Extreme skier killed near Haines Summit after accident

A Whistler, B.C. skier known for his sense of adventure and positive outlook on life died last week near the Haines Summit after he fell off a cliff.

A Whistler, B.C. skier known for his sense of adventure and positive outlook on life died last week near the Haines Summit after he fell off a cliff.

Maxim Arsenault, 36, was working with a film crew shooting an extreme ski video when he fell approximately 30 feet and was buried by an avalanche he likely triggered, according to Philippe Brient, president of Atlin Search and Rescue.

Arsenault’s friends told Brient they did their best to find him and dig him out, but it was too late.

Toby Salin was one of Arsenault’s best friends. Salin set up a Facebook page in his friend’s honour and tributes have been flowing in constantly, he said.

“Thanks for loving skiing and mountains as much as you did. You inspire a lot of people to love the ski life a little more,” wrote Kate Covello.

Salin and Arsenault met on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb, where Arsenault was a “permanent fixture,” Salin said.

“He was there in the dark before the lifts opened and he didn’t come down until the lifts were closed,” he said.

“Even then, he’d still be hiking up the hill after that and ski patrol would be yelling at him to get off the mountain.

“He was the most passionate skier I’ve ever met, and that’s saying a lot considering where we live.”

Originally from the Montreal area, Arsenault served in the Canadian Armed Forces before moving to British Columbia to pursue his passion for skiing and mountain biking.

Salin described him as a “real skier’s skier” who took calculated risks but never in the name of fame or fortune.

A few years ago Arsenault began drawing more and more attention from magazines and extreme skiing film producers.

“He’d go up there and find the biggest lines on the mountain and find a way down,” Salin said.

“He was doing it in a safe manner, though. It was a freak accident.

“When you expose yourself like that, eventually you’ll have an accident.”

According to Brient, Atlin Search and Rescue received a distress call from the Atlin RCMP detachment at about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Seven volunteer members of the team traveled 170 kilometres by helicopter to the site, over the White Pass area and finally to the Haines Summit area.

“Visibility was excellent and the team located the group quickly,” Brient said.

Members of Arsenault’s group had prepared a landing pad for the helicopter on a relatively flat glacier.

From the landing area it took the search and rescue team about 15 minutes to reach Arsenault’s body, Brient said.

Arsenault had been equipped with ABS avalanche bags as well as an Avalung breathing system. 

The artificial lung allows a person to breathe under a snow pack in the event of an avalanche.

Unfortunately, Arsenault was unable to use either one, Brient added.

Salin said it’s a cliche but his friend really died doing what he loved.

“I talked to his parents yesterday and his dad told me that his son once thanked him for teaching him how to ski,” Salin said.

Arsenault was a big mountain biking fan, too, and even spent some time in Carcross three summers ago.

Salin said he’ll be returning to the site where Arsenault died next year, to pay tribute to his friend.

“He was everybody’s friend,” he said.

“It’s a testament to who he was as a person that everyone is coming together like this.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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