There was nothing Henry (Hank) Valkama loved to do more than
But the 47-year-old Whistler resident wasn’t a daredevil at
heart. He just loved to cruise, especially with the kids of his best friends,
Tracy and Rob Kerr.
That’s exactly what he was doing Dec. 24 when he caught an edge
with his skis and went head over heels, breaking his neck.
He was on the upper part of the Dave Murray Downhill, on his
way to Creekside, when the accident happened just after 2 p.m.
“Henry had said, ‘I’ll buy the french fries at Dusty’s and as
they skied down he just took a really fluky edge and it flipped him upside
down,” said Tracy Kerr.
“And Chase, my nine-year-old, said, ‘Way to go Henry. Good
flip. You’re the best.’ Then Gabe, my 11-year-old, said, ‘I don’t think Henry
is fine. Can you dig him out and I will ski down and get Dad.”
Chase stayed with Valkama, said Kerr, doing everything he could
to help his honourary uncle.
“They thought he was in a coma and just waited for him to show
up for Christmas dinner,” she said, adding that all Valkama’s many friends are
just shocked by the fluke accident.
“Henry was the very best Uncle Hank to my kids,” said Kerr.
Valkama worked in construction in Whistler, which he has called
home for the last two years after moving here from Burnaby. He was also in
partnership with his brother in Radiotower.com, a pioneer of Internet audio. It
was one of the first companies online with a live radio directory and audio
portal. The directory is a free television guide-like listing of over 1,000
radio stations worldwide.
Valkama, who had a degree in business administration from Simon
Fraser University, skied over 100 times last year.
Kerr said her kids are coping with the loss.
“They both did exactly what they were supposed to do, there was
nothing else they could have done, and Henry loved skiing,” she said.
“He died doing something he loved. It is just so shocking for
all of us.
“He was a very conservative skier not a daredevil or anything.”
Coroner Jan McFadden, who is investigating the death, confirmed
that Valkama was on an open run before something caused him to head into the
rocks off to the side.
He wasn’t wearing a helmet, but it would not have saved him she
“His ski got hung up in debris and he went head over heels and
into the rocks,” said McFadden.
A service will be held for Valkama on Friday Jan. 9 at the
Burnaby Mountain Golf Course. It will start at 4 p.m.
The death comes after 17-year-old Samuel Daigle was killed
while snowboarding on Whistler in a closed off area Dec. 22.
McFadden, who is also investigating that incident, had this
warning for mountain users thinking of ducking the ropes: “They are being very
foolish and they are taking their lives in their hands, because the mountain
knows best what is going on and where you should be and where you shouldn’t
be,” she said.
“Those ropes should indicate to whoever is coming across them that they should stay away.”