Ohioan Katie Aring, 29, who died March 21, 2012 in an avalanche in the Bonnington Mountain range near Blewett, B.C. She had won the guided heli-skiing trip through a contest. Ryan Keene, 31, also died.
Katie Aring was so excited to learn she’d won a heli-ski trip to B.C., she called longtime friend Doug Radefeld at 2 a.m. to tell him.
Aring, an avid snowboarder who grew up in Sagamore Hills, Ohio and most recently lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, told Radefeld she’d entered a draw at a movie theatre and won.
On Wednesday night, Radefeld received a second call about her trip, this one tragic.
Aring, a 32-year-old shoe designer, was one of two people who died after a heli-ski group was caught in an avalanche south of Nelson, B.C. about 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.
RCMP have identified Ryan Keene, 31, of London, England as the second casualty of the slide, which was classified as a 3.5 on a scale of one to five.
“I was devastated, just absolutely speechless,” said Radefeld, who met Aring when she was 13 and taught her to snowboard.
“This is probably the most I’ve cried in my life.”
Aring and Keene were in a group of five people including a guide in the Bonnington Mountain range near Blewett, B.C., about 630 km southwest of Calgary, when the avalanche happened.
Mounties say the group had finished a run and was waiting to be picked up by a helicopter at a landing area with their ski gear removed when the slide triggered and the guide told everyone to run.
Four people were buried and the fifth called for help via radio.
The heli-ski operator, Snowwater Heli-Skiing, had other groups in the area that rushed to help, causing a search and rescue team to be stood down.
RCMP report the guide and two other skiers — one of whom was Aring’s boyfriend, Radefeld said — suffered minor injuries.
Radefeld said he’ll remember Aring for her ability to make almost any situation fun, her passion for snowboarding and her one-step-ahead fashion sense.
“She was always the person who made you smile, who would see the good in a bad situation,” he said.
“She was a true, true friend.”
Among his fondest memories of her are from Christmases, when she would return home to Ohio.
Radefeld said on the Thursday before Christmas each year, he and Aring would snowboard and then go dancing at a bar named Thursday’s, where they had been regulars during their college years.
“No matter what you were doing, she always made it a fun time,” he said.
The investigation into the avalanche deaths is now being led by the B.C. Coroners Service.