Ex-Petaluma man dies in Sierra avalanche

Bill Foster, who grew up happily in low-lying Petaluma but found his place among the ski slopes, rivers and lakes, trails and untamed expanses of the Sierra Nevada, died Dec. 24 in an avalanche at Alpine Meadows. He was 53.

Foster, a highly respected veteran of the resort's professional ski patrol, was positioned at a location that experience told him would be safe as a fellow ski patroller tossed dynamite to loosen treacherous snow. No one on his team expected the resulting avalanche to reach him, but it did.

One of seven children, he learned to ski on family trips from Petaluma to the Lake Tahoe area. He attended St. Vincent de Paul High School and Petaluma High, but as soon as he was able he left southern Sonoma County for the high country.

"That's really where he was the happiest," said brother Robert Foster of Santa Rosa. "He was a spiritual person and found his solace in the mountains."

Bill Foster was still a teenager when he took entry-level work at Northstar resort near Truckee. He worked his way up to a ski patroller.

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