Friends, family fondly recall ‘Beret Dave’ |

Friends, family fondly recall ‘Beret Dave’

Reid Armstrong
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado
Courtesy photoDave Riddle

Longtime Fraser Valley resident David Riddle, 48, died while snowboarding out-of-bounds near Winter Park Resort on Friday, Feb. 11. His family, friends and coworkers gathered at Carver’s Bakery in Winter Park Tuesday for a celebration of life.

Before the ceremony, some of his closest family members and friends were seated around a small table in the apartment above the restaurant where Dave spent almost every winter for the past 20 years, sharing stories from his life.

Dave was a baker, a caretaker, an aspiring novelist, an inventor, a linguist and avid winter sports enthusiast, they said. He succeeded in finding that gentle balance in life between spending time with loved ones and pursing his passions.

Every summer he returned home to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to run his lawn care business and to be close to family, particularly his father Gene.

But even when they were away from each other, Dave called his dad every day, “even when he was in China,” Gene said.

And Dave was in China a lot lately – eight times in the past two years. He had met a woman, Christina Cao, online. She was teaching him Chinese. He was helping her with her English. They Skyped twice a day.

Christina’s father had told Dave that he would only let Dave take his daughter to the United States if Dave first learned to speak Chinese and bought land in China – to ensure that they’d someday return. Dave was working hard on that latter piece, his brother Steve said.

At work, “Baker Dave” was famous for his cinnamon rolls and lemon poppy muffins. He baked everything for the cafe during the winter, including bread for sandwiches and pizza. He was an avid coffee drinker and tested each batch of decaf, regular and espresso daily to make sure it tasted right, said Carver’s owner Law Thyne.

“Baker Dave,” who somehow managed to have his other alias “Zull Gostnu” printed on his official Winter Park Resort lift pass for as long as anyone can remember, was “an eccentric,” who was always thinking outside the box, according to his loved ones.

He liked inventing ways to make his life easier, his brother said, including a bike that he hoped would average 35 mph (it didn’t), a gravity-free chair and a spring-loaded pulley system for his trailer.

“David was a thinker,” his brother said. “He believed in ideas. When he got something in his head he would go for it.”

His next project, his dad said, was to begin manufacturing wide skis for beginner skiers because he believed that they are easier for learning.

He was in the process of writing several books: a science fiction novel and a nonfiction on health, although most of the words were probably still in his head, his dad said.

Dave was known for going out of his way to help people, especially his elderly clients in Iowa, and he became the impromptu social director anywhere he went, including at the youth hostel where he lived when he first moved to Winter Park. There he met lifelong friends Bill Kelly and Marien Vuik who were among those sitting around the table Tuesday, sharing stories and memories.

His legacy, they said, will be his dedication to his family.

“I know he has inspired me to start calling my dad more often,” Kelly said.

Dave died pursuing one of his greatest passions. He was an alpine skier, telemark skier and snowboarder. He spent nearly 100 days on the mountain every year for the past two decades, and would pick up whichever piece of equipment he felt like riding that day, depending on the conditions.

According to resort officials, Riddle was snowboarding Friday afternoon with two friends on U.S. Forest Service land in an area known as 40 Gate, a dense stand of trees east of Mary Jane, when he went missing.

Winter Park Ski Patrol with support from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office launched an official search shortly after 4 p.m. Riddle’s body was found shortly before 6 p.m., unresponsive and head down in a tree well. He was wearing a helmet at the time of the incident and there were no visible signs of blunt force trauma, according to Sheriff Rod Johnson.

“The resort extends their deepest sympathies to the family and friends affected by this tragic event,” said Mistalynn Lee, Winter Park Resort’s communications director. “We are all profoundly saddened by this accident.”

Donations may be made to NSCD (National Ski Center for the Disabled) in David’s memory. Mail donations to NSCD, PO Box 1290, Winter Park, CO 80482 or online at Write in the comments section: In memory of David Riddle.

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