Father confirms death of freeskier Backstrom
SEATTLE – Acclaimed freeskier Arne Backstrom has died in a fall on a Peruvian mountain, according to his father.
Steve Backstrom told The Associated Press Friday that he was notified of his 29-year-old son’s death by rescuers and later by the U.S. Embassy officials.
Backstrom, of Olympic Valley, Calif., was the first-place winner at this year’s Canadian Freeskiing Championship and a rising star in professional skiiing.
He apparently had been leading some skiers down a mountain Thursday when he fell, said Steve Backstrom, a resident of the Seattle suburb of Normandy Park. He added that he’s still awaiting more detail on how and exactly where in Peru the accident occurred.
The elder Backstrom told Seattle’s King TV that he’s “naturally sad,” but added his son “had 29 pretty awesome years and a very quick ending.”
Clem Smith, who described himself as a close friend, said Backstrom was in Peru to film a ski movie for a Colorado-based production company. He had earlier been featured in the ski film “Off the Grid.”
“Everything’s sort of secondhand on the cause of the fall,” Smith told the AP in a telephone interview. “I know that he’s in a really remote area that’s really difficult to get to.”
Smith said he spoke with two of Backstrom’s brothers about his death earlier in the day. His sister Ingrid Backstrom is one of the world’s top female freeskiers and his brother Ralph Backstrom is a professional snowboarder.
Backstrom was born in Seattle and polished his skiiing technique on the slopes Crystal Mountain, Wash. He majored in chemistry at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and said in a 2006 interview that he hoped to use his degree to develop faster and better ski wax.
“He’s just the smartest, athletic, humble, stoic person. He was just a great example for everyone,” Smith said. “It’s a shame. We all thought he was immortal.”
Smith said he plans to organize a memorial at the Squaw Valley ski resort in the Olympic Valley.
Squaw Valley was the site of the tragic death in February of noted freeskier C.R. Johnson, 26, who fell and hit his head on a rock outcropping while taking a run down a steep chute.