Friday, May 14, 2010

Skiing accident victim identified

Michael Linville, 25, was in Idaho for summer job

Express Staff Writer

The backcountry skier who died skiing in the Sawtooth Mountains on Friday has been identified by the Custer County Sheriff's Office as Michael Linville, 25, a Utah native who had recently been living in Arizona.

Linville died from head and chest injuries after he struck a rock under the snow and then fell into rocks on 10,299-foot Mount Heyburn, a multi-spired granite peak that dominates the landscape above the north side of Redfish Lake. Linville was skiing with three other people above the Bench Hut, operated by Hailey-based Sun Valley Trekking Co.

According to friends of Linville, he was in the Sawtooth Valley for a summer job at the Redfish Lake marina. He and the three other unnamed skiers were at the Bench Hut to break down the yurt for the season.

The hut is nestled in trees at 7,400 feet on the large glacial moraine above Redfish Lake. It's just below the first of the Bench Lakes on the edge of the 217,088-acre Sawtooth Wilderness.

Rescuers from the Sawtooth Search and Rescue team were flown into the remote accident site inside the wilderness area in a helicopter. They were able to transport Linville's body out of the rugged wilderness area by helicopter on Friday.

The accident occurred at about 8,400 feet on the east shoulder of Heyburn. According to a news release from the Custer County Sheriff's Office, Linville's fellow skiers tried unsuccessfully to revive him with CPR.

Kirk Bachman, co-owner of Stanley-based Sawtooth Mountain Guides, said that section of Mount Heyburn is one of the area's "classic runs." He said advanced skiers tackle the large run emptying into the fourth of the Bench Lakes quite frequently.

Friends of Linville's from Arizona, where he spent time over the past two years, describe him as an upbeat person whom everyone liked. Eric Smith, a lift operations supervisor at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski and Summer Resort near Flagstaff, said Linville was always on the lookout for fun outdoor adventures.

"If there is any consolation in needless death, it would be that he went doing something he loved," Smith wrote in an e-mail to the Idaho Mountain Express. "I'm sure he saw the opportunity to ski the backcountry while doing some work as just another chance to extend the season."

He said Linville, whom everyone knew simply as "Mikee" and was originally from Utah, worked at the northern Arizona ski area during the past two seasons.

"Mikee leaves many friends here in northern Arizona," Smith said. "I can't think of a single negative thing that anyone could say about Mikee. He was always cheerful, easy to get along with, intelligent and just an overall good man."

Smith said friends and family have planned a memorial for him this weekend in Alta, Utah, where he had previously lived and worked as a ski lift operator.

Jason Kauffman:

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