ForeverMissed

A bright infectious smile has been dimmed.

“The black heads, the white in the wings
that haunting call, the loons
echoing down the lake
a Doppler chorus,
wondrous game
Marco
Polo
That call across the water
Across the years, so special
So distinctive, our bird, with those red eyes
And that haunting call"

-Raymond Foss


On Wednesday, March 28, one of our community’s most dearly beloved and respected members passed away. Lisa Korthals - mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend - died in an avalanche while guiding in the mountains near Pemberton B.C. She was 49.

Lisa was known to many, carving out a life in the mountains surrounding Whistler and Pemberton for the past 30 years. As one close friend remarked, she was “a proper legend”.

Lisa was born in Toronto and raised there with her two brothers. She attended Brown School and Branksome Hall before moving out to the west coast in 1987 to attend UBC. Her adventurous spirit and athletic passions chafed under the confines of university life. Being an accomplished canoeist, perfected over many summers attending Camp Wapomeo, she began to heed the calls of nature and started venturing to Whistler. Having learned to ski in the hills of Ontario under the guidance and inspiration of her mother, Judy, and also having taken a trip to Whistler during her last year of high school, the temptation was too great.
Getting a job with the Whistler Mountain Ski School sealed her fate, and she began a love affair with the Coastal Mountains that refused to abate.

Lisa began to pursue perfection on skis and quickly started adding qualifications to her list of impressive achievements that culminated with her reaching the pinnacle of ski instruction, the Level IV certification.  Not slowing down in her summers off the slopes, she continued to pursue her passion for canoe tripping with Camp Wanapatei, specifically long and remote adventures down the Moisie and Coppermine Rivers. These were unsupported missions in the barren landscape of Northern Canada that she co-led with her dear friend Andrea Dorfman. In hindsight, they are truly epic accomplishments.

At this point other passions called. Lisa was always  a peripatetic adventurer constantly looking for new challenges. Her close friend Leeanne Patterson introduced her to rock climbing and Lisa took to it like any skill she perfected, with drive and determination. The natural outlet to this was attending Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops to study in the Outdoor Adventure Program.
These college years were punctuated with working at Outward Bound leading river rafting trips in Idaho and rock climbing trips to places like Joshua Tree and Smith Rock.

In 1997 Lisa moved to Pemberton, fleeing the perpetual housing crisis of Whistler. She immediately fell in love with a piece of property 10 km north of town in a small nascent neighbourhood called Walkerville. She homesteaded here in true Lisa fashion, getting a friend to build her a tiny 10 x 10 shed that she lived in for two summers. At the same time she met her future husband and life partner, Johnny Foon Chilton, in a skiing contest. They proceeded to build their dream home on the hill.

Soon after settling in Pemberton Lisa decided to concentrate on ski guiding as a winter profession and began the Canadian Ski Guide Assoc. certification.  This led to working at Mike Wiegele Heli-skiing and gaining a Level 3 ticket. Her summers were occupied with horticulture, working for the municipality of Whistler.
Climbing and big mountain skiing became central to her life, taking on big objectives with her husband Johnny, culminating in the climbing and skiing of University Peak in Alaska. A daunting feat, skiing 2,700 meters at 50 degrees plus, Lisa became the first woman to log a descent of this face.

By this time family beckoned and Lisa gave birth to son Tye in the summer of 2005. Settled into her cozy neighbourhood , living alongside close friend Wendy Brookbank and raising their son, she decided to stay close to home and took a job as a guide with local Pemberton heli-ski operation Coast Range. Again she excelled here and became the operations manager for two seasons.

A long off-season demanded a shift in gears and she decided to enter the real estate trade as a realtor for Remax Whistler alongside her neighbour and long-time friend Erin McCardle Stiel. As well, her husband Johnny began to make skis from local yellow cedar and Lisa dove into this endeavour, sharing Johnny’s passion for the technical and artistic complexities of making skis.

Lisa transitioned to Whistler Heli-Skiing soon after and became a part-time guide as her real estate business began to flourish.

Lisa was a sublime skier. Fluid. Graceful. Powerful. An absolute dream to watch. Her son Tye has learned the trade well from this incredible athlete and is becoming a complete skier at the tender age of 12. Her passion for skiing and adventure were matched by her dedication and love for Tye.

She transitioned from rock climbing to mountain biking. She was dogged in her pursuit of excellence in this sport like everything else. Her texts to me about “cleaning” a trail became legendary.

Lisa is survived by her husband Johnny, her son Tye, her mother Judy, her father Robin, her brother Jamie and a colossal list of friends. She was pre-deceased by her brother Chris. She was a connector, a truly social being, a hugger and a kisser. She made people feel special. She was full of raw emotion and deeply felt love for everybody who crossed her path. She lived life INTENSELY. She leaves a massive hole in this community and in so many hearts. Her smile was extinguished by the whims of nature but its luminosity and power will forever be etched in our minds.

A Case Of You
Just before our love got lost you said 

I am as constant as a northern star and I said,

Constantly in the darkness

Where's that at?

If you want me I'll be in the bar

On the back of a cartoon coaster

In the blue TV screen light

I drew a map of Canada

Oh Canada

With your face sketched on it twice

Oh you are in my blood like holy wine

You taste so bitter

And so sweet oh

I could drink a case of you darling and I would

Still be on my feet

Oh I would still be on my feet

Oh I am a lonely painter

I live in a box of paints

I'm frightened by the devil

And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid

I remember that time that you told me, you said

"Love is touching souls"

Surely you touched mine 'cause

Part of you pours out of me

In these lines from time to time

Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
Y
ou taste so bitter

And so sweet oh

I could drink a case of you darling

Still I'd be on my feet

I would still be on my feet

I met a woman

She had a mouth like yours, she knew your life

She knew your devils and your deeds and she said

"Go to him

stay with him if you can

But be prepared to bleed"

Oh but you are in my blood you're my holy wine

You're so bitter

bitter and so sweet oh

I could drink a case of you darling

Still I'd be on my feet

I would still be on my feet

hmm


-Joni Mitchell


Lisa's service was held Thursday April 5, 2018 in Whistler.
https://www.gofundme.com/lisa-korthals-and-family-fund

Posted by Michael Blair on March 28, 2020
My heart goes out to you Robin.
Posted by B Scott on July 22, 2019
I met Lisa in about 2003 while I was a candidate on an ACMG Assistant Ski Guide Training week in Whistler. Lisa was one of two of ski instructors responsible for assessing candidates' skiing ability . While we didn't interact a ton, there is no question that Lisa really left me with an overwhelmingly positive impression-she was extremely upbeat, genuine and friendly- a positive outlook. In an industry with quite a lot of ego, she genuinely stood above the crowd.
I am shocked and saddened to hear about Lisa's passing. I understand that more than a year has gone by, but I wanted to share a little bit about how she left an strong, positive impression on yet another person.
Sincerely,
B. Scott
Posted by David Peters on December 3, 2018
I am very sorry for your loss, and send my condolences.
Posted by Kit DesLauriers on November 27, 2018
Lisa,
I just found this page and decided that for the ones you've left behind at the moment, I wanted to share some sweet memories. The moments we shared were brief but you made a mark on me as a woman who loves life, laughs easily, is humble, happy, and makes those around her happy. We met at Red Mountain, with LeAnne, and you two were so genuine that I literally road tripped from Wyoming to come climb with you that summer of 2002! We camped on the river after climbing at Squamish then drank tea in the sunlit early version of your Pemberton dream home. You reminded me to ignore the girls on the Freeskiing tour who were not friendly because life is too short to share anything other than love and skiing as hard as you can because it's what you love to do. Fast forward 14 yrs, and I was looking for a decent ski for my young daughters at our home mountain of Jackson Hole, of course my online search for shortest and fattest landed me on FOON and I bought an 'extra' pair that Johnny had made for Tyler not only because they looked beautiful but because they came from your family.
Your positivity is carried on with love, Kit
Posted by maria grant on April 29, 2018
Lisa was so special to me. I haven't stopped thinking about this since it happened. I so wished I could have been at her service to say goodbye, but for everyone that could show up, there were many others who loves her who couldn't. Lisa and I took most of our guide courses together and she was always a huge inspiration to me, both in how she conducted herself professionally as well as how she lived her life in general. I am crushed for her family. Her smile is forever etched in my memory. "Hey Babe"...thank you for everything you were Lisa. xoxoxo forever.
Posted by Anna Keeling on April 18, 2018
Jonny Foon, it’s been years & years. I remember that you married lisa. We have sons the same age. It’s a terrible thing for you to lose your life partner & mother of your son. My heart goes out to you & all your people. Take solace in Lisa’s beautiful life & gather your awesome peeps around you to remember this awesome-sounding lady who I sadly only ever met briefly. Fond memories of my time in your community. Love from Anna Keeling
Posted by Michael Blair on April 15, 2018
Robin

My sympathies on your loss. I can't imagine anything more painful than the loss of one's child.

Michael
Posted by alan chesick on April 5, 2018
The snow falls gently, falls gently down,
And the sky opens wide its gentle arms,
And the voice that was laughter and love all in one
Sings only in silence, a whispering now.
Posted by David Peters on April 4, 2018
I am very sorry for your loss and send my condolences to Lisa's family.
Posted by mike roger on April 4, 2018
Lisa and I met back in the glory days of Whistler( early 90's) when we all had that adventurous , curious , carefree spirit. That spirit never left her and her legacy will continue through memories of her and of adventures to follow. The Foons were some among our very first flower delivery clients that got on board with their wonderful Walkerville neighbours, who are all so very close. The highlight of my week was stopping at Lisas greeted by her sparkling eyes and bright smile and letting her have first pick. That sense of gratitude and leaving with a hug always made my day.Just like with flowers, we have to appreciate the beauty in people and in the environment that surrounds us. Unfortunately , the most beautiful things in life are often gone too soon. I will remember Lisa every time I deliver flowers
Posted by Courtney Albert on April 4, 2018
Lisa was one the warmest, kindest, and most hilarious people I know. There was rarely a time I wasn't wiping tears away from laughter when we got together. Now I wipe more tears away, for her family, for her friends, for her community. I miss my friend. But I am so happy you are with your Chris, Lisa, and I know you are laughing where ever you are.
Posted by Melinda Baxter on April 4, 2018
Lisa and I bonded over a summer spent at Outward Bound together in the early 90's. We worked a course together and I have wonderful pictures of her wide smiling face to always remind me of her special light. We laughed a lot that summer and she has always remained a friend since then though we never saw each other again. I'm so sorry this has happened. It's devastating! So much love to her family and community in BC. <3
Posted by Kate Felstiner Lowe on April 3, 2018
The Felstiners and the Korthals families grew up together in Toronto. We were always in awe of the energetic endurance adventures the Korthals family were embarking on. We watched from the bunny slopes while they gamely signed up for sailing trips, cross country ski marathons, alpine ski tours and extended canoe and whitewater trips... It did not surprise us when Lisa and Chris found their nests on the West Coast in the middle of those astonishing Coastal mountains. Since childhood, we have watched Lisa grow and take on ever more challenging pursuits.

We may not have had Lisa's skill or daring, but we shared her high energy and love for the outdoors. Our family have lived in the UK for 20 years now, so we have watched from afar as Lisa's long list of accomplishments has grown and her own family has sprouted and flourished. Even though we have not known Lisa well for many years - we know she was made of Spruce and Granite and Wheels and Spokes and deep Snow and that all of this was stuck together by Community and Family and Love.

Our son is going on a long whitewater trip on the mighty Moise River this summer - we will send him off and think of Lisa's life-long passion for adventure. If he's lucky - he will develop one tenth of the skill and passion that Lisa had.

We are 8000 miles away - so on April 5th we will be planting a Spruce tree here in the UK in Lisa's honour. We look forward to watching it stretch for the sky, just as Lisa always did.
Posted by Harold Hoeg on April 3, 2018
I didn’t know Lisa well other than through Facebook, but I will never forget the wonderful bluebird day (12/30/14) I spent with her heli-sking at Coast Range. She even convinced me to have Johnny make me a pair of skis - which he did! I will never ski another day on my Foons and not think of Lisa. Thoughts and prayers to Lisa's family and her extended Whistler/Pemberton family. RIP Lisa
Posted by Sarah Brown on April 3, 2018
I would like to express my condolences to the Korthals family. Both Chris and Lisa had a big impact on my life as an adventure guide and educator. I met Chris at Camp Chief Hector when I was 19 and he inspired me to attend the Adventure Guide program at Thompson River University. I later had the pleasure of taking one of my ski courses with Lisa in Whistler. Even though we only spent a week together, she was an inspiration and role model for me as a young aspiring female adventurer. We never really know the ways in which we inspire people and impact their life paths. Both Chris and Lisa had a profound impact on my life. I hope it brings your family some peace to know that your children’s adventurous spirits live on in the hearts of so many people that were inspired by them.
Posted by Brian Stoddart on April 3, 2018
Lisa,
I didn’t know you as well as others, but what I knew, was you had an unconditional way of treating people you met, with openness and curiosity and kindness. I remember when when I first met you , your smile and happiness was undenying and would brighten anyone’s day , as you would mine .I’m blessed to have been a part of your life, your presence here will never be forgotten, but forever missed !
Shine on you crazy diamond , heaven has just become brighter !

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Michael Blair on March 28, 2020
My heart goes out to you Robin.
Posted by B Scott on July 22, 2019
I met Lisa in about 2003 while I was a candidate on an ACMG Assistant Ski Guide Training week in Whistler. Lisa was one of two of ski instructors responsible for assessing candidates' skiing ability . While we didn't interact a ton, there is no question that Lisa really left me with an overwhelmingly positive impression-she was extremely upbeat, genuine and friendly- a positive outlook. In an industry with quite a lot of ego, she genuinely stood above the crowd.
I am shocked and saddened to hear about Lisa's passing. I understand that more than a year has gone by, but I wanted to share a little bit about how she left an strong, positive impression on yet another person.
Sincerely,
B. Scott
Posted by David Peters on December 3, 2018
I am very sorry for your loss, and send my condolences.
Recent stories

3/28/18

Shared by Jimmy Wollenberg on March 28, 2019

You are not Forgotten.

Make Tenderness Your Rallying Cry

Shared by Lisa Ankeny on April 6, 2018

Written by Lisa Richardson for Mountain Life Media

The days after Lisa Korthals died, the weather was crazy. I pulled wood in from the woodshed, and felt as if the erratic moodiness in the air, the sudden graupel, the return of the sun, the swirl of snow, was caused by her raging spirit, unsettled, unwilling to let go, to leave her life, her friends, her boy. He’s 12, sweet, lovely. How could she possibly go yet? It felt as if she were trying to move the heavens to get back to him. My son is 5. I imagine my own horror at being forced to leave him. And I felt silenced by it all. By the hugeness, the gapingness, the awfulness, of it. I would go to a notebook, a screen, and try and write something. And all that made sense was silence.

Out in the storm-swirl, only three thoughts rose up, like wild prayers to her. I thought: I hope you weren’t afraid. I hope your brother came to walk you across the line. I hope your friends rally around Tye and remind him, and each other, and the whole entire world, every day, who you were. And why thousands of people are rocked by this loss.

And last night, when, I sat on the floor at Lisa’s celebration of life, in a room overflowing with love and tears, a thousand people or more, I thought, okay then. You can go. Do you sense that too? We’ll shoulder this sorrow, we’ll carry this loss. It feels heavy. But your work is done. You can lay it all down now. You’re okay to go.

Outside my window today, the day is grey, quietly raining. Wrung out. Everything is still.

I’ve heard people say, as they share news of sudden death or tragedy, “go home and hug your loved ones.”  I always wondered why that caught at me like a burr. It’s a fine sentiment, right? My aversion to cliché can’t be that strong. But it jarred, regardless.

Then I read this: “Death, whether your own or others, can be a powerful gateway to complete tenderness.” (Zenju Earthly Manuel)

There it is. Lean towards complete tenderness. Not selective tenderness. Don’t just hug your loved ones, who you should be hugging every day anyway. Embrace everyone. Hug the people you interact with, if not literally, then with your interactions. Smile at strangers, hold the door open, lean into tenderness to every other human you cross paths with. Tell friends or acquaintances that you admire them or appreciate them. That’s what we should be doing in response. Leaning in to tenderness. That’s what death urges upon us.

That’s what Korthals did.

She kissed people on the lips.

She was generous with her love and energy, at ease with herself, and that ease spilled forth into being easy with everyone. And people responded to it, because as simple as it seems, it’s so rare.

“There was not one person who could walk away from her wondering, ‘Did she love me or didn’t she?'” says Wendy Brookbank. “Everybody knew she loved them, and especially her family.”

My next door neighbour unexpectedly texted me yesterday at 2pm, the day of Lisa’s celebration of life, offering to look after my son, so we could go.

13 years ago, Korthals cultivated that kind of neighbourhood around her – the old guard of Whistler ski-bum legends, all raising babies up and down the street, and being that extension of family for each other.

Me? I was blown away by my neighbour’s offer, and the logistics it took, and the way it seems that the world is conspiring to chip away at my (inherited, generations-deep, deeply programmed) “self-reliance” and “self-containment” and stoicness.

I’m riding Lisa’s coat-tails. Following the trails she blazed.

Community is what keeps us afloat, emailed a friend, with a message of condolence. And it’s so true. Yet we only really become part of it when we fall short, fall apart, fall down, need help.

Until we need help, we don’t really understand what community is. I didn’t. I was always community-minded. But I never felt part of one. Until I was incapable of doing everything on my own.

At one of my earliest visits with my midwives, 6 years ago, now, they said: “You are going to need help, so you need to start practicing asking for it now. I detect that might be a challenge for you. So get started.”

Over these past years, I have evolved into a “weaker” individual, less capable and contained, and become a flawed member of a shape-shifting community, a person living a much richer, more robust life, as a node in a big network.

That network felt so strong and beautiful last night, and it seemed so apparent to me that Lisa had long known it. And had been feeding it all along.

There are so many things to admire about Korthals, and to lament about this loss. But that is the one that hangs on the hardest. That, when you feel at ease in who you are, that easiness overflows, and you co-create a tribe so huge that your work in the world is able to continue, long after you’ve crossed the line.

 

Pakalolo and a Volvo

Shared by Greg McDonnell on April 5, 2018

JI's comment of Lisa's gravitational force is really sticking with me.

I would go months without seeing or talking to her as is the dance of friendships on the periphery of a mountain town. But when fate brought us together, she would always invite you into her sparkly world with deliberate eye contact, touch and or a hug. All of which created so much authenticity. Two stories resonate. Last winter I bumped into her in the GE lineup and she said "Come join me, I'm spying on Ty!" So we skied Pakalolo on Blackcomb on a mission to find her son who was chasing pow with WMSC. I will never forget that lap. Secondly, we were both stranded for a place to change before a Samauri ride at which point she invited me behind her Volvo where we both dopped our gear whilst changing...Lisa's laughter swarming the airspace. 

CAW, CAW my friend. I for one will endeavor to take that authenticity forward. 

XO, G