How Kanye West’s ‘Vultures 1’ lyric saved a skier’s life: ‘I kept singing that to myself all night’

Dollita Okine February 19, 2024
Kanye West performing at the Samsung Galaxy Note II Launch Event on October 24, 2012 in New York City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Kenny Sun

An “adventure day” for 34-year-old Mike Petkov to relax nearly ended badly. He listened to Kanye West’s new album on his earbuds while driving to Kirkwood, the big-mountain ski area south of Lake Tahoe last Saturday. After a week of storms, the clinical trial manager for a biotech company had chosen the ideal moment to ski at Kirkwood: fresh snow and bright skies. 

But disaster almost struck when he went off the trail map while he was up in the mountains in Kirkwood. As he listened to Vultures 1, he realized that he was lost.

“I thought I was getting into one of those cool backside areas where, if I got stuck, I’d be fine,” said Petkov. “I purposefully didn’t look at the trail map too much because I’ve had a lot of fun exploring [ski areas] and seeing where the day takes me.”

He recounted that while feeling stranded, he tried to descend but the slope held 3-4 feet of unpacked snow which triggered his skis to pop off several times, causing him to crash. He strained to reattach them to his boots, which were covered with sticky snow.

He tried several times to walk up, but it was impossible. His phone also displayed “no service,” which meant he couldn’t reach anyone.

And yet, a phone map revealed that Silver Lake, which borders the highway, was thousands of feet further below. Petkov considered hiking to the road, even if it meant spending the night outside in the cold.

Before long, it was fifteen minutes after five o’clock at night, and he had finished the last of his food. Petkov turned off the cellular capability on his phone to save battery life.

Fortunately for him, his habit of overdressing for skiing, bundled in top layers and a jacket, jeans and a ski bib, a balaclava, and two pairs of socks, kept him warm as he sought shelter from a giant boulder among the frozen trees.

Thirty minutes after seven, his phone displayed a bar of reception. He took advantage of the moment to send his GPS locations to two friends in San Francisco and instructed them to call 911.

Finally, assistance arrived from the Amador County Sheriff’s Office, and by 9 p.m., the patrol squad was on track. The team on foot found it difficult to navigate the rough road, so they called in a helicopter to locate Petkov.

They soon saw Petkov by the flashlight on his phone; he was waving it above his head, a lone dot in the sloping terrain, but the helicopter could not land, so he was forced to spend the night where he was.

The fortunate skier revealed to the publication that the words to West’s song “Beg Forgiveness” were reverberating in his head: “You’ve gone too far and you should hang your head in shame.” And a repeating line from another track on the album: “Don’t die, don’t die.”

“I kept singing that to myself all night, kind of as a humor thing more than a worrying thing,” Petkov said. He didn’t get much rest.

Early in the morning, rescuers arrived and retrieved him. He was then transported to Kirkwood’s base area without injury. He gave the Amador authorities and the staff of the ski resort an explanation of the occurrence that landed him in hot water. Kirkwood did, however, give Petkov a free night at its hotel, which he accepted, capping off a night of bravery.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 19, 2024


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