One year ago an avalanche on Stevens Pass swept over 15 skiers - three of them died. On Tuesday, skiers and snowboarders held a memorial on the mountain.
To call a memorial “fun” would normally be inappropriate. But that was the tone hundreds of skiers and snowboarders wanted to set in honor of those who died last year.
“I came up to celebrate their lives,” said Corey Rubinfeld. “I think I’ve been sad for a long time.”
Rubinfeld and fellow skier Kevin Bibby were close friends with all 15 backcountry skiers caught up in the avalanche on the backside of Stevens Pass on February 19, 2012. Chris Rudolph, 30, Jim Jack, 46, and Johnny Brenan, 41, were killed.
“I can’t even look around the mountain without seeing something that reminds me of a run I had with those guys,” Bibby said.
“They were ambassadors to everything awesome,” said Joel Hammond, who was in the group caught in the avalanche. “I felt like I was privileged to be back there that day. Even though it was sad, it reminded me of how awesome our friends are.”
The celebration at Stevens Pass included an adult-themed scavenger hunt around the mountain, one organizers said was fitting of the victims.
But it also included a somber gathering at the peak, just yards from where the avalanche began. There, a memorial has been carved into a tree, and flower petals were left along the trail to the top. It was there, Rubinfeld said, the loss became real once again.
“It’s a deep sadness,” he said from the peak. “I feel a gut wrenching. Just to see those flowers, I can picture myself here a year ago and just bawling.”
A portion of the proceeds from Tuesday’s lift tickets was donated to The Ski Hill Memorial Project.