ASHLAND, Ore. — Mt. Ashland Ski Area posted on Tuesday to mark the memory of Johnny Walker, a member of the mountain's ski patrol who died in an accident two years ago this week.
23-year-old Johnathan Patrick Likeke Walker (known as "Johnny Walker" to his friends) and several other members of the Ski Patrol were on the south side of Mt. Ashland on February 16, 2019, when Walker ran afoul of a tree well.
Tree wells are an all too common hazard on the ungroomed parts of a ski area and in the back country, and they can easily turn deadly. When the mountains are covered in snow, the snow immediately around a tree can be deceptively sparse and loose beneath the surface due to the tree's branches — essentially becoming an open pit when pressure is applied.
Falling into a tree well, particularly head-first, can quickly result in snow immersion suffocation (SIS).
Walker was a beloved member of the Mt. Ashland family, and a plaque in his honor now graces the Ariel chair lift on Mt. Ashland.
"If we are lucky enough to catch a ride on the yellow and white Ariel chair it is sure to mist up our goggles," Mt. Ashland said on Tuesday. "When we gather on Mahogany Ridge we see you there and raise a glass. On every run, we feel your spirit as if you are there matching every turn we make. We miss you Johnny Walker and won't ever forget how much your short time on earth touched us all. A Hui Hou."