Wednesday, April 5, 2006

California man killed in skiing accident on Bald Mountain

Express Staff Writer

A 53-year-old California man died Friday morning after sustaining traumatic head injuries in a skiing accident on Bald Mountain.

Paul Alan Gianera, of Mount Shasta, Calif., was skiing down a cat track between lower Hemingway and Greyhawk ski trails on the Warm Springs side of Baldy when he lost control, flew off the cat track and hit a tree, said Jack Sibbach, spokesman for Sun Valley Co.

Sibbach said Sun Valley Ski Patrol was notified of the incident at 10:50 a.m.

Gianera was transported to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at about 12:30 p.m.

However, Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel said Gianera died—from a skull fracture and trauma to the brain—within moments of the accident, if not immediately.

"I'm sure it was very sudden," Mikel said.

Sibbach said "there were no witnesses" to the accident and it's difficult to determine exactly what happened.

"We're not going to know whether it was speed or he just caught an edge or got turned around," Sibbach said. "We just don't know what happened."

Sibbach added that "people go off cat tracks more often than you'd think. We've all done it. You just sort of end up relaxing a little bit and catch an edge."

A similar accident occurred on Baldy in early March when Ketchum resident and expert skier Teresa Hukari suddenly lost control on the I-80 cat track and hit a tree, sustaining injuries to her spinal cord.

Gianera was in Ketchum to compete in the Holding Cup, an amateur ski race held on the Warm Springs side of Baldy from March 30 to April 1. The race features teams of alumni from colleges and universities across the nation. Gianera, an alumnus of Southern Oregon University, had already run the course Friday morning and was skiing to the bottom of Warm Springs when the accident occurred.

Ketchum resident Mark Reitinger, a longtime friend of Gianera's and his teammate in the race, said he skied upon the scene but was initially unaware of what had happened.

"I almost skied through the whole commotion," Reitinger said. "There were some people pulled over to the side, and then I noticed there was someone lying there. I knew it was (Gianera) because of his boots, and I thought, 'Oh no, oh God.' It just looked bad; it was a bloody mess."

Gianera was wearing a helmet.

Reitinger said his wife, Rebecca, and their teammate Jules Michel, of Portland, Ore., were the first people on the scene.

"Jules was performing CPR, but it was too late," Reitinger said.

Gianera was a retired fire captain from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. A coach of the Mount Shasta junior race team for more than 20 years, he was an excellent skier.

"That's the hard part, he was such an incredible skier," Reitinger said. "He was our team ringer. We just knew he was going to kick some serious butt. You just can't fathom what happened."

Gianera was married to Margy Marshall for more than 20 years. They had no children.

Sibbach said the Southern Oregon University team opted to continue the race. However, the Holding Cup was canceled on Saturday because of bad weather. At the awards banquet, participants decided that the $3,500 in prize money should be given to the Mount Shasta junior ski team in honor of Gianera.

The last accidental death on Baldy occurred on New Year's Day 2004 when Tom Wernig, of Hailey, fell into a tree well while skiing alone.

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