By Clare Ogilvie, with files from Andrew Mitchell
Blackcomb Mountain lost one of its own on Monday when Alex Petersen fell to his death off the cliffs near Secret Bowl.
“It’s tough for those who worked with him here,” said Doug Forseth, vice president of operations for Whistler-Blackcomb.
“It is a shock and we are going through critical incidence counselling with our people and we all have to pull together and help get through this right now.”
An avid and strong skier Petersen, 24, was on a break from his volunteer work with the mountain’s safety team when the accident happened Monday around 11:20 a.m.
Roommate Sean Bickerton believes Petersen was trying to negotiate away from the cliff area or choose a path down when he lost his footing and fell more than 45 metres, hitting another cliff on the way down.
RCMP reports said the London, Ontario native died at the scene of massive head trauma and internal injuries.
Forseth said Petersen has skied in the general area before and that many skiers do venture into the region despite the fact that areas are clearly marked off due to the cliffs.
“People ski those areas daily and with 30 cm of new snow that was the big draw,” said Forseth.
“He was obviously competent and capable and had been there before. But it is like driving; some days something happens.
“We think the area is properly marked. You have to go out of your way to get there.”
Friends and family were in shock at the news.
Sean Bickerton lived with Petersen for the last nine months and talked to him just hours before the accident.
“He called me in the morning when he was just heading up just to rub it in a little bit that there was 30 cm of new snow and I told him to have a good few runs and I would see him later,” said Bickerton.
What he remembers most about Petersen is the way he could light up a room. His enthusiasm was contagious.
“He was always the most stoked kid in any room and that is the first thing you realized,” said Bickerton.
“He was sometimes overwhelmingly and obnoxiously happy, and everyone has that same impression. They would ask, ‘who is this guy that is just on fire in the room and super excited about the three snowflakes coming down?’
“He couldn’t wait to get up there every day.”
Petersen was also an avid mountain biker and loved to long-distance run. He took part in every Loonie Race he could get to and loved to tell the tales of the trails.
While he loved adventure he didn’t take unnecessary risks, say those who knew him.
Petersen’s parents, Doris and Paul, were too distraught to talk about the son they have just lost but Aunt Susan Halliday said: “He was just great, truly he was.
“He was caring, you know asking about aunts and so on, not like a lot of the young people today.”
He volunteered with youth groups and growing up was a Boy Scout who loved camping trips.
“He was crazy about skiing too,” said Halliday. “He started when he was four years old and he went like the wind.”
Petersen’s brother Bjorn, currently in Cambodia, is also an avid skier.
But life in Whistler wasn’t just about fun for Petersen. He set goals and was working toward them, said best friend Justin Holmes.
“He was smart and definitely knew how to set himself up with goals in life and getting things done,” he said.
Petersen had just got a job with Whistler Transit after finishing his bus-driver training. He hoped to get a driving job in the near future.
“You could tell early on that he was going to be a fantastic long-term employee,” said WAVE manager Scott Pass.
Friends in Whistler are planning to get together and remember Petersen. Anyone interested can call Bickerton at 604-935-0855 to get more details.
For Holmes, what friends and family are focusing on now is remembering how much Petersen loved life.
“I was riding with him the day before (the accident) and we had such a good day together doing some powder runs on Whistler,” he said.
“This was definitely an accident and he was loving life.
“As much as it (hurts) to know I will never see him again I am still happy that it was over fast and he was on the mountain doing what he loved.”