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Mammoth cliff claims life of North Shore man

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
FYI...This happened almost a month ago but I never saw anything on it till today...What a bummer.

February 20, 2003
Mammoth cliff claims life of North Shore man

By Megan Feldman

A memorial service is scheduled today for a longtime North Shore resident and Squaw Valley employee who died last Thursday after falling down a 400-foot cliff beyond the boundary of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

Andrew Thomas Pertzborn, 32, went to Mammoth last week with several friends to be filmed for a Chevrolet truck commercial. "We were going to jump a 30-foot gap on our mountain bikes in the snow," said John Hawley of Tahoe City, friends with Pertzborn for the past 15 years.

They couldn't shoot the commercial due to bad weather, so the group of seasoned extreme skiers explored the backcountry outside the ski area. When Pertzborn became separated from the group while skiing an out-of-bounds area known as the Dragon's Tail, then failed to show up at the car that afternoon, John and his brother Dana Hawley weren't particularly concerned.

After all, these are guys who have skied the backcountry together for more than a decade, following the calls of snow, sunshine, and speed, sometimes getting lost or delayed by challenging geography or faulty equipment.

"We thought he was lost and walking back from somewhere," said John Hawley. Another friend, David Olsen of Tahoe City, explained, "he's the kind of guy that gets lost and you don't worry about him - he knew what was going on."

But when Pertzborn hadn't emerged from the wilderness by 9 p.m., his friends knew something was wrong. They called the Mono County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, accompanying the search party into the mountains to find their friend.

Pertzborn's body was spotted at 10:10 a.m. the next day, Feb. 14, at the bottom of a 400-foot cliff near Twin Lakes, the Mono County Sheriff's Office reported. An autopsy determined he died as a result of severe head trauma, internal injuries and multiple bone fractures. Sheriffs say an investigation continues into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Since 1989, Pertzborn had worked as a security guard and parking attendant at the Squaw Valley ski resort. He moved to Tahoe from Madison Wis., to ski, and his inexhaustible exuberance for mountain sports coupled with a penchant for bright and zany ski attire led his friends to nickname him "Superfreak."

"The guy was a sweetheart, he was so loved. Everybody knew him," said John Hawley. He and Olsen, laughing, also recalled his quirky qualities - being scatterbrained and buckling his boots wrong.

Pertzborn's friends and family described an intensely generous man who enjoyed helping people and supporting those he cared about.

"Its amazing - the outpouring of people calling me from as far as Vermont [to express their condolences]," said his brother, Michael Pertzborn of Reno. "The thing that everyone has to say is that he never had a bad word to say about anybody."

"He was very chatty. He'd talk to anybody - he had friends everywhere he went," said Alan Sinetra, who met Pertzborn 13 years ago working at Squaw Valley. "He was an angel."

Olsen said Pertzborn used to buy him bicycle parts to replace broken components on Olsen's bike. If he didn't have the money to pay Pertzborn for the parts, he'd say to pay him back with burritos from T's in Incline Village, a favorite spot after skiing or mountain biking near Mount Rose.

Arlo Stockham went to high school with Pertzborn in Wisconsin and said his late friend talked him into moving to Truckee in 1989. "He called and said it snowed 3 feet in October," said Stockham, who promptly joined his friend in Tahoe. The two lived together in Tahoe Donner and neither one left the area. "He was a great guy - he had more friends than anyone I know," said Stockham.

Pertzborn was known in Tahoe as a great alpine and telemark skier, but his reputation for dare-devil mountain biking is almost legendary. "A 30-mile ride was standard for Andy on the Rim Trail...he'd pass you and you just thought, where does he get the energy?" said Olsen.

Pertzborn's friends say they're consoled by the fact that he died skiing, because it was one of his passions, one of the things that made life beautiful to him.

"He died doing what he loved - it's cliché, and it's totally true," said John Hawley.

"He was doing what he loved- he was an avid skier, wakeboarder, and extreme mountain biker," said Andrew's brother, Michael. He called him a Tahoe icon, someone people knew if they skied Squaw.

Pertzborn had lived in Tahoe City, Tahoe Donner, Tahoma and Homewood, and even camped one summer in Desolation Wilderness. "He would find all the wheels and deals in Tahoe- he was known for his ability to pinch pennies," said his brother.

As Pertzborn's friends and family struggle to accept his death and focus on his life, they try to do so on his terms - from the perspective of someone whose love for the wilderness was so great that it would be considered a privilege to die there.

On a recent backcountry ski trip with Pertzborn, Olsen became separated from him when he dropped too low and had to hike out longer than he expected. When he reunited with Pertzborn, who was waiting for him, "he gave me a big bear hug and said, 'I thought you'd fallen into the creek - I'm glad you didn't, but you'd like it there. It would be a good place to rest.'"
post #2 of 2
and here I am thinking again...wtf?!
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