in memoriam: Big Wally

By Jim Stanford on January 9, 2010

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Big Wally heading out on patrol. Photo via Kevin Pusey.

As many of you who have been following the CarePages updates know, Mark “Big Wally” Wolling has died of brain injuries sustained in Wednesday’s avalanche at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

His friend Mike Fischer announced the news late last night, after a neurologist met with family. Wolling was to be taken off life support this morning and his organs donated, Fischer said.

Wolling is the fourth Jackson Hole ski patroller to be killed on duty by avalanches, joining Paul Driscoll (1985) and Tom Raymer (1986) of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Dick Pittman (1964) of Snow King Ski Area.

The incident has cast a pall over a community eager to put the many tragedies of last year behind it. Family and friends are mourning the loss of a gentle giant known for his generosity and kindness, as the hundreds of comments on Wolling’s CarePages attest.

A reader pointed out that Wally died next to the woods that bear his name, Wally World (see photo from previous post). David Gonzales, author of Jackson Hole: On a Grand Scale, a history of the resort, put it best in a Facebook post:

“While I was working on the Jackson Hole book, I asked Big Wally where Wally World was. His straightfaced reply: ‘Wally World’s not a place. It’s a state of mind, where the fun never stops and all your dreams come true.’”

A public memorial service has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday behind the Mangy Moose. Friends and family will gather there an hour earlier.

A patroller installs a new sign commemorating his fallen colleague. Big Wally worked on the resort's trail crew years ago and cut a lot of the trees in the Bivouac area.

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Posted under Deaths, Ski Resorts

3 Comments so far

  1. Charlie January 11, 2010 6:52 pm

    Thanks Big Wally for your sacrifice-you died working to protect us all. And even in death you gave the gift of life to others. As a past Patroller (CO), I raise my glass to you. Godspeed.

  2. Mark Diaz January 14, 2010 1:59 pm

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Wally, or even visiting Jackson Hole, but as an ex-patroller I am deeply saddened by his passing. He was making skiing safe and paid the ultimate price. My sincerest condolences to family, loved ones, co-workers and friends.

  3. Skip Drake February 5, 2010 6:29 am

    Hey Wally,
    Since leaving Jackson I’ve thought of you as well as other friends and times shared often. I’ll never forget your calm demeanor, big smile, and how red your eyes would be the morning after. It’s sad to find out you’re gone, but unlike others I’m happy you lived your life and your freedom. Wax-up some skis and pick out a boat for me I’ll be along one of these days. Miss ya pal!

    Skip Drake

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