Auburn skier ‘died doing what he loved’

Accident leaves some questions unanswered
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Dona Sorensen has some unanswered questions about the circumstances surrounding her  71-year-old husband Theodore Sorenson’s death Friday after a ski crash at Squaw Valley, but there’s one thing she’s knows for certain.

“He died doing what he loved,” Sorensen told the Journal during a phone interview Wednesday. “He loved the deep powder, he just loved it. That was his love. He could hardly wait for ski season.”

What she doesn’t know, however, is why the lift was running in those conditions, or why he was skiing on its runs at that time, she said.

Her husband was an “expert,” “cautious” skier and he had taken that particular lift “thousands of times,” she said. He collided with a tree on the west face of KT-22 about 11 a.m. Friday and had been wearing a helmet, according to a Squaw Valley press release.

The KT-22 lift features advanced runs and one intermediate-advanced way down.

“Ted left a message at the top of the ski hill to his son Derek that he would call him back when he got to the bottom of the hill, and that was his last run,” said Sorensen, who moved with her husband to Auburn in 1997. “The weather was so bad, and it was really turning, and I think he just wanted to get one more run in before he came home on the 21st.”

Sorensen had been skiing in a closed area that had been roped off by ski patrol, said Andy Wirth, Squaw Valley CEO, adding that he wouldn’t characterize conditions as bad that day.

“The tragedy that ensued is something that we are all quite sorrowful for,” Wirth said.

It’s not the only tragedy the Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows resort family is coping with.

On Christmas, longtime Alpine Meadows ski patroller Bill Foster died after being caught in an avalanche on Monday, according to a press release from the resort.

“There’s a camaraderie between our resorts and our families, and really, right now, there’s still a lot of grieving going on within that family,” Wirth said. “Mr. Sorensen, his tragic loss of life, and our ski patroller – these are things that are tough circumstances to deal with.”

Storms have dumped several feet of snow on ski resorts around Lake Tahoe, and Wirth said area resorts have seen the second highest amount of accumulation on record, behind December 2010, and that leads to variable conditions.

At least three avalanches have been reported that have swept up skiers and snowboarders – two resulting in deaths.

Foster had been part of a team of patrollers performing “routine snow safety” at the Sherwood Bowl area that was closed to the public during the time of the incident that was triggered by an explosive charge thrown by a senior member of the team, the release said.

The team members had been positioned in what they believed to be a protected area based on past experience, it said.

On Monday, a 49-year-old from Hirschdale died while snowboarding at Donner Ski Ranch after getting buried under 2 to 3 feet of snow from an avalanche, the Associated Press reported.

Sunday, three snowboarders triggered an avalanche on a portion of the KT-22 peak that hospitalized two skiers, one which was treated for a shoulder injury and the other was released, according to Squaw Valley’s statement.

Sorensen never skied alone and had been with a friend at the time, “some guy we’re waiting to talk to,” Dona Sorensen said.

Sorensen had been a ski instructor at Sugar Bowl for several years and a former San Jose firefighter of 30 years, so safety was something he not only taught others but took to heart himself, she said.

“He wasn’t a reckless skier, I don’t want that to be implied at all,” she said. “He took caution. It was an accident. He wore his helmet. They said he took so many tumbles his helmet came off. He wasn’t a reckless skier. That’s why we don’t understand what happened.”

Placer County Sheriff’s officials said the coroner’s report indicates he hit a patch of ice and lost control before striking the left side of his head on the tree, the AP reported. Paramedics were unable to revive him at the scene.

Earlier in December, Sorensen volunteered on the race course for a World Cup skiing event in Colorado, she said, even getting to take the run once.

“That was his highlight for his first skiing of the season,” she said.

Sorensen had been active in the Auburn community, participating in Taco Tuesday at the Elks Lodge and also enjoyed making wine as a hobby, growing Syrah grapes and working closely with local vintners to get advice, she said.

They were members of the Placer County Wine and Grape Association, she added.

He never mixed his two hobbies, avoiding alcohol when on the slopes, she said.

Perhaps his greatest passion were grandsons, Luke and Jack, the children of his son Jeff.

“He sure loved being a grandpa,” she said. “He wasn’t finished with those two.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews