One year ago today, my world was shattered as I learned of the death of three amazing individuals, including of my favorite people in the world. The phone calls came in with rapid succession as people got wind of a fatal avalanche at Stevens Pass. Our community activated in search of information about the victims and circumstances and was dumbstruck to find that three of the most experienced and beloved skiers in the area, and beyond were among the victims. Chris Rudolph, Jim Jack and Johnny Brennan were the last people you would expect to lose to the mountains, so attuned were they to the vibrations of the hills. But all of their combined experience and strength would prove insufficient in the face of nature unleashed.
A year later the feeling of loss and a sense of helplessness is no less acute, but is in some ways offset by the echoes of positive energy left behind by these amazing individuals. Everywhere I look I find examples of people living more fully and giving more freely as a means by which to remember and honor these beautiful people. There is truly a sense that we are all doing everything we can to make sure that the immense power to inspire and to love which each of these people possessed in spades is not lost, but is instead amplified.
Today from a ski hill in Japan I will explore the wilderness, celebrate friendship, reach out to those I love and raise a glass to fallen heroes. Positive energy cannot be destroyed. Today we share ours in the name of Chris, Jim and Johnny.
I’ll end with a tribute I wrote on learning of the loss of my dear friend Chris, may his memory forever inspire.
Our Friend Chris Rudolph – An Amplifier of Life
In a parallel universe, Chris, Jim Jack, Johnny and the rest of the crew skied safely and ecstatically down to the highway. The Stevens Pass van that Chris would surely have had en route would load them up and deliver them back to the resort in ecstasy and disbelief of how epic and how easy it all was. I know this, because I’ve been on that van ride. I’ve been at the bar afterwards as we all raised a glass to Chris for facilitating this finite slice of heaven. If we could only have realized how finite it would really be.
Chris and I shared many of these beautiful moments. Skiing, celebrating, making music, working, traveling, exploring, planning and giving freely of the gift of joy. He was a man with whom I had more in common than nearly anyone else in my life. Being around him gave me the feeling that my actions and motivations in life were of the highest tier, because the same actions and motivations were his.
My perspective on this is not unique. Chris served as an amplifier of life, in full support of anything positive, brave or inspired. For the people with whom he connected, Chris was a motivator, a collaborator and a model for fully living. A life more fully and joyfully lived creates stronger bonds. My dear friend Chris Rudolph created more of these bonds with more people than anyone I can think of.
While in the midst of living his creed, Chris was killed. When he died he was in his element; on skis, in the mountains, on his favorite run, sharing the wealth with his close friends and a crew of people experiencing the place for the first time. This was Chris Rudolph at his finest.
What Chris has left for us is a profound sense of loss that is more burdensome and acute than many of us have experienced before. But more importantly, he’s left us a guide for interacting with the world around us. We’re left with the knowledge that we have a small window of opportunity in this life to forge friendships, to inspire, to live and to love. It’s time to open the floodgates and let it all fly. It’s what Chris would do.