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Chugach Avalanche Kills Beloved Alaska Ski Guide

Local legend Michael Hamilton of Valdez Heli-Ski Guides died in a slide in the Chugach Mountains on April 25.

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An Alaskan ski guide described as a “local legend” was killed in an avalanche in the Chugach Mountains on April 25.

According to a report in the Anchorage Daily News, Michael Hamilton, a 46-year-old heli-ski guide from Valdez, died after he triggered a storm slab at 5,800 feet elevation while skiing down the northwest slope of Pencil Glacier, about 35 miles southeast of Valdez. Local law enforcement said Hamilton was scouting a run for an upcoming tour.

brief account of the incident from the Valdez Avalanche Center said Hamilton was able to deploy his airbag system, which may have kept him from being buried. But the avalanche swept him 1,500 feet down a slope and over a steep cliff. He suffered traumatic injuries in the fall that resulted in his death.

Hamilton’s heli-ski crew found him unconscious on the mountain and flew him to Valdez for medical care. But officials there pronounced him dead.

Hamilton worked for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides and was a longtime fixture in the local skiing scene. In 2021, former SKI editor Jon Jay spent a day skiing with him for a feature story on the Chugach.

“His passing has left a huge hole in the community, he will not be forgotten,” read a statement from the Valdez Avalanche Center.

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