Avalanche forecaster dies while mountain biking near Hailey

Avalanche forecaster dies while mountain biking near Hailey

Doug Abromeit


by Associated Press and KTVB.COM


Posted on May 24, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Updated Friday, May 24 at 3:55 PM

HAILEY, Idaho -- A retired ranger who helped start the U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center died while mountain biking near his home in Idaho.

Doug Abromeit of Hailey was 65.

Two friends riding with Abromeit say he fell from his bike during an afternoon ride. Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey says their attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel says Abromeit, a hardy outdoorsman who hiked high mountain peaks in mid-winter during his Forest Service career, appears to have died of natural causes.

Longtime friend Bruce Tremper is the Director of the Utah Avalanche Center. Tremper told KTVB that Abromeit passed away doing something he loved.

"He was always out having a good time. He was always backcountry skiing, climbing, mountain biking," Tremper said.

Throughout his career, Abromeit worked as a ski patroller and smokejumper.

He retired from his post as director of the National Avalanche Center in 2011.

The center's locations across the West provide information for backcountry travelers to help limit deaths and injuries in snow slides.

Doug Abromeit of the National Avalanche Center talks about the Snowbird 2008 accident and the USFS/NAC perspective on avalanche accidents and near misses. Courtesy YouTube

Here's a Facebook post authored by Bruce Tremper, dedicated to his friend's life:

Doug Abromeit, retired director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center, died suddenly on Sunday near Sun Valley while he was riding his mountain bike with friends. The cause of death is still uncertain, but he was ahead of his friends and when they caught up they found him lying on the ground still in his bike clips and no sign of trauma. Idaho requires an autopsy of unwitnessed deaths, so there may be more answers soon.

I met Doug in the fall of 1986 when I moved to Utah from Montana by way of Alaska to take over as the director of the Utah Avalanche Center. Doug was the new snow ranger for Little Cottonwood Canyon. We hiked the Flagstaff ridgeline across the canyon from Alta with several other key figures, Duain Bowles, Al Soucie, Roger Atkins, Brad Meiklejohn, and Doug’s omnipresent dog Julio. Doug instantly won me over with his mellow, easygoing charm. Like a friendly golden retriever in the city park, everyone seemed to gather around him.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Doug for the past 27 years on a wide variety of projects. He moved snow ranger to the national coordinator of the military weapons program for avalanche control, which later became the Forest Service National Avalanche Center. He often described it as being a “program with a big name and a very small staff,” as he was the only employee until Karl Birkeland joined him 12 years ago.

Doug had a wide influence on the avalanche community not only by his superb organization of the national military weapons program for avalanche control but by mentoring the creation of many different avalanche centers in the U.S. He also represented the avalanche community and the Forest Service on countless national committees and organizations.

I miss him, not only as a good friend but collaborating with him on avalanche projects. In fact, I was supposed to call him last Monday to collaborate on a couple other projects, and my wife Susi and I were planning to stop by Sun Valley in a couple weeks on our way to Montana and pay Doug a visit. But, alas, it’s not to be.

As my 96-year-old, live-in mother-in-law from the Czech Republic often says in her thick accent, “Look zee beauty”, and every time I leave the house she says “Enjoy every minute.” Doug certainly did not have a problem following her advice as he lived his 65 years to the fullest, always fit and healthy and an avid backcountry skier, climber and mountain biker. He seldom let his work interfere with his enjoyment of life.