Danny Filippidis had gone down to Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, New York to do what he and his fellow firefighters had done for years; ski, drink and enjoy some good times together before they all had to go back to work.
Before long, however, what had started out as their usual, ski trip soon turned into one of the most unusual adventures that any skier, professional or otherwise, has ever been a part of. And it all began with a cell phone…
It was February and Danny Filippidis and his colleagues from the Toronto Fire Services always went skiing around this time of year. After a few days of fun and relaxation, their annual trip was coming to a close, and Danny wanted to capture a few more memories of it to post on Facebook when they got home. The problem was, he’d forgotten his cellphone down by the car.
By the time, Danny realized this, he and his friends were already halfway up Whiteface Mountain. Not wanting to miss a moment, he told his friends to wait in the lodge while he skied back down to retrieve the phone from the car. Danny was an adult and a pretty avid skier, so they had no reason for them to doubt his eventual return until he didn’t…
Danny didn’t return right away but it wasn’t until it began to get dark that his friends finally realized something may have gone wrong. They alerted the ski resort who contacted the authorities, which in turn triggered a massive ground search. Before long, it wasn’t just state authorities who were combing the area for signs of Danny Filipiddis, family and friends had come down to help as well.
The Great Search
The rugged terrain in and around Whiteface Mountain was an easy place to get lost. Nevertheless, it took the combined efforts of police, border officials, Homeland Security agents, Danny’s wife, and fellow firefighters, to determine that despite all working theories, Danny was nowhere to be found. So where was he?
What the volunteers and rescue teams didn’t know at the time was that, by the time the alarm went out, 50-year-old Danny Filipiddis wasn’t even in Lake Placid anymore. He was on a baffling misadventure that even he would never totally remember. It began the moment he began his long trek down the mountain.
Six days after he disappeared, Danny Filipiddis resurfaced. Not in New York or any part of neighboring Canada, but in Sacramento, California, a stat which was over 4,000 kilometers away from where he’d vanished. How in the world he’d gotten there and what he had done along the way, remained a mystery for some time…
Though Danny didn’t remember all of what happened before his resurfacing several weeks later, he did recall that he knew he’d taken a wrong turn while on his way back to the car. What he didn’t remember was what caused him to fall or become knocked out. It was dusk by the time he woke up. He was sore, disoriented, and unsure of what to do next.
Danny unattached his skis and walked towards a building he mistakenly believed to be the main ski lodge. He found it entirely deserted when he arrived and decided to continue on from there. At the time though, he had no way of knowing that he had happened upon one of the children’s ski slopes and lodges, one that would definitely have been closed at that time of day. So where did he go next?
Danny didn’t remember how he made it to the road from there, but he did remember flagging down a truck in hopes of securing a ride off the mountain. The train of memories stopped being solid from there on out. Everything after that point was disjointed. All he remembers is climbing into the warm cab of the truck.
The Long, Sick Road
From there, the memories are even more fragmented. Danny recalls being sick by a truck stop on the side of the road before falling back out of consciousness. When he woke up next, the truck driver informed him that they were driving through Utah. Since he wasn’t familiar with that part of the country he had to take the driver’s word for it, especially considering where his head was at…
All the while, Danny would slip in and out of sleep. In the times that he was awake, he would suffer crushing headaches and intense fatigue which left him completely unable to do anything but slip back into a deep, dreamless sleep. The trucker, meanwhile, never bothered to stop or ask where he was going as he headed further and further away from New York.
In Danny’s head, the whole sordid ordeal was little more than a bad dream. It wasn’t until the trucker finally informed him that they had reached the “end of the line” that he realized the long journey had been real the whole time. Meanwhile, back home, Danny’s family was still searching the cold New York wilderness for any sign of him…
Calling his Wife
Once in Sacramento, Danny found himself wandering the city still dressed in ski boots and winter clothes. He knew, somehow, that he needed to contact his wife, he just wasn’t sure how to do that. Thankfully, he’d had the foresight to pocket his credit card and some cash before leaving for the ski lodge on the day he left, so he was able to buy an iPhone.
Despite having no identification, the clerks managed to sell him the iPhone. Yet, the moment they loaded it up and he moved to dial, he realized that he’d completely forgotten her number. He took to the Internet to find any information he could and he happened upon a story about how he had gone missing. He quickly made his way to the airport after that and booked a flight home…
While waiting in the airport, Danny finally managed to recall his wife’s phone number. He dialed and soon his very relieved wife was sobbing on the other end of the phone. She insisted that he visit the hospital before coming home, just to get evaluated for any serious head trauma he likely suffered. Since then, several neurologists and neuropsychologists have weighed in on his condition.
After taking several weeks to recover, Danny spoke to the Canadian Press about what had happened. “It’s still overwhelmingly shocking that it happened,” he explained. He struggles most with the blanks in his memory and the snippets of his journey that he simply cannot recall. Many of his doctors actually believe he suffered amnesia as a result of his injuries…
Experts say that amnesia, much like what Danny Filipiddis may have experienced, can happen in about a quarter of concussion cases. Considering his headaches, fatigue, memory loss, and the like, its easy to assume that Danny did indeed suffer a concussion when he fell. And though some memory blanks have filled in since the accident, not all have come back.
Danny isn’t letting it get to him, though. He’s focusing on turning the page and getting on with his life. It seems that besides those spotty memories of his trip, nothing else has been permanently injured, and he’s thankful for that. He’s also thankful that the ordeal has brought his family closer together than ever before…
If anything, Danny dwells most on what might have happened if he hadn’t been found by that trucker. If he had wandered off into the snow, he may have died that very night of hypothermia or succumbed to his head injury. “I feel fortunate that I’m here talking today because of all the potential things that could have resulted,” he explained.
The Mysterious Trucker
To this day, Danny Filippidis doesn’t know the trucker’s name. He doubts that he could even point him out if he saw him on the street. Authorities have been unable to track the man down as well. Despite the long trip, the man led him on, he is grateful for him, at least in some capacity.