We remember Rossland legend Gary Camozzi and revisit our article about him that ran in the Winter 07/08 issue of Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine. You were one of a kind, Gary. We’ll miss you.

On the afternoon of Sunday, December 12 a hiker found the body of Gary Donald Camozzi, 71, in a makeshift camp on Red Mountain in Rossland. The RCMP do not suspect foul play and Sergeant Mike Wicentowich, Trail detachment commander, said, “Gary was a unique individual and local Rossland legend. Those who knew him will miss him. I am confident that the local communities will find a way to commemorate his untamed spirit and contribution to our Kootenay culture.”

To honour his memory, we’re reprinting the first part of our “Seldom Seen, Seldom Heard” article that features Gary. It was written by Mitchell Scott. Feature photo by Dave Heath.

NOT LONG AGO, a friend told me the story of Gary Donald Camozzi. “I met him in the Rossland Vortex,” he told me. “That’s what Gary calls this place. That’s why he’s here.” The Vortex. That place where everything aligns, where peace and spirituality and freedom converge at a point.

Fifteen years ago, Gary’s house in Rossland was condemned and the city evicted him. Soon after they demolished his house, Gary walked into the woods up on Red Mountain. It was so black he could hardly see his hands. He lay down and decided he wanted to live in the forest. He’s been there ever since.

Gary is a self-proclaimed ski yogi. Born and raised in Rossland, and rumoured to have the highest high school marks in the town’s history, Gary loves to ski. He straightlines the steep, wide open face of Red Mountain in the springtime. He once poached a national downhill course on Red Mountain Resort’s Granite Mountain, claiming to have blown right through one of the safety nets he was going so fast. He wears a downhill suit given to him by an ex-national team racer. His downhill poles were passed on to him by a local coach. He’s even got Fischer RC4 downhill skis with holes in the tips.

We need to have time in our life for Gary – a child with a great intensity. Gary made a big sacrifice in not being integrated into society.

Gary reads about Buddhism and other spiritualities in his mountain hideaway. He still straightlines Red after the hill closes. He makes money by building beautiful dry mortar rock walls and pruning trees with great respect.

My friend runs into Gary at the liquor store where he finds him buying his favourite cherry-flavoured beers from Quebec. Gary talks about how skiing is a higher level, how it helps him reach balance with the planet, how it’s like riding a magic horse, accelerating into connection and freedom, straightlining the natural curves of the mountain. Right now he’s building a stone hut up way back in the woods, but nobody knows where it is.

My friend tells me, “We need to have time in our life for Gary – a child with a great intensity. Gary made a big sacrifice in not being integrated into society. I don’t think it’s a conscious one. That’s where he ended up. He’s found a balance, looking at the stars every night, finding peace in an otherwise hectic world. In the comfort and warmth of the Vortex.”