Heli-ski run, bursary to be named after Lisa Korthals 

Hundreds gather to pay respects to longtime ski guide who died in avalanche March 28

click to enlarge FACEBOOK PHOTO - LISA's LEGACY Plans are in motion to honour longtime heli-ski guide Lisa Korthals, who died in an avalanche in the Pemberton backcountry on March 28.
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  • LISA's LEGACY Plans are in motion to honour longtime heli-ski guide Lisa Korthals, who died in an avalanche in the Pemberton backcountry on March 28.

The legacy of Lisa Korthals, who died in an avalanche near Pemberton last month, will live on in the mountains she so loved.

Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has confirmed plans to name a heli-ski run after the longtime ski guide near Mount Currie, an area that was near and dear to Korthals' heart.

"That's a place that she spent quite a bit of a time in ... so to be able to attach her name to a place that was so special for her, with some form of permanent recognition, I think is awesome," said Rob McSkimming, vice-president of business development for WB.

Details on the exact location of the run are still to be determined, but McSkimming indicated the plan is to have the name in place ahead of the 2018-19 winter season.

Friend and fellow Whistler Heli-Skiing guide Vlad Lamoureux has also spearheaded the creation of a bursary that will be named in Korthals' honour. The bursary, which will be administered through the Canadian Ski Guide Association (CSGA), will likely be offered to women looking to further their guiding careers—although given Korthals' and her husband Johnny "Foon" Chilton's connection to Mount Currie and the Lil'wat Nation, the bursary may also include a component for Indigenous guides.

"It has to be a worthy participant, somebody that is hopefully going to be making a career in ski guiding," said Lamoureux, who noted his intention to form a committee to help organize the bursary.

Initially, the bursary will be offered to those interested in the CSGA's entry-level courses, but, ideally, Lamoureux hopes it can eventually be offered to several applicants a year looking to participate in the organization's more advanced courses.

"That's a lofty goal, so we will definitely need to have consistent funding and people who know how to manage money," he said. Lamoureux noted several donors have already expressed interest in contributing to the fund.

Bob Sayer, president of the CSGA, said the bursary is a fitting way to commemorate a woman who opened so many doors for female guides.

"Lisa came at the start of a new generation of women guides ... around the year 2000," he recalled.

Prior to that era, women guides often had to fight to be accepted as "one of the boys," Sayer said. "To be accepted, they had to be as hardcore as the boys were and live in a man's world."

But Korthals and her peers, like ski guides Lee Anne Patterson and Erin Heitzman, represented a new wave of female ski guides who refused to sacrifice their family lives while carving out their own niche in a male-dominated industry.

"This new generation came along and said, 'We don't have to be boys. Hell, no! The boys have to keep up with us,'" Sayer said.

"They made it more accessible and more acceptable for women to be guides."

Last Thursday, April 5, hundreds crammed into a ballroom at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for Korthals' memorial service. Wendy Brookbank, a friend of Korthals' for almost three decades, knew the turnout would be significant, but said the final crowd "really hit home" how far her friend's reach extended.

"People just felt the need to be part of that community and share in the grieving of this person who went so far in life," she said. "It didn't surprise me."

Check the CSGA's website, canskiguide.ca, for more details on the bursary as the plan is finalized, or to donate.

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