MT. ASHLAND, Ore. — On Saturday afternoon, around 1:30 p.m., the staff of Mt. Ashland Ski Area lost a member of their family. Since then, they have been reeling, while still striving to pay their respects.
23-year-old Johnathan Patrick Likeke Walker (known as "Johnny Walker" to his friends) hailed from Yakima, Washington, but made his home and vocation in Southern Oregon.
Saturday, while skiing in the mountain's back-country, Mt. Ashland said that Walker died in a tragic incident — "colliding with a tree," according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office. The ski area said that the incident involved a tree well, a tragically all-too-common hazard.
"Johnny Walker was a Man of the Mountains, strong in the outdoors and many other areas of his life. He was a core member of the Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol and a leader. His impact on the mountain extended far beyond his Ski Patrolling. He was a friend, a brother, and an important part of the Mt. Ashland Family and community," said Mt. Ashland Marketing Coordinator Amy Schlotterback in a statement.
Although members of the Ski Patrol tried to help Walker and were able to bring him back up to the ski area, medical personnel were unable to revive him.
“Johnny was an exceptional person in every aspect of life,” said General Manager Hiram Towle. “His drive and determination to be the best, no matter what the challenge, was an inspiration to us all. He had a thirst for fun and adventure unlike anyone I have known. With his smile and charm you simply couldn’t have a bad day with Johnny around.”
A Sheriff's Office investigation into Walker's death continues, and an autopsy was postponed until Monday.
“Johnny Walker was my close friend and coworker,” said Ski Patrol Director Doug Volk. “He was a skilled Patroller, always ready to answer any call of duty. He was an accomplished surfer that lived his life as if riding a wave, all that mattered was the moment and the turn, he loved that. He will truly be missed by all of our mountain community. His infectious humor, smile, and good will left us too soon. Aloha Johnny.”
“We are all still in shock and miss him terribly,” added Towle. “He will forever live in our hearts and here on the mountain. As a family we will heal the wounds of this tragic loss one ski run at a time. That’s just how Johnny would’ve wanted it.”
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