Two of the men who died in a backcountry avalanche Sunday at Stevens Pass had roots in the South Sound.
Chris Rudolph, 30, was a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and Jim Jack, 46, was a product of Lakewood’s Lakes High.
Both learned to ski as children, were experienced in the backcountry and understood well the risk of their sport. John Brenan, 41, was a Peshastin resident who moved to Washington from Colorado.
Rudolph grew up near Lake Tahoe and moved to Northwest to attend UPS. Shortly after graduating he was hired at Stevens Pass in 2005. During many interviews with The News Tribune over the past seven years he expressed his love for a job that kept him on the slopes more than 100 days per year.
In 2005, as he was settling in as marketing director at Stevens Pass, he was already smitten by Stevens’ backcountry.
“There is some great terrain out there,” Rudolph told The News Tribune. “You can even ski down to the mouth of an old train tunnel.”
He’d rarely wait for the ski area to open each winter before hitting the slopes. In 2007 he took his first run in the Stevens Pass backcountry on Oct. 2, more than five weeks before the ski area opened.
He promoted the ski area to action sports filmmakers and was excited to promote the ski area’s new summer mountain bike operations.
“Chris was just the most wonderful son in the world, and we loved him so deeply,” Ross Rudolph, Chris’s father, told The Seattle Times on Sunday. “Our hearts are just broken.”
Jim Jack, 46, graduated from Lakes High and attended Central Washington University before transferring to Wenatchee Valley Community College to pursue a degree ski resort management.
He worked as a judge on the Subaru World Freeskiing Tour. In November he talked to ESPN.com about the risk of his sport and how it was important for judges to discourage unsafe behavior.
“We do not want to find ourselves rewarding or encouraging dangerous or uncalculated decisions in skiing,” Jack told the website.
Jack was well known in skiing circles and so beloved in Leavenworth that a burger was named in his honor at Uncle Uli’s Pub, a popular stop for eastbound skiers after a day at Stevens Pass.
In 1999, toward the end of his competitive skiing career, Jack spent a day on the slopes at Alpental with a News Tribune reporter.
“It keeps me eternally young,” Jack said of his skiing lifestyle. “I’ve been told this lifestyle is not conducive to having relationships. It’s like the Peter Pan complex where you never grow up.”
He learned to ski when he was 6 and always appreciate the risk of his sport.
“I’m nervous every time a skier comes down,” Jack told The News Tribune. “I’ve seen severe head injuries and guys put in comas because of the skiing we do.”
He added: “I’m nervous before every run. But within a second I know I can do this. Your instincts come out. I’m more nervous watching others.”
Jim Jack recently starred in this viral video promoting Leavenworth, where both he and Rudolph lived.