Remembering Theo Meiners
Up ahead I could see the waving arms like a beacon in the storm. Visibility was minimal and clients were scattered amongst the fog. One of our tasks as guides at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was to sweep the mountain for any skiers lost or disoriented in the storm. As my fellow guide Theo Meiners declared that day, "No skier would be left behind."
This declaration sums up everything Theo stood for both on and off the mountain. As a ski pioneer of Alaska's Chugach Range and a forefather of Jackson Hole's craggy terrain, Theo -- who owned and operated Alaska's Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides -- embodied passion for skiing beyond anyone I know. He truly believed in safety, honesty, and hard work.
On Thursday, Sept. 20, Theo fell from a second floor escalator railing at Dena'ina Center in Anchorage, Alaska, where he was attending the International Snow Science Workshop. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 59 years old.
"Theo was a father, friend, teacher, coach and guide," said Dave Miller, the lead guide at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. "I was lucky enough to guide with him while opening first descents back in the heyday of Valdez, Alaska. He was a true professional and a fine gentleman. His love for heli skiing was contagious."
Theo worked as a ski instructor and coach for more than 30 years. From 1996 to 2000, he was the lead guide at Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, which was founded by the late Doug Coombs. In 2001, Theo purchased 27 acres on Alaska's Thompson Pass and opened Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides. He skied thousands of first descents around the Chugach range and spent over 15 years guiding in Alaska.
Over the years Theo spent in and out of Alaska, one thing was always certain: If you needed help, Theo would be there. He had an uncanny ability to understand the snowpack, which as a budding ski guide, I quickly learned to tap into. No matter what the conditions were, Theo was on the hill. He often said, "There is no bad day, just bad skiers."
No matter if you skied the Arch or slayed the Diamond with Theo, he made you feel safe. Over his long life in the mountains he would take a client right to the edge and then back off. Theo could talk shop with the park rats or dissect a hidden snow crystal with groupies at the International Snow Science Workshop.
Theo Meiners will be forever remembered in the ski community as a mentor, pioneer, and a beacon in the storm. Today, Theo joins his pals Doug Coombs, Jimmy Zell, Howard "Howie" Henderson, Mark Wolling (Big Wally) and countless other pioneers who have passed on.
The first turn is for you, Theo.