(Last Updated On: September 20, 2012)
As many of you know, the world lost one of the best people ever to walk the earth last Wednesday in a slide on Mount Currie outside Pemberton, B.C. What follows is what I can get off my chest in these tough times…
In the winter of ’96-’97 I ran into my friend Karl Lavtar in the North Face lift line at Crested Butte. We started talking about the upcoming “extremes”, as the freeskiing comp was then known. He introduced me to his friend Jack, and said “Jack’s going for the win.” I raised my eyebrows a bit, but Jack didn’t disappoint, finishing second to Brant Moles that year. It was only one of many top finishes in Crested Butte and elsewhere for Jack, highlighted by his eventual first place finish in 2003, made all the more impressive coming just a year after ACL surgery.
Impressive always came easily for Jack, not that you’d ever know it, as Jack was as humble as they come. Jack and I were landscaping together in the late 90’s and he took up mountain biking. By the end of the summer, he was already better than me, even though it was a sport I’d been doing for 10 years at the time. He moved into downhilling and started winning those events, too, even though his bike was usually held together by a little JB Weld and duct tape. Tandeming on a snowmobile with Jack was always a treat as well- I’d just hold on while he would carve up a steep face. Jack was such a patient teacher as well, and I wish I could go out with him on my new snowmobile- he could have taught me more in 2 minutes than I’ll be able to learn in the next 20 years.
In 2000, the season in Crested Butte was looking grim indeed. So Jack and his closest friend Jon Johnston drove to Grand Junction, bought a tiny old trailer, and hit the road along with their two huge dogs. Jack never spent another winter in Crested Butte, although it remained his summer home for several more years. Jon and Jack took to the coast range near Whistler and made it their own, putting tracks down seemingly every mountain in this vast range. I spent a winter in Whistler early on, in 2001-2002, although that was the year Jack blew his knee some time after New Year’s. Here the three of us are returning from Fissile, not far from Whistler:
Years later, the two of them really had things figured out- there probably isn’t a valley within 2 hours of Pemberton that they hadn’t explored. My last ski trip there, in 2007, they treated me to some of the bast skiing of my life, on just a handful of their favorite lines accessed by snowmobile in the Coast Range. Here’s a couple of photos of Jack from that trip:
Three years ago, I was lucky enough to build a duplex with Jack- his first lead project. This is the house that Jack built:
I must say we were pretty happy with it- a nice energy-efficient local’s affordable housing unit that came out super tight. That fall was the last time Jack lived in Crested Butte, as he had finally figured out a way to live in Canada full-time. Before he left, we were able to ski the Emerald Couloir on Mount Baldy. It’s a heck of a ski for November in Colorado. Jack:
Jack married Laura Ogden the following summer, an incredible person and perfect match for Jack on so many levels. We’re all thinking of you Laura!
On March 31st, Jack boarded a helicopter with three friends to ski Mount Currie, a beautiful peak that towers 7,400′ above their home in Pemberton. After dropping a cornice into the chute they were planning to ski, with no avalanche results, they safely skied their line and were getting ready to do a short traverse/climb to another area of the peak. The highest member of the party then saw an avalanche heading for them- Jack was just slightly lower than the rest of the party and was the only one caught. The class 3 slide most likely occurred naturally due to a cornice failure, and although Jack was found quickly, not even Jack could survive a slide of that magnitude on that rugged of terrain. There is some solace in the cliches that Jack died “doing what he loved”, and that he likely didn’t suffer.
For those of you that would like to help Jack’s wife Laura, while she finishes up nursing school in B.C., we have set an account up for her. Here is the information:
Jack Hannan Memorial
c/o Bank Of The West
P.O. Box 429
Crested Butte, CO 81224