Family remembers student who died in skiing accident as adventurous, daring
BRECKENRIDGE — “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
The quote from Helen Keller was one of the sentiments that Daniel Giger left his friends and family with before succumbing to injuries suffered during a ski accident at Breckenridge Ski Resort this weekend. It’s an apt proclamation for a young man dedicated to living his life to the fullest.
“It’s a quote that he would send to people, and it really spoke to the type of person he was,” said Noah Molnar, Giger’s brother-in-law. “He loved being active, and he could make the most mundane things into an adventure. It’s a special, unique quality that not many have. I’m not sure I’ve seen it in anyone like I have in Danny.”
Giger, 21, grew up in Newport Beach, California, in an area called the Port Streets. In his early years he was often surrounded by family. Along with his siblings, Chelsea and Josh, he was raised in close proximity to his aunts, encircled by a community rich in neighboring kids and cousins to play with.
“On our street it was a very young neighborhood,” said Luke Gardner, Giger’s cousin. “There were always a ton of kids, and something going on with neighbors and cousins. Everybody was always roller blading and riding bikes around. … Since we were only 10 doors down, we’d never call each other. We’d just walk into each other’s houses. It seemed like we did that every day.”
Those close to Giger described a certain playful mischievousness in his demeanor growing up. In grade school he took to making videos with his friends where he would purposefully fall off his skateboard and film the reactions of passersby, or stage fake earthquakes while in class. But there was also an incredibly caring side to him, perhaps best exemplified by the volunteer work he did with young children at his local church.
He carried a fiercely independent and adventurous personality into his adulthood, characterized by strong interests in the outdoors and technology, a spirit of spontaneity and subtle intelligence.
Between ventures to the beach or hiking at Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz, he’d spend his time on a computer hacking into Pokémon Go accounts and reading about coding on Reddit. But perhaps Giger’s most admirable traits were his ability to take agency over his life, and his refusal to dwell in a negative situation.
After graduating from Corona Del Mar High School he enrolled at the University of Oregon, but quickly discovered that it wasn’t for him. Without so much as telling his parents, Giger applied and enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder where he joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and began studying computer science.
While Giger didn’t have any set plans for what he wanted to do after graduating — he was in his final semester at CU — relatives say that he was interested in pursuing a career in the technology industry, and that he had interviewed this semester for software developer roles at tech giants like Facebook and Twitter.
“There was always some kind of clever genius to him,” said Gardner. “He was a super smart guy. It was something that you wouldn’t always notice just hanging out with him, but he could just turn on the brilliance.”
Giger thrived once he arrived in Colorado, taking to the mountains to explore and take part in the state’s recreational opportunities.
“He loved being outdoors and he loved all of the different activities he could do,” said Molnar. “We’ve been hearing all the stories, and he didn’t want to waste a single day there. He would be out partying ’til late, and he’d be back knocking on his friends’ doors at 6 a.m. trying to go skiing.
He really wanted to take advantage while he was there.”
Giger was especially fond of skiing. Family members say that he took a spontaneous trip to Switzerland last year which stoked his love for skiing, and that he had already spent 15-20 days at Breckenridge Ski Resort this season.
Those close to Giger noted that he was rarely alone, in large part because he had a wide network of friends and family, and a distinct ability to get along with anyone. They characterized him as outgoing and as someone who could fit into any group or situation.
“The cool thing we’ve been learning over the last five days is that every group of friends knew a different Danny Giger,” said Molnar. “He had a different relationship with everyone, but they were all deep. He didn’t have any superficial surface relationships. … He wasn’t afraid to strike up a conversation and he liked to push and test people.”
The breadth of Giger’s popularity has become apparent over the days since his death. Almost 200 individuals attended a vigil in Giger’s memory at Chataqua Park in Boulder earlier this week, and Giger’s family said they have received countless words of support through social media and in person.
Giger’s family will be holding a celebration of his life at the Newport Church in California on Saturday at 12 p.m. Mountain time. The event will be live streamed on the church’s Facebook page to reach his many friends in Colorado, Europe, Australia and beyond.
His parents, Jeff and Lisa; his siblings, Chelsea and Josh; and his grandparents, cousins and countless friends will remember Giger fondly. But despite Giger’s tragic death, his family is focusing on the positives, and the charmed life he was able to live.
“I think as these days have been passing, it’s been tough for our group of friends and family,” said Gardner. “But we’ve all been realizing how happy we were that Danny lived the life he did. He lived an incredible life. He was an adventurer and spontaneous. We’re all so thankful that we got to spend the amount of time with him that we did. And we’re all happy he got to experience everything he did. These last years at Boulder were some of the best of his life. He was so happy all the time.”
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