Lakes Region mourns ski coach found unresponsive at Gunstock

Special to the Sunday News
March 18. 2017 8:59PM
Dan Wheeler, 65, of Gilford was found face down and unresponsive on a trail at Gunstock Mountain Resort, late Wednesday morning, and later was declared dead at Lakes Region General Hospital. (Courtesy)

GILFORD - The Lakes Region's skiing community is mourning the unexpected death of veteran youth ski coach Dan Wheeler.

Wheeler, 65, of Gilford was found face down and unresponsive on a trail at Gunstock Mountain Resort, late Wednesday morning, and later declared dead at Lakes Region General Hospital, where he was rushed by ambulance.

Ski patrol personnel were alerted to a non-responsive skier about 11:15 a.m. and immediately began and continued cardiopulmonary resuscitation until Gilford Fire Rescue personnel arrived and took over.

Wheeler spent many years as a member of the Gunstock Ski Club coaching U12/U10 athletes.

"He was very passionate about ski teaching and coaching and its showed. He was always willing to take on anyone looking to improve their ability," said Tom Stecher of Gilford.

Wheeler stepped down from coaching last year, ostensibly to spend more time with his wife, Irene, and their two daughters.

Stecher said the last time he'd spoken with Wheeler he'd just purchased an Epic Pass allowing him to ski the 14 premier western resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb and Brenkenridge.

"He was a pretty gentle guy who understood not everyone was a premiere athlete and was willing to help anyone get up to speed," Stecher said.

Linda Otten coached with Wheeler for 15 years and said he had an innate ability to tap into a kid's interest outside of skiing and teach them lifelong lessons.

Otten spoke of an e-mail she'd just received from the mother of one of Wheeler's former students.

"He loved the sport and working with kids and was really good at it," she said.

"You won't find too many who loved life, skiing and people the way he did. It's just such a tragedy and has really struck a lot of cords in the Gunstock sky family," she said.

Wheeler founded Native Sun Studio, a commercial art glass studio.

Among his projects was etching the glass in the six towers that makeup the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston.

The Gunstock Ski Club is an alpine ski racing program for those age 6 to 20. Its mission is to develop athletes with a lifelong passion for the sport of skiing and to provide instruction so that each participate learns to ski and race to the best of their ability.

Wheeler was certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America, a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Level 100 coach and referee and helped guide many area youth to state and regional titles.

He graduated from Laconia High School in 1968 and went on to study social services at the University of New Hampshire, Class of 1972.

Wheeler's death was the second such tragedy at a Granite State ski resort last week.

On Sunday, March 12, an out-of-state skier died at Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury.

Jay Gamble, vice president and general manager of Mount Sunapee Resort, said Saturday he could not release the name of the skier and cited privacy and HIPPA regulations.

The skier, described as in his mid-40s, was found non-responsive at 1 p.m. off the Skyway Trail.

Deaths in the newsNH PeopleSkiingGeneral NewsGilfordManchester

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