Truckee man dies in Washington avalanche
A Truckee man died Tuesday morning after getting caught in an avalanche while skiing west of Mt. Baker ski area in northern Washington, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
Tobias Lee, 25, was skiing a chute outside of the ski resort on Mount Herman, with his brother and a friend between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. when a full cornice of snow broke loose at the top of the chute, said Deputy Mark Jilk.
The slide carried Lee over two rock faces and through some trees, approximately 1,000 feet down the shoot. When the brother and friend skied down to Lee, they found him to be unresponsive and tried to perform CPR, Jilk said.
Search and rescue volunteers could not reach Lee on foot because of the high avalanche risk, Jilk said.
“His family hired a private helicopter company to come pick (Lee) up,” he said. “His brother helped with the removal of the body.”
Lee’s brother, Elijah Lee, 32, and friend Tom Walgren, 38, both from the Glacier, Wash., area, were not injured in the slide.
A recent snowstorm that brought 30-plus inches of snow to the area, coupled with recent warm temperatures, made for high avalanche danger in the northern Washington mountains on Tuesday, Jilk said.
The area had seen three ski-related deaths so far this winter, but none were from avalanches, he said.
Lee had skied in the backcountry areas around Glacier many times while visiting his brother, said Jason Dobbs, Lee’s roommate in Truckee. On this visit, Lee left Sunday morning in anticipation of a five-day skiing trip in Glacier.
Skiing in the backcountry was Lee’s passion, Dobbs said.
“Toby really loved the whole backcountry skiing experience, earning your turns, just you and the mountains,” he said.
Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Lee grew up skiing with his brother and lived in several ski towns before moving to Truckee in December 2005. He skied at Squaw Valley USA and worked at the Auld Dubliner in the Village-at-Squaw.
“He spent the last five years living in five different ski towns, and he decided this is the one he wanted to live in, so he just bought a house in Reno. He was looking to stay a little longer,” said Dobbs, who coached the freestyle ski team with Lee at Squaw.
Lee competed in the Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships at Kirkwood earlier this month. He won big mountain skiing’s coveted Sickbird Award as the skier who excited the crowd the most.
“He will certainly be remembered as an amazing skier, but even more so as an incredible person,” Dobbs said. “Those that knew him for even only a moment will undoubtedly remember the ear-to-ear grin he constantly displayed.”
Lee is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.