Skiing deaths are not uncommon. A Wisconsin woman died Tuesday at Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe, the site of one of the most famous ski deaths that took place 18 years ago when Sonny Bono died at Heavenly. Bono, a California congressman at the time and previously an entertainer, died on a Monday afternoon Jan. 5, 1998. Bono, 62, slammed into a tree at an estimated 30 mph and died during a daring last ski run through dense woods, Nevada officials.
An avid skier, Bono was tempting fate when he sped off one of Heavenly ski resort’s main trails at dusk to do some “tree skiing.” He was reportedly weaving through trees in the fresh powder on the fringe of a groomed trail. Local officials said there was no indication of any substances or alcohol.
Officials reported that the Heavenly resort ski patrol found Bono’s bloody body in a foot of snow on the Nevada side between 6:30 and 7 p.m. after a search of the mountain. He died of massive head and neck injuries. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office positively identified Bono as the victim at 12:45 a.m. on Jan. 6.
Reports said that Bono had skied ahead of other family members when the accident happened. Bono had planned to meet up with his wife at the bottom of the Upper Orion slope, an intermediate trail he had skied numerous times. Word of Bono’s death drew tributes from Hollywood to the White House, where President Bill Clinton remembered the conservative Republican as a “witty and wise participant” in government. Bono’s former wife – Cher – cut short a trip to London and was spotted crying on her flight home to Los Angeles.
Media trucks from around the state converged on Heavenly the morning after Bono’s body was found, setting up their satellite trucks and conducting interviews in the California side of the resort’s parking lot. Bono, who lived in Palm Springs, was on a Lake Tahoe vacation with his wife, Mary Whitaker, and their two children, when the accident happened. For two decades, Bono made regular trips to the slopes of South Lake Tahoe, a breathtakingly beautiful skiing area that straddles the California-Nevada border.
Bono was a former singer whose records with Cher topped charts in the 1960s. After their divorce he went into politics, becoming mayor of Palm Springs from 1988 to 1992, and congressman for California’s 44th district from 1995 until his death. Bono’s death was an eerie replay just days after Michael Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, died of head injuries in a ski accident in Aspen, Colo. Kennedy hit a tree while playing football on skis.