Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ricardo Presnell

My friend Ricardo Presnell died yesterday in an avalanche while back-country skiing in the Wasatch.

The news is a kick to the gut. This can't be true. It's not right. This can't have happened to Ricardo.  He always went prepared - with his personal beacon, shovel, and a savy awareness of the risks. He felt the real dangers came from riding helicopters in remote areas of Alaska.   I want someone to tell me it's all a big mistake. 

Ricardo and I go back to working together in the oil business in the mid-'80s in Dallas.  When the industry tanked, he went for his PhD at the University of Utah.  A year later I ended up in Salt Lake City as well and we shared a house together.     [right, Ricardo and Caroline before they were married, at our house in Salt Lake]

Some of you in the Arizona geoscience community met Ricardo during the past decade as he was spending about a week per month in Tucson at Rio Tinto's office in between his globe trotting in search of new mineral deposits.     His current company put out a news release today with his professional bio.

Ricardo's friend Sarah Bennett Ally was with him when the avalanche hit.  She shared these thoughts this morning.  They captured so well the essence and spirit of our friend:
It is through a raging torrent of sorrow and tears that I write to you this morning. I wanted to, need to... reach out and celebrate the tower of power and amazing friend and human being that Ricardo was and always will be in our hearts. The thought of going onward through my days without the energizer bunny's blinding light of good vibe shining down on us is almost too much to bear. I know how much he cherished all of you. Ricardo loved us so generously and it was so easy to love him back. My gratitude for being part of that web is boundless.

I need you to know that yesterday was a spectacular day, the turns supreme, and Ricardo was gleaming to the power of 10. He noted the quality of the turns were some of the best he'd ever had, said that he loved the Wasatch and would always ski here no matter where work took him, and let on that he was thinking about buying a place in Moab. We giggled and laughed about all sorts of things and made several long forays down memory lane in the realm of live music and mountain bike rides, mostly for Joey's sake. We talked about some of you. I've kept tabs on many of you over the years through Ricardo who always loved to update me on your latest. He loved to share and I loved hearing the caring and devotion to you in his stories. He talked a lot about the test he was getting ready to take, the string of incredible job offers that have recently come his way, and some of the lucrative projects he was getting ready to apply himself to. One thing is for sure...professionally Ricardo was on top, and he knew it. It was fantastic to see him in that place, and ready to take on the next challenge. So phenomenal to have been so accomplished at both recreational AND professional pursuits.

Although there are many more details of yesterday to share there is only one thing I need you to know NOW...Ricardo did not suffer. He was as well, as happy, as wonderful as I have ever seen him and in a matter of seconds it was over. As he bounded away out of sight on our last run, making his classic big-stance turns, we marveled at the man, the humor, how much fun it was to be with him, and then he left in a thunderous roar. The sequence of events that followed were agonizing but Joey's ski and patroller background, the fact that I had a phone and we were so close to Solitude meant that the rescue went as quickly and efficiently as humanly possible. In the end, it wouldn't have mattered if we had gotten to him in two minutes, the trauma he sustained in the slide was catastrophic.

For more than 25 years I loved Ricardo with all my heart. He was one of the finest human beings I have ever had the honor to know and call a friend. Anyone who had the good fortune to rub up against Ricardo during his too-short time with us has learned to live better for it. I can't even begin to express the incredible gratitude and blessing I feel for getting to spend those last few hours with Ricardo yesterday.

They will forever be some of the finest of my life.  As we muddle forward over the next few days, weeks, months and years without our friend, trying to live with this unbelievable loss, we can honor him by living it up, getting down, making it funky, loving each other, and carrying on the positive every day. Love you, you so much.
Taken on our last skin...1/27/2010
I have so many stories to share as does everyone who knows him, but they will have to wait a while.

Update (1-29-10 10:30 am):  Full Metal Minerals and Underworld Resources, where Ricardo served as Chief Geologist, announced that they and Ricardo's wife Caroline Kroko, have establishing a scholarship fund in Ricardo's memory at the University of Utah,  for minorities who are studying sciences. In lieu of flowers to the family, friends of Ricardo can send donations to: 'The Dr. Ricardo Davis Presnell Memorial Scholarship Fund' at Suite 1500 - 409 Granville Street, Vancouver B.C. Canada, V6C 1T2.

Update (1-29-10 13:15): the Salt Lake Tribune published a nice article on Ricardo today - view it at

Update (2-1-10):   Ricardo's obituary was published yesterday in the Salt Lake Tribune. I am posting it here (with minor corrections to typos in the printed version) since it will only be available online there for this month.


Ricardo Presnell 1958 ~ 2010: Dr. Ricardo Presnell, 51, died in an avalanche on Wednesday Jan. 27, 2010. Ricardo's loving wife of 21 years, Caroline Kroko, brother Craig, and his family of friends from around the world know that he was living life big and doing what he loved. Ricardo was a man who brought people together: a man of great passion, compassion and boundless love. His passions were many. Firstly, people: his wife, his family and his innumerable friends. He was the catalyst and the glue for an ever-expanding 'family' of diverse individuals. He always referred to his friends as brothers and sisters. Being with Ricardo was always an adventure and a social occasion. At restaurants, concerts, bike rides, skiing, or just a walk around the neighborhood, it was certain that someone would call out "Hey Rico" and stop to chat. Having met him, no one forgot him - his brilliant smile, his wit and his endless energy. As his friends became friends to each other, the world became a warmer place. The lifetime collection of bicycles, skis, backpacking, climbing and hiking equipment testify to his love of the outdoors. Yes, there are old leather lace-up ski-boots there. His passion for music never stopped evolving; he was always interested in new and different styles of music. His deepest enduring love was Jazz, and his two dogs, Jaco (Pastorius) and Joni (Mitchell) are but the superficial expression of this. A visitor could always count on being introduced to a new artist, a new style of music, a brilliant old classic, or being coerced into dancing in the den. While he believed strongly in 'playing hard', Ricardo was passionate about Geology. Not one to go halfway, Ricardo earned BS, MS and Doctorate degrees in the field and worked more than 25 years as a professional geologist. Not everyone who considered Ricardo a friend knew of his professional standing. He traveled the world many times over, bringing his natural intelligence, extensive knowledge, broad experience, and his innate ability to connect and communicate with others. Language barriers in Turkey? Mongolia? Siberia? Not a problem! Ricardo spoke science in any language. He was a valued member and board member of many professional societies. Ricardo believed that his professional achievements were dependent on the guidance, mentorship and support of those in the field before him. In return, he was delighted to teach and mentor younger geologists, professionally, academically - and (characteristically) personally. After 22 years with Kennecott/Rio Tinto, Ricardo became a private consultant, working as Chief Geologist for Full Metal Minerals (Vancouver, BC), as Chief Geologist. His impact there is evidenced by the company's creation of "The Dr. Ricardo Davis Presnell Memorial Scholarship Fund" at the University of Utah for minority students studying science. Finally, it was Ricardo's lifelong passion (45 years) for skiing that brought him to Utah and the Wasatch Mountains. He skied the Canadian Rockies, the Alps, the Andes and numerous US locales, but the Wasatch was his home. No friends were surprised to pick up the phone at 6 am to hear: "It's a Powder Day- time to rally." Often meeting at the house for coffee and even a hot breakfast (eggs Mc-Ricky), Ricardo's enthusiasm could get the posse from slumber to snow in record time. Those hardy souls who joined in the backcountry forays were pushed to their physical limits. But no one was ever left behind. Any not up to the route were carefully shepherded and supervised. Ricardo always called home when he arrived back at the car saying 'we're out, I'll be home soon) and frequently called from mountaintops just to say 'Hi'. Jaco and Joni (the dogs) always watched out the window til Papa arrived, leaped around ecstatically, giving and getting love. Their turn to join the man who made everyone smile. I, Caroline, thank everyone who has held me together these last few days. I can not name you, there are so many. I don't know how I could be more fortunate. I also thank the Solitude Ski Patrol and everyone else involved in the rescue attempt. I can't put my gratitude into words anymore than words can do justice to the beautiful human being who was Ricardo. In lieu of gifts, we request that you donate to the scholarship fund (Dr Ricardo Davis Presnell Memorial Scholarship Fund, Suite 1500-409 Granville St, Vancouver, B.C. Canada, V6C1T2) or to the Utah Avalanche Center ( in Ricardo's name. The brilliant light of Ricardo's life shines on in the hearts of everyone who loves him - I am grateful for our 21 years.


  1. Hi Lee,

    Rob McLeod here...Ricardo was our chief geologist. More importantly he was my friend. Thank you for sharing your feelings and Sarah's words.

    Last night I went with several mutual friends and coworkers of Ricardo to a steakhouse (Ricardo ordered a healthy salad!) where we shared a meal together last Friday. He was so stoked to get home and tackle the 4' of fresh pow at home.

    My 6 year old son joined us for lunch, and he brought with him a geological map that he sketched that morning with highliters, with a secret spot that marked the location of the gold deposit! Three geos were challenged to find it's location; Adrian Fleming, CEO of Underworld found a road, Aquiles Gonzalez, senior geologist for Antofagasta minerals found the ancient elephant burial ground, and Ricardo circled the 'X', marking the spot of the Gold Deposit!!! Ricardo took the map home with him to put on his fridge!

    We have a close, young exploration team in our group of junior companies. We are devastated, but are stoked to get back out there this field season, applying the knowledge and experience that Ricardo taught us, and in particular drill the gold and copper targets that he brought us this year.

    Caroline and Ricardo's companies, Full Metal and Underworld, are organizing a scholarship fund for minorities studying Sciences. It's our priveledge to share Ricardo's passion and wonder of the natural world to the next generation of scientists. Please contact me to help out.

    I imagine a mountain in heaven. If it's summer time, Ricardo is up there and chipping away on a quartz vein with gold. If it's winter, he's ripping through powder in the sunshine. In any season he's smiling!!

    Rob McLeod
    VP Exploration

  2. Anonymous12:14 AM

    I worked and/or collaborated with Ricardo for seven years. He was one of the best geologists I ever met. We had a lot of great times and conversations together. In my mind, he still lives, more vividly than ever.

  3. Anonymous7:32 AM

    Ricardo and I always seemed to run into each other on those super magical days in little cottonwood. I remember an epic opening day at alta one year, first run ricardo was about 5 people behind me on the traverse, I dropped early sunspot and I'll always remember his fading voice from that day.....Suckerrr............


  4. One of our high school classmates let me know that Ricardo passed away and that is terribly sad news and we here in Marblehead, MA (where he grew up) all think of his family and friends today and we are very sorry for this loss.
    - Laurie Fullerton

  5. Anonymous6:03 PM

    I know Caroline Kroko through her sister up here in Oregon. I was so sad to hear the news of Ricardo's passing and want to just send hugs to all his family and friends.

  6. Ricky and grew up together in Marblehead we skied together for years.he,craig and i lost touch many year ago but i have always wondered where he was and what he was doing.I can only say at least he passed doing something he realy loved we should all be so lucky.My heart goes out to his wife and friends when i heard of his death from another life long friend i felt as if a part of me had died with him. As a life long back country skier we all know the risks but we do it anyway because it is in our blood Untill we see each other at the at the top of the world one more time i will miss you. T.J.

  7. Ricardo was an extraordinarily positive beacon. He was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of young geologists that I've ever met.
    As Albert Pike note, "What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal."
    Ricardo left deep tracks in this world. I will miss him.

  8. Teresa Keenan1:56 PM

    Dear Lee,
    Thank you for your post on Ricardo. Ricardo introduced me to my husband-to-be just before moving away from Denver. I am proof of what his wife said about him bringing people together. I have 3 children thankful for his social gifts, and bunches of relatives who know him from the oversize wedding photo in my childhood house in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. As you can guess he helped make our reception unforgettable.
    Groups of us skiied together in A Basin in Co and I got some early ski lessons from him and fellow Sohio Geologists.
    My memories of him are all keepers.
    My sympathies to his family and friends.
    Teresa K.