Friends across Colorado are gathering and mourning the loss of five men lost in a sudden deluge of snow Saturday near Loveland Pass. The men's passion inspired those who knew them and loved them.
Chris Peters, a graduate of Highlands Ranch High School and Metro State University of Denver, was described as loyal and genuine. His friends called him "PeterBird."
"He was full of life," says Shaina Jones, who had known the 32-year-old from Lakewood and his best friend, Joe Timlin, for 15 years, since they all were in high school.
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Peters was a floodplain analyst and geologic engineer, Jones said. He moved to Highlands Ranch from Montana before high school. He often returned to Montana with his dad for "elaborate fishing trips," Jones said.
He loved fishing, snowboarding and hip-hop music, with a particular fondness for the Wu Tang Clan.
"He was a mountain geek for sure. And his high school friends were still his best friends — that gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of person he was," said Colin McKernan, who worked with Peters at a Lakewood engineering firm.
"Both he and Joe, they were both incredibly passionate people. Passionate about what they loved and who they loved," said Jones, her voice cracking as she described how Peters stood in her wedding in 2008. "He was like a brother to me. My life is definitely going to have a big hole."
Vermont native Ian Lamphere was a father. His infant daughter, Madelyn, was born July 28. He lived in Crested Butte and was engaged to marry his sweetheart, Elizabeth.
Lamphere, 36, learned to ski when he was 3. Skiing remained a theme of his life, working at ski resorts as a ski instructor and race coach. By college, he was good enough to dabble as a semi-professional skier, appearing in Dan Egan's Wild World of Winter.
He double majored in math and English at the University of Vermont. He was a teacher at Vermont's Mount Mansfield Winter Academy, where he also coached skiing.
He worked as a drummer for the band Named By Strangers, which toured throughout New England in the early 2000s.
Lamphere co-created Backcountry Television, a nationally syndicated action-sports show that debuted in 2004 on the New England Sports Network. Later, he was a partner in Stockli Ski USA and helped establish the Stowe Mountain Film Festival and four Resort Sports Network television stations in three states.
Lamphere co-founded Gecko Skins, a unique climbing skin that doesn't require sticky glue to adhere to skis. The company developed climbing skins for splitboards — hence his participation at Saturday's backcountry-snowboarding gathering.
He recently trained as a heli-skiing guide in Alaska and was respected as an avid proponent of avalanche safety and backcountry awareness.
"Ian has skied around the world, and he was incredibly smart," said his brother Judd. "A truly fun, quirky and multitalented individual. There are no words for the loss we are all feeling today."
Friends have set up a fund to support Lamphere's daughter. In three days, the fund grew to more than $20,000, eclipsing the goal of $5,000, thanks to more than 340 supporters. (Visit the fund website at indiegogo.com/projects/fund-for-madelyn.)
When Joe Timlin was a student at Highlands Ranch High School, he and his friends would hitchhike up Loveland Pass and jump out at the last switchback. They would hike the short walk into the Sheep Creek drainage below Mount Sniktau and ride down to the Loveland Valley ski area. They would stop and build jumps in the snow and practice their tricks. On Saturday, the 32-year-old from Gypsum died in the same spot.
"They would spend days and days in that drainage," said his brother-in-law David Carrier-Porcheron. "He started his passion for backcountry snowboarding right there and he pretty much ended it there."
Timlin had dedicated his life to snowboarding. He was a beloved sales representative for three prominent independent brands: YES Snowboards, Jones Snowboards and Now Snowboarding bindings.
Carrier-Porcheron, a professional snowboarder whose sister, Krissy, married Timlin, said the avid snowboarder was the first sales rep to join his YES Snowboards company five years ago. At the time, Timlin was tuning skis and snowboards in Vail.
"He had so much passion and love for snowboarding," said Carrier-Porcheron, who called Timlin "a very close friend and basically my brother."
"He had this contagious smile, it just made you stoked," he said. "Man he charged (on a snowboard) too. He was always waiting for you at the chairlift."
Carrier-Porcheron said at gatherings this week that friends have been sharing stories about Timlin. One that reverberated was a trip several years ago to a Vail bar with pals. As the friends left, Timlin said, "I saw the girl I'm going to marry tonight."
It was Krissy, and it turns out she lived near the house he shared with friends. They started dating and married in 2011.
"He loved my sister so much. He was in mad love with that girl," Carrier-Porcheron said. "It's such a shame he's gone. It's so hard to understand."
Rick Gaukel, 33, was widely respected as an educated mountain man who never stopped pursuing greater heights.
He grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and studied outdoor leadership in college in North Carolina, honing his climbing, mountain biking, river running and wilderness skills.
Since the mid-2000s, he had worked at the Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park, where his American Mountain Guides Association certification as a single-pitch rock climbing instructor enabled him to introduce newcomers to the mountains. He guided across the country, helping clients learn splitboarding, mountain biking, climbing and mountaineering skills.
He had completed intensive Level 1 and Level 2 American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education courses and was certified as an instructor for the institute's Level 1 classes.
In 2007, he was a teacher at the Oliverian School in Haverhill, N.H. While there, he began mentoring a teen who had survived a car accident while riding with a drunken driver. The boy's parents hoped Oliverian would help their son leave a dangerous path and "reemerge as the focused, intelligent and talented young man we all knew him to be," said his mother Lisa Gery.
Gaukel worked with the teen "with unparalleled heart and commitment, a gift which my husband and I could never repay. It was Rick's love and role-modeling that put our son on a path of renewed self-belief, confidence and drive," she said.
Today her son, a graduate of the University of Colorado, is training as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He never lost contact with Gaukel.
"The loss of Rick in our lives has left a palpable hole in our hearts and our prayers go out to his wife, Jonna, whose kindness and tenderness is matched only by that of her husband," Gery said.
Friends of Ryan Novak, 33, gathered Sunday night in Crested Butte, where he lived since 2007. They remembered the artist, photographer and snowboarder who loved music. Many considered him family.
"He inspired all around him to be a better person," said Benjamin Brown.
At the gathering, Brown said, "none of us could recall a time when Ryan spoke negatively about another person."
"He was who you called for comfort," Brown said. "Ryan is the most genuine person I have been privileged to know. Our world could use more people like him. His love for his family and friends was infinite. I have known him since 2007 when he moved to Crested Butte and became like family."
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasontblevins