I grew up in a Colorado ski family. My father was obsessed with the sport, waking us many weekends at 6 a.m. for the long drive to the slopes. He wanted us there when the lifts opened and when they closed that afternoon.
One morning in March 1976, we were racing down the highway toward Vail and noticed that our car was low on gas. We begged our dad to stop, but no way. He insisted we were almost there. Sure enough, about five miles out, our station wagon sputtered to a stop. My mother, my three siblings and I all fumed. After hiking through knee-deep snow to a nearby service station, Dad returned with gas, and we pulled into Vail an hour later than we had planned.
The ambulances and police cars instantly alerted us that something was wrong. We soon learned that running out of gas might have saved us from death, serious injury or, at the very least, a ruined day of skiing.
At about the time we would have been on our first gondola trip up the mountain, a cable had snagged on a tower. Two cars plunged 125 feet to the ground, killing four and injuring eight. Several more gondola cars dangled precipitously until help arrived. Hundreds of passengers in the remaining cars spent hours stuck in the air, yelling down to skiers far below (and probably wishing for not-yet-invented cellphones).
We were suddenly grateful for that empty gas tank.
Susan Sonnesyn Brooks, Bethesda
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