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As investigation continues, friends remember late ski patroller’s “quiet strength”

Christain Helger from Tribune 1-5-23.jpg
(Karsten Delap) Park City ski patroller Christian Helger, 29, was killed Monday on The Canyons side of Park City Mountain Resort when he fell off his chair on the chairlift after a tree hit the cable. Helger, pictured here on a ski trip at Mount Rainier, was remembered by friends as an avid outdoorsman with a "quiet strength."

Some question how much environmental factors contributed to the accident that claimed Christian Helger's life.

The mountains of Utah called to Christian Helger three years ago, and he went.

Since graduating from the University of New Hampshire, he had been working as a climbing guide for the Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School in Maine and Fox Mountain Guides in North Carolina. When Helger decided to go west, it was to explore the bigger mountains and his options for making a life and career in them, according to AMG owner Jon Tierney. That included not just traditional climbing and skiing, but ice climbing and backcountry touring — and working as a ski patroller at Park City Mountain Resort.

“He made that choice and, gosh, this happened, you know?” Tierney said. “How tragic.”

Helger, 29, of Millcreek died on-duty Monday after a spruce tree struck the cable of the chairlift he was riding on The Canyons side of the Park City ski area. The tree — possibly burdened by some of the more than two feet of especially wet snow that fell at the resort Sunday and Monday — hit behind Helger’s chair on the Short Cut lift, where he was riding alone around 10:45 a.m., Summit County Sheriff spokesperson Andrew Wright said. The chair swayed violently, tossing Helger at least 25 feet into the ravine below, a PCMR news release said.

“It hit behind the chair of the individual, who didn’t see it coming,” Wright said. “Which if he didn’t see it coming, [he] couldn’t prepare.”

Ten other people had been riding the short lift that serves as a link between the terrain serviced by the Red Pine Gondola and the front of the mountain. Ski patrol had evacuated all of them as of 1:06 p.m., according to the PCMR statement.

As the investigation into the accident continues, those who knew and loved Helger are mourning the loss of an authentic mountain man.

Read full report here.