Share a special moment from Lisa's life.


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 

I did not die....

Shared by Helene Steiner on April 4, 2018

Lisa, when my brother died in his crevasse and I went to Atlin to deal with the aftermath, I found a poem in my brother's papers, somehwere in the middle of many other papers on his desk. I do not know, how he came to have this and why he kept it. Did he have a premonition of his own death? When reading it, I remember that it was the very first thing, that helped me heal, the very first thing that showed me a ray of acceptance. This is why I want to share this poem here, it is of an unknown author. Maybe it will help heal your family and friends.....

I Did Not Die

Author Unknown

Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.

I am not there. I did not die.


Heli Day with Lisa

Shared by Jimmy Wollenberg on April 3, 2018

On March 1st myself and 3 friends flew with Whistler Heli-Skiing, Lisa was our guide. How lucky we were that Lisa was assigned to our group. From the moment we met at the Powder Hut we knew we were with somone special. We had a great day under less than ideal conditions, by the end of the day we had become friends, not clients. This picture was taken after our 6th run. On Friday we heard the terrible and tragic news. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to ski with and spend the day in the mountains with Lisa. Our time together was short but my memory will never fade.

My deepest condolences to her son Tye and husband Johnny. She spoke of you both with great pride during the day. May all her skiable lines in the clouds be steep, deep and endless.

Telling the Bees of the Legend of Lisa

Shared by Lisa Ankeny on April 2, 2018

Written by Jennie Helmer

I asked Pemberton’s bee-keeping community if there was anyone interested in contributing their know-how and passion to Traced Elements. Jennie Helmer put her hand up, and offers this first post, of bee-keeper wisdom, in dedication to Lisa Korthals. 

This community has lost one of the most-loved, revered, and all-around rad women this grateful town has ever seen.  Pemberton will not soon forget the beauty, grace and strength that was Lisa Korthals.

When I heard the unimaginable news of her death, I sat in stunned silence. Thinking of all the broken-hearts aching in our town. I imagined Lisa’s beautiful smile and her effortless love of all things related to family, friends, wheels and skis.

Eventually I went to sit with my honey bees, to tell them the story of Lisa’s life and death.

I sat on the old wooden fence beside the bees. I built this fence to wrap around their hives. It was designed to give them flying space while I sip tea and watch them zip in and out of their little hive-homes. At times, I’m able to mark the changing days by the various shades of yellow pollen stuffed gently into their legs. In the early Spring the pollen is a brilliant, neon yellow, later it turns a dusky orange.

Today it is an intense burst of yellow, as I sit and tell the bees of Lisa.

The “telling of the bees” is an old-world tradition, where bees are informed of important moments in their keepers’ lives. In Celtic myth, bees were regarded as having great wisdom and acted as messengers between worlds, able to travel to the Otherworld bringing back messages from the gods.

I told the bees the tale of the warrior woman who has died in the unforgiving and indiscriminating arms of the mountains. I told the bees of Lisa’s family, of her phenomenal soul-mate Johnny with his gentle smile, his bravery and unimaginable strength. I told the bees of her son Tye who embodies Lisa’s spirit, who is a kind soul and an amazing ski racer, and who is building into his own legend at such a young age. And of lovely Chris, Lisa’s brother whose spirit she kept alive with stories and photos.

I told the bees of her daring ascents, her tenacious descents, and the beautiful places she’d been in this world. I told the bees of the other female ski guides in the area whose souls were crushed on this day, whose worlds would never be the same again. A remarkably close group of strong women, they are the queens of an industry where female ski guides are revered, iconic and so undeniably safe in every choice they make in the mountains. This should not have happened to one of them.

I shared with the bees that the hearts and minds of our community are devastated and tattered and torn. I asked that the bees find these hearts, and gently give them strength to keep breathing and moving and smiling; and then I asked that if they could find Lisa, could they let Lisa know that we will hold sacred her memory, that her family will be loved and cared for and that she will never be forgotten. If they could also stay a bit longer by her side, I asked, could they tell her that we’ll see her in the mountains, on the trails, and everywhere in-between.

As I told the bees, they told me: be still, be strong, be comforted, be kind, be love in this life, live like the Legend that is Lisa.

Undaunted: Lisa Korthals Recalls Her Historic Ski Descent Of University Peak

Shared by Lisa Ankeny on April 2, 2018

Written by Lisa Richardson

It was spring of 2002. Word had trickled out of Alaska that University Peak, in the Wrangell Mountains, one of the largest unbroken faces on the planet, might be set up with enough snow on its south face to actually be skied for the first time. Intrigued, Lisa Korthals and her partner Johnny “Foon” Chilton turbo-activated a plan they’d been cooking up from their Pemberton home.

University’s 14,470-foot (4,410-metre) relief stands as one of the twenty highest peaks in Alaska. Chilton had had it in his sights for some time. An uninterrupted fall-line south face, University Peak would later land on the cover of 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, described as “one of the most challenging, pure, beautiful, aesthetic lines in North America,” “super bad-ass,” and “probably the most burly peak in the whole book.”

As Chilton and Korthals finished gearing up for their pioneering mission, the quest for a first ski descent had already ended. Lorne Glick, Bob Kingsley, Lance McDonald and John Whedon had made the descent just a few days ahead of them.

But no mixed party had done it.

Korthals, then a guide at Mike Wiegele Heliskiing, had recently added ski mountaineering to her repertoire. The previous year, she’d completed the first woman’s descent of the central couloir on Joffre’s north face (with Chilton), and the first descent of Mexico’s highest volcano, the 18,619-foot Pico del Orizaba (with Lee Anne Patterson and Veronika Vackova).

University Peak was bigger, consistently 50 degrees for over 7,000 vertical feet (2,000 metres). “The central couloir on Joffre is probably one of the steepest things I’ve ever skied,” says Korthals. “But University was, and still is, by far, the biggest thing I’ve done.”

Korthals and Chilton landed on the glacier and spent the first three days doing short tours and anxiously watching the massive face to see when it would come alive. Every morning, as the sun hit it, the mountain would start to peel and shed itself — point releases turning into massive avalanches. “You can’t be on something that steep when the surface is running,” Korthals says, “and it was running every day.”

So they made their approach as soon as the sun went down — a thirteen-hour bootpack ascent under clear skies at minus 30 degrees Celsius. It was too cold to stop and they didn’t rope up. Korthals shrugs: “We weren’t placing protection on the face, so if one person fell, the other one would have fallen. We just climbed.”

The minute the light began to kiss the summit, they turned around. Now they were really on the clock.

Of all the variables to take into consideration that day – the one thing Korthals (a Level 4 CSIA pro and early IFSA freeski competitor) didn’t have to stress over was her skiing. “The first turn is always the hardest. You can’t fall. It’s not an option. You would never be able to self arrest on something like that. I think I side-slipped notably before I committed, but once the first turn is there, you’re in.”

Skiing down took two hours – physical jump turns from edge to edge. “It’s so steep. It’s not flowy skiing at all. But it’s exhilarating. You have nothing in your head, except what you’re doing in that moment and how that next turn is going to stick you to the face.”

Halfway down, a Class 4 avalanche swept the left face of the wall, scouring it clean. Glick’s first descent team had climbed and skied the left wall. Korthals and Chilton had opted for the right.

Had they made a different choice that day, they would have been swept away.

In the years since, Korthals has retained her knack for choosing the right path – even if it’s a daunting one. She and Chilton were the first husband and wife team to ski the Munday Couloir in the Queen Bess Zone. This winter, she’ll guide short stints with Whistler Heli-Skiing and Bella Coola Heli Sports, wordlessly reminding alpha-male clients to never underestimate a skier because of their gender. Her clients may never know she is the first woman to ski University Peak, or understand even half of what Lisa’s done in her ski career, but once she makes that first turn, they’ll realize they’re in good hands. If they can keep up.


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