Death of an Ski instructor: Attention must be paid.

by Placerville Newswire / Dec 26, 2016 / comments

By , Image of Dennis Baltimore and Jillian Torrez. IT WAS THE LAST PLACE and he was the last person you’d associate with death.

In the middle of the day, on a gentle beginner slope at the generally gentle Tahoe ski resort of Northstar, a skilled ski instructor wearing a helmet and all his safety equipment died.

What apparently happened was this. To avoid a snowboarder who had lost control on an icy patch, the 35-year-old instructor veered off the groomed slope and skied into the woods. There, his skis may have hit a snow-covered rock, and he was tossed into a ditch. Despite the life-saving efforts of first responders, he succumbed to his injuries where he lay.

The instructor was Dennis Baltimore, only child of grieving parents, father of a six-month-old daughter named Zoe, loving partner of Jillian Torrez.

I spoke at length with Jillian, with Dennis’ father Dale Carley and with the mother of two kids whom Dennis instructed.

Here’s what came from those conversations, mostly in the words of Jillian …

Slopeside

As an instructor, Dennis was amazing. He made his students’ experience better every day. Dennis would always have a solution, always had tricks that worked.

He influenced the community, colleagues, even parents of the kids he’d instructed. Over dinner last week, he told me a story about two of those kids. He couldn’t believe how great, how fearless they were.

After news of his death was in the papers, their mother wrote me at two in the morning. She hasn’t told her kids about Dennis’ death. They’re still telling the corny ski jokes that Dennis taught them. Her kids still talk about Dennis all the time.

He also taught two kids who spoke only Mandarin. He knew he had to figure out a way to reach them. Instead of talking, he used showing; he’d make the move himself and have them copy what he did. Once they had that down, he downloaded a Mandarin translation app so he could communicate verbally with them as well.

Dennis had three rules on the mountain:

To learn

To have fun

To be safe. That was the most important. The other two came in second.

Instructors at Northstar Ski School can have lunch with their students. He always got them gummy bears. That would cure the three biggest issues — missing their parents, feeling cold and being afraid.

He had pictures the kids had drawn for him, thanking him for teaching them to ski. This was a huge part of his life; he was excited to go to work every day.

Homeside

Dennis was my best friend, partner, lover, my heart and soul. He was my missing puzzle piece that I thought I would never find. Every day I felt loved, appreciated, cherished. Every day he would say, “I adore you.” He would say it from his heart.

I’m going to miss him every single day. In this grief, I want to honor him and his spirit. And the way he lived life. Each day when I feel like I’m losing it, I’m going to remember all the good times we had together.

Familyside

Dennis has a baby, Zoe, from a previous relationship with Cayce Weislow in South Lake Tahoe. Zoe was the apple of his eye. They have the same mannerisms, same smile, even same eyebrows. Any time he had off, he went and saw Zoe.

And he used that BabyCenter app every day. He would always relay what the app was saying back to Zoe’s mom.

His father Dale is amazing, the glue that has been holding us all together. He’s been here for me, his best friend Mike, and his mother, Mary. Dale lives in Mexico City; Mary, near Los Angeles. Dennis’ death has been so very hard on all of us.

Playside

Dennis was an avid karaoke singer. He’d go to the Grid whenever he could and sing his heart out. We had clips of him singing his two favorite songs: “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers and “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones. Always those two bands. The Grid had a fundraiser for Dennis. They’re in mourning too.

Supportside

Northstar has been wonderful. They helped with some of the funeral arrangements, paid for the cremation, brought a shuttle of employees to attend the service. They let folks off on a busy Saturday to attend. Northstar hosted the reception at TC’s Pub in Northstar Village. They’ve been amazing. We’ve received complete support from them.

 

  • Dennis was also a keen skateboarder

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Dennis was also a keen skateboarder

 

That letter

Jillian spoke of the letter a grateful mother sent her at two a.m. Here are excerpts:

We are so very sorry to hear what happened to Dennis. I want you and his family to know that in the very short time he taught my two children, he made a huge impact. Not many ski instructors are talked about, weeks AFTER the ski lesson … but Dennis was.

During our entire vacation, the kiddos were talking about Dennis at dinner time. “What do you call a mountain of cats?” would ask one child. The other would reply, “A MEWntain!”

“Where do cows go on their first date?”

“To the MOOOOOvies!”

I would ask, “Where did you learn that joke?”

They would both answer, “Dennis, our ski instructor!”

I still remember bumping into him and the kiddos several times that first week of December on the ski hills. He did an amazing job teaching various drills to the kids. Conscientious, diligent and responsible … he made sure skiing was safe, fun and a happy learning experience.

To know that in a short few days Dennis made such a big impact on my children’s ski skills, but also their sense of humor, speaks volumes of Dennis as a man. The world is a sadder place to not have him here. Our family’s heart breaks with yours in knowing what happened to Dennis … and we cry with you.

Jules Older is the creator of and contributor to the ebook, SKIING THE EDGE.