Charles Walter Rosenthal (Walter) died while trying to rescue two fellow members of the Mammoth Mountain ski patrol who had fallen into a volcanic vent on April 6. Mammoth Mountain is an 11,053-foot dormant volcano, and the fissure, which releases toxic gases, is normally surrounded by a plastic fence to keep skiers away. The fence had been partially buried by a record 52 feet of snow, and the ski patrol were attempting to raise the fence when the snow covering the fissure collapsed and two patrol members fell to the bottom of a 21 foot deep chasm. Walter apparently was asphyxiated by carbon dioxide while attempting to get oxygen to the two men. According to Rusty Gregory, chief executive officer of the ski area, Rosenthal went in “without regard for his life, probably knowing more than the others about the dangers.”
Walter got his MA in Geography in1993 and was a TA in the Department. He had worked as a researcher for the Institute for Computational Earth System Science since 1991and had published numerous articles on remote sensing of snow and avalanche forecasting methods. During summers, he worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory as a remote sensing expert. He had planned to leave the ski patrol this spring to work on a multi-year NSF grant to investigate sintering processes in snow as part of his PhD dissertation.
Walter is survived by his wife, Lori Michelon and his 14 year old daughter, Lily. Memorial funds have been established for all three patrollers; for more information, see . A memorial service for the three patrolmen will be held Friday evening, April 14th and is open to the public. The tragedy has been widely reported in the national press—see http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-04-06-mammoth-deaths_x.htm.