Leif Borgeson: Leaving a legacy at the Legend
SUMMIT DAILY NEWS
When Arapahoe Basin ski patrol director Tony Cammarata considers Leif Borgeson’s legacy, he thinks of how he saved a 15-year-old Canadian ski racer’s life.
In “an incredible event that brought us together as far as teamwork goes,” Borgeson – who died last week of an extensive heart attack while hiking a ridge at Aspen Highlands with his son – was among the first, if not the first, on scene to pull the youngster out of the well of the tree he’d hit at high speed, Cammarata said. When the boy’s oxygen levels weren’t stabilizing, among the chaos of the scene, Borgeson asked everyone to stop and think. He earned a National Ski Patrol Purple Merit Star for outstanding application of ski patrol skills.
“I remember Leif’s face,” when the boy came back to visit after extensive physical and mental rehabilitation and the two rode the lift together, Cammarata said. “It was probably one of his proudest moments.”
And when Cammarata remembers the quieter times, just sharing the office with Borgeson, he remembers another proud aspect of his life: his two teenaged boys.
“He was so psyched to be their dad,” Cammarata said, explaining that he’d talk about how they were progressing as athletes and more.
Snow safety supervisor Borgeson turned 50 on Jan. 1 of this year, and he also leaves behind his wife, Denise.
“It’s often written that at least (a person) died doing something he loved,” Cammarata said. “But he liked living.”
To colleagues at Arapahoe Basin, Borgeson’s legacy was that of pouring every bit of self into what he was doing – something that carried over into all aspects of his life, especially family.
“If he was into it, he was into it 1,000 percent,” risk manager Patrick O’Sullivan said. “His sons, his wife, A-Basin, avy stuff.”
“Leif was intense,” he added. “The amount of energy he brought to things was always inspiring – and sometimes overwhelming.”
To fellow staff who didn’t know him, they could interpret it as being too rough around the edges, but to colleagues who knew Borgeson, it was all about making everyone better – something they admire above all else.
“At the memorial service on Thursday, there will be a thousand people there, telling their story about how they met Leif and how he helped them become who they are,” Cammarata said.
O’Sullivan said the unsaid motto at work was, “Keep up.”
“He never lost sight of being a confident, professional patroller,” he said.
And one of Cammarata’s favorite memories embodies both ideas.
“One of the hardest summers of work with him was when we were in Montezuma Bowl,” Cammarata said. “He was always the first out of the bowl and was always carrying more tools.”
When everyone else was beat, “he wouldn’t let anyone see he was tired,” he added.
Borgeson’s attitude toward excellence meant he improved the avalanche control system such that it was more accurate, and took up rock climbing so he could improve his technical rescue skills, director of mountain operations Tim Finnigan said. Finnigan met Borgeson more than two decades ago when they were both on Hotshot fire crews in Arizona.
Cammarata said he’d excelled in snow science such that two of his papers were accepted for presentation at the International Snow Science Workshops.
Finnigan added that “it was beautiful to watch him ski,” and that Borgeson was “easily the best I’ve seen in 30 years.” Borgeson took pride in his telemark turns.
And Cammarata said Borgeson was the only full-time ski patroller with a paramedic certification when Cammarata came on board. He says it was Borgeson’s influence and encouragement that caused him to become a paramedic – which ultimately boosted his career.
“He slept in his bus and put himself through school to further himself,” Finnigan said.
To Borgeson’s colleagues, there’s not enough room to print their favorite memories.
“Some probably shouldn’t be printed in a newspaper,” O’Sullivan said, laughing. He added that one of his favorites was heading into the Loveland backcountry to rescue a man with a broken leg.
“It was entertaining to us and made an enormous difference in that man’s life,” he said.
And they say his life is a reminder of how everyone should live.
Thinking outside the box, living a lifestyle unique from everything around – wearing sunglasses and a hat that hardly covered his ears in the midst of a blowing storm – that was Borgeson.
“You really don’t know how many days you have on this earth,” O’Sullivan said. “Don’t waste any. He never did.”
“At a ski area that’s created more than its share of legends, he’s high on the list,” Cammarata said. “They say it’s tough to fill someone’s shoes. You couldn’t even buy new shoes.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User