she obtained her teaching credentials and then got her first job as a teacher of remedial reading. Then, she returned to Bishop, where she had learned to ski, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, about 48 kilometres from the Mammoth ski area, and taught from 1975 to 1996 while pursuing an avocation in art.

Dave McCoy, the legendary founder of Mammoth ski area, refused to answer the question put to him by The Sheet as to whether she was the best skier he had ever coached.

"I don't think you should say things like that," he answered when asked.

"She worked like crazy to make herself better. She didn't want to beat anyone else particularly. She just wanted to better herself. She was that kind of person — every day she had to be better. And she helped other people be what they wanted to be."

Kinmont died in February, a passing observed by the New York Times and a host of other publications. But the choicest quotes were most local. Her husband, John Boothe, who married Kinmont in 1976, told The Sheet that he never looked at her as disabled.

"I didn't look at it that way. She came off as normal in a minute."

And McCoy had this to say: "The world gets screwed up going after yesterdays. It's about now."

High school sledder 24th avie victim

MOAB, Utah — As unluck would have it, both the first and most recent fatal avalanches in the United States occurred in Utah this winter. The first was at Snowbird, the ski area just outside Salt Lake City, when a snowboarder was killed by trauma after being caught in an avalanche before the ski area was opened.

The most recent occurred Saturday, when an 18-year-old snowmobiler riding in the La Sal Mountains, located just west of the Colorado border, above the desert town of Moab, was caught in a slide that began about 300 metres above him.