The Avalanche Problem

The lives they lived

A tribute to the 34 people killed in U.S. avalanches in 2012

Originally Published: October 8, 2012
By Megan Michelson |

The day before their last day, Johnny Brenan, Chris Rudolph and Jim Jack all went skiing at Stevens Pass, Wash. It was Feb. 18, one of many stormy powder days during a high-snowfall year in the Northwest. More than 12 inches of new snow had fallen overnight. Around 4 p.m., Jim, the head judge of the Freeskiing World Tour, showed up at Stevens' Foggy Goggle bar with a smile so big, you couldn't help but smile back at him.

Chris, the marketing director for Stevens Pass, was at the bar, too. He'd orchestrated a women's ski demo that opportune day -- an event I was a part of -- and led a dozen or so female skiers around the resort. We'd spent the entire day getting some of the deepest turns of the winter. At the bar, Chris was surrounded by all of the ladies, including his girlfriend, Anne.

"How'd you get so lucky?" Jim asked Chris, only half joking. They both just smirked at each other, as if to confirm that, yep, their lives really were this good.

Johnny, Jim and Chris -- all residents of nearby Leavenworth -- lived the kind of life that city dwellers sometimes fantasize about. They had real jobs in the mountains and had turned their passion for the outdoors into their lifestyles and careers. In the winter, all three of them skied most every day; in the summer, they mountain biked, climbed, boated, camped and spent time outside with friends and family. All three men were known for their warmth, openness and jovial spirits.

"The three of them were a lot alike -- always out for a good time. They were all ingrained in the weave of this community. They were big personalities -- people everyone wanted to be around." -Joel Martinez, director of operations at Stevens Pass ski area and a friend to Chris Rudolph, Johnny Brenan and Jim Jack.

Ian CobleChris Rudolph in his happy place in Leavenworth, Wash.


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