Ernie Bender was lean and athletic; he skied and walked a lot, and would go snowshoeing every Wednesday with his friends. A golf course superintendent, he lived in Vail, Colorado, with his wife and three sons.
One evening in 2000, he and his buddies decided to snowshoe up Vail Mountain and ride the gondola down. Bender complained of indigestion on the way up, which was odd because his last meal had been lunch.
He told his friends he needed to sit down before getting on the gondola. After the group got in the cable car, he lost consciousness.