Sanctuaries in the Snow

The Theo Meiners Cache Tree (Aspen Highlands)

Theo Meiners created a cache tree at Aspen Highlands in 1973.  He marked it by carving a cross into the trunk of a tree.  Below is a photo of the tree showing the cross, and also a photo taken in 2010 of Theo standing by the tree some 37 years after he had created the cache tree.  Thank you to Theo for contributing these photos.  There are two more photos below showing a sign attached to the tree in early 2013 by the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol.

Theo was a Colorado native, and worked as a ski instructor and coach for more than 30 years.  He moved to Aspen when he was about 20 and spent five or six years working as a ski instructor there and exploring the back country, often with his brother Mike, who lives in Carbondale. They were climbing North Maroon Peak one time when Theo Meiners took a nasty fall. Luckily he survived, and the place where he fell (the bottom cliff band on the North Face of North Maroon) is named after him, although it is misspelled as "Miner’s Leap.”  From 1996 to 2000, he was the lead guide at Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, which was founded by the late Doug Coombs.  In 2001, Theo purchased 27 acres on Alaska's Thompson Pass and opened Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides. He skied thousands of first descents around the Chugach range and spent over 15 years guiding in Alaska.  He died at the age of 59 in a freak accident on September 20, 2012.  See various articles set out below, following the four photos.

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This used to be on the web site of Theo's company, Alaska Rendevous Heli-Ski Guides. 



Theo Meiners — Owner/Operator

We could devote an entire page to the accomplishments and qualifications of our lead guide and proprietor. Theo has been a successful ski instructor for 30 years, has worked with PSIA as a professional examiner for 21 years and has 15 years of experience teaching Steep Skiing Camps and years of experience coaching children and adults in ski racing in Aspen, Jackson Hole, Chile and Alaska. He has worked as a ski patrol trainer in Chile at Centro de Ski, El Colorado, as well as Snow King Mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

From 1996 through 2000, Theo worked with Valdez Heli-Ski Guides as theLogistics Manager and one of the lead guides. His mountaineering experience takes him throughout the Rocky Mountains and Alaska Ranges. His avalanche skills have been honed from investigating snow pack in the Alaska and Teton ranges. Theo has been appointed as the National Ski Patrol Regional Avalanche Advisor for the Northern Intermountain Division. He is also working with some of the leading snow scientists in North America and Switzerland in trying to understand the dynamics of an avalanche, its flow and developing survival techniques.

His passion for heli-skiing in the Chugach Range motivated him to purchase 27 acres at Mile 45 on the Richardson Highway. He is dedicated to the Alaska lifestyle, along with helping others open doors to fulfill Alaska heli-ski dreams.



Heli Ski Pioneer Dies in Fall

Theo Meiners, owner of Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides, fatally falls in accident


Legendary Alaska heli-ski pioneer Theo Meiners fell to his death last night at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The owner of Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides, Meiners was there for the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW), a convention of leading snow scientists and avalanche experts held every two years. According to reports from Alaska news agencies, the 59-year-old Meiners fell from a second-floor escalator. Police say he was pronounced dead at the scene.

POWDER will provide more information once details of the tragic fall become available and are confirmed.

One of the first to dedicate his life to heli skiing in Alaska, Meiners worked for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides from 1996 to 2000 alongside Doug Coombs and other luminaries. A certified ski instructor for over 30 years, he coached and guided skiing around the world at such places as Aspen, Jackson, Chile, and Alaska.

Meiners attended the five-day ISSW as a leading snow scientist. He was appointed the National Ski Patrol Regional Avalanche Advisor for the Northern Intermountain Division due to his extensive work and research of avalanches in the Tetons and Alaska.


Remembering Theo Meiners
September 21, 2012
By Eric Henderson
Up ahead I could see the waving arms like a beacon in the storm. Visibility was minimal and clients were scattered amongst the fog. One of our tasks as guides at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was to sweep the mountain for any skiers lost or disoriented in the storm. As my fellow guide Theo Meiners declared that day, "No skier would be left behind."

This declaration sums up everything Theo stood for both on and off the mountain. As a ski pioneer of Alaska's Chugach Range and a forefather of Jackson Hole's craggy terrain, Theo -- who owned and operated Alaska's Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides -- embodied passion for skiing beyond anyone I know. He truly believed in safety, honesty, and hard work.

On Thursday, Sept. 20, Theo fell from a second floor escalator railing at Dena'ina Center in Anchorage, Alaska, where he was attending the International Snow Science Workshop. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 59 years old.

"Theo was a father, friend, teacher, coach and guide," said Dave Miller, the lead guide at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. "I was lucky enough to guide with him while opening first descents back in the heyday of Valdez, Alaska. He was a true professional and a fine gentleman. His love for heli skiing was contagious."

Theo worked as a ski instructor and coach for more than 30 years. From 1996 to 2000, he was the lead guide at Valdez Heli-Ski Guides, which was founded by the late Doug Coombs. In 2001, Theo purchased 27 acres on Alaska's Thompson Pass and opened Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides. He skied thousands of first descents around the Chugach range and spent over 15 years guiding in Alaska.

Over the years Theo spent in and out of Alaska, one thing was always certain: If you needed help, Theo would be there. He had an uncanny ability to understand the snowpack, which as a budding ski guide, I quickly learned to tap into. No matter what the conditions were, Theo was on the hill. He often said, "There is no bad day, just bad skiers."

No matter if you skied the Arch or slayed the Diamond with Theo, he made you feel safe. Over his long life in the mountains he would take a client right to the edge and then back off. Theo could talk shop with the park rats or dissect a hidden snow crystal with groupies at the International Snow Science Workshop.

Theo Meiners will be forever remembered in the ski community as a mentor, pioneer, and a beacon in the storm. Today, Theo joins his pals Doug Coombs, Jimmy Zell, Howard "Howie" Henderson, Mark Wolling (Big Wally) and countless other pioneers who have passed on.

The first turn is for you, Theo.


See this article:  (This link only contains part of the article; however, the complete article is set out immediately below.)

Pioneering ski guide dies in freak Alaska accident


Even among the world’s hungriest powderhounds, Theo Meiners loomed larger than life.

He relished first tracks and epic downhills and turned that passion into a profession, becoming a pioneering backcountry skier and internationally known heli-skiing guide.

Meiners, 59, a Colorado native and a graduate of Widefield High School, died late Thursday in a freak accident in Anchorage, Alaska.

He owned and operated Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides near Valdez and lived most of the year in Alaska, said his sister Lori Muehlbauer, of Colorado Springs. When he wasn’t there he lived and guided skiers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., or was exploring the world.

Meiners fell more than 30 feet to his death from an escalator at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center, site of the International Snow Science Workshop, Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Marlene Lammers said.

Initial reports stated Meiners had attempted to ride the escalator's handrail, but police told family members Monday they are still investigating the incident.

Images in the security video in the convention center are unclear, police told family members. Meiners died at the scene.

If it turns out Meiners was attempting to ride the handrail, it would not be out of character, Muehlbauer said. It would have been an impulse move because he was enjoying the week.

“He was happy. He was with friends,” said Muehlbauer.

The conference, a gathering of snow scientists and avalanche experts, is held every two years. Meiners had been a presenter at the convention and was with several other workshop attendees at the time of the accident.

David Hamre, chairman of the workshop, said in a written statement that Meiners died “after attending an event involving hundreds of his comrades in the avalanche research, snow science, and ski guiding communities. I would like to express our deep sadness and sense of loss at the death of one of our own.”

Meiners spent much of his childhood in the Rocky Mountains and knew early on that he wanted a life among the world’s deepest powder and highest peaks. He enrolled at Western State but left after a semester, saying he would “learn more about the world by being out in it,” Muehlbauer said.

He flew to Switzerland, where he told his parents he’d spend the winter skiing. “But he didn’t come back for a year,” his sister said.

That set the scene for a grand life: skiing Europe, working on a boat in the Caribbean, guiding skiers in Aspen, Jackson Hole, Alaska, Chile and Argentina. He visited Chile every summer for nearly 20 years, guiding ski trips and training the national ski patrol. He had worked as an instructor and guide in Jackson Hole every winter since 1978.

Jerry Blann, president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, said Meiners was a mentor to entire families of skiers as well as to young guides.

“He brought skill and experience when both teaching and guiding, and, just as important, he brought enthusiasm and passion to everything that involved his true loves, the mountains and skiing,” Blann said. “He will be missed.”

Meiners moved to Aspen when he was about 20 and spent five or six years working as a ski instructor there and exploring the backcountry, often with brother Mike. They were climbing North Maroon Peak when Meiners fell - and survived. “That place is named after him, Miner’s Leap,” Muehlbauer said.

“Theo was one of the most enthusiastic people on the planet. His enthusiasm was contagious. If you’ve ever done anything with Theo, you were touched by it,” said Bob Comey, director of the Bridger Teton Avalanche Center. “There are thousands of people in this world that he affected.”

Meiners’s daughter, Alex, was general manager of the heli-ski business and his son, Aidan, was a guide.

After a few lean years, business had picked up with last season’s massive snowfall and bookings were up for this season and next.

“He said it was the most perfect winter in his life,” Muehlbauer said.

Her son, Mike, 21, spent part of the summer in Alaska with his uncle “Teddy” and cousin Aidan. They’d expanded the dining area at the guest lodge and poured the foundation for house to replace the tiny cabin Meiners lived in.

After the job was done, Meiners flew to Chile to work with the ski patrollers and was planning to visit Colorado Springs after the conference in Anchorage.

“He had been so happy,” Muehlbauer said. "He kept saying what a great year it had been."

Mike Meiners and some of Theo Meiners’ friends flew to Alaska over the weekend to help Aidan and Alex Meiners make funeral arrangements and lock up the lodge for the deep winter - better to keep hungry bears and early snow out.

Meiners was a man who loved life and embraced each day, the kind of guy who’d hear about your dreams and encourage you to reach for them.

“There was never a single thing he thought he couldn’t do,” Muehlbauer said. “He didn’t say, ‘Oh, I don’t have the money for that,’ or ‘I can’t make time for that.’ If he wanted to do something, he made it happen. For him, there was always a way.”

Family members told friends in Alaska that an avalanche awareness fund would be created in Meiners' name.

Meiners is survived by his children, Alex and Aidan of Jackson Hole; sisters Lori Muehlbauer, of Colorado Springs, and Penny Jo Hauserman, of Junction City, Kan.; brother Michael Meiners, of Carbondale, and six nieces and nephews.

And thousands of around the globe.

"If you met him once, you'd remember him," Muehlbauer said. "And if you met him once, you were his friend."

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.


This article appeared in 


Theo Meiners: 1953-2012
“There was no better ambassador for skiing”
Christian Beckwith / Sept. 21, 2012

Theodore “Theo” Meiners, 59, fell Thursday night from a second-floor escalator balcony in Anchorage, Alaska’s, Dena'ina Center. The fall occurred at approximately 11:30 p.m. during the closing dinner banquet of the 2012 International Snow Science Workshop (“ISSW”), a biennial meeting of snow science professionals.


Meiners was pronouced dead at the scene. Anchorage police are investigating the fall.


The owner of Valdez’s Alaska Rendezvous Lodge and Heli-Ski Guides, Meiners’ entire life was conditioned by his enthusiasm for skiing. A ski instructor for more than 30 years, he had instilled his passion for the perfect turn in children and their parents alike in countless mountain settings, including Alaska, where he grew up, in his home in Jackson, Wyoming, and in farther-flung lands, such as Chile and Argentina, where he often travelled in search of the endless winter.


In Jackson, which he referred to as “the Kingdom,” Meiners taught steep skiing camps, coached ski racing and served as a ski guide for countless skiers, both at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and at Snow King Mountain.


During the years he worked at Snow King as a ski patrolman, Meiners served as the Assistant Regional Avalanche Advisor for the National Ski Patrol for the Northern Intermountain Division. His professional and personal interests merged as he collaborated with leading snow scientists in North America and Switzerland to understand avalanche dynamics and how to navigate them.
All Meiners’ experiences in the mountains found their focal point when Jackson legend Doug Coombs lured Meiners back to the state where he was raised.


As Meiners said in a 2011 interview with the website Mountain Pulse, “Doug went to Alaska with all the skills he had acquired in Jackson …. [I]t was just this huge playground to him where everyone else was so intimidated by the scale of the mountains. … He just started bringing us in, all the riders from the Hole. All the snowboarders and skiers who had association with him, he brought us into Thompson Pass. And it went viral. All of a sudden we were his guides; we were exploring the terrain with him…. And off into the Chugach we went, exploring the great range with the great one.”


Doug Coombs’ wife, Emily, remembers Meiners’ arrival in Valdez, where the couple had started the area’s first heli-skiing operation, Valdez Heli-Ski Guides.
“He just showed up on our doorstep one day and said ‘I’ll do anything—I’ll sweep floors, whatever’,” she said. “He knew Valdez was his calling.”
That calling worked well for both parties.


From 1996-2000, Meiners served as both Logistics Manager for Valdez Heli-Ski Guides and one of the Coombs’ lead guides, introducing “professionalism and safety and order to our business,” said Emily.


“He kind of saved us,” she said.


“Doug was totally unorganized,” said Emily. “Theo was anally organized. Doug would finish a day and drop his stuff anywhere. Theo would come into the office disgusted: ‘I found his boots behind the helicopter….’ He was a military man, and he was instrumental in bringing systems to the business.”


Their personalities were a match in the field as well. “Doug would say to clients, ‘Stay right of my tracks.’ He wouldn’t mention that to the left of his tracks was a cliff, and if you skied off it you’d die. Theo would say to clients, ‘You’re going to die!’ The perfect balance was right in between Doug and Theo.”


Exum Mountain Guides’ president Nat Patridge, who worked with Meiners in Valdez, agreed. “Theo brought order to Doug’s vision. He had an amazing capacity for system development and implementation. He created the method by which today’s heli-ski businesses manage their operations.”


Meiner’s passion for heli-skiing in the Chugach Range led him to start his own operation. The stresses of running a heli-skiing operation were weighing on the Coombs when 27 acres at Mile 45 on the Richardson Highway became available. “We were either going to sell or buy that land,” remembers Emily. “Doug didn’t want to work that hard, so Theo bought it."


With his penchant for systems, Meiners developed the Alaska Rendezvous Lodge and its guiding component, the Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Ski Guides, into one of the area’s leading heli-ski operations.


Meiners’ enthusiasm extended beyond the logistics of his own business to the future of skiing as well. As he said in his Mountain Pulse interview, “There are so many great skiers out there pushing it, pushing each other. We have a really young posse here in Jackson just waiting for the next king, the next heir apparent to the throne to step up. And there are a bunch just jousting for it right now. It’s exciting, really exciting.”


One of those young skiers was Brent Coombs, Doug Coombs’ nephew. Brent served as an apprentice for Meiners for the past two years in Alaska.
“Theo and my uncle were very, very close,” Brent said. “Theo was happy I was pursuing my dream [in Alaska], but he was happy when anyone was pursuing their dreams. He always wanted everybody to achieve their potential.”


“He looked out for me, but he looked out for all of us up there,” said Brent. “He was always looking out for the next generation.”


Patridge noted that this concern for the future dovetailed nicely with Meiners' occupation as a ski instuctor. “Theo was a very good skier, but he was an amazing teacher,” he said.
Earlier in the week at the ISSW, Meiners had given a well-received presentation about a vernacular he had created with his guides to express their observations about the snowpack. He had also served as a session chair at the conference, an honorary role that, according to attendee Bob Comey, the Director of the Bridger Teton Avalanche Center and a longtime colleague of Meiners’, he conducted "very well.”


“Theo considered everybody in that room to be a god,” said Comey, referring to the ISSW’s ranks of snow scientists, avalanche instructors and skiing professionals. “For him to be among the gods was a lifelong goal.”


“Theo was one of the most enthusiastic people on the planet,” he continued. “His enthusiasm was contagious. If you’ve ever done anything with Theo, you were touched by it.”
“There are thousands of people in this world that he affected.”


Patridge agreed. “His enthusiasm was out of this world,” he said.
“There was no better ambassador for skiing.”


This article appeared in 

Final words from Alaska heli-skiing icon Theo Meiners

The ski industry lost an iconic heli-skiing legend on Thursday when Theo Meiners succumbed to a bad fall at the 2012 International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) in Anchorage. Meiners was lead guide for Doug Coombs’ Valdez Heli-Ski Guides until he developed his own operation over a decade ago further up the Richardson Highway, called Alaska Rendezvous Heli Guides.

Meiners grew up in Aspen, where as a young backcountry skier he pioneered lines in the Elk Mountains. The bottom cliff band on the North Face of North Maroon is named Miners’ Leap (it has always been misspelled) in his honor.

Meiners was known not only for his pioneering backcountry descents, his patrol and guiding work in Jackson Hole, and his heli-skiing career, but for his passion for snow science. He often hosted snow scientists at Alaska Rendevous and has presented some compelling research in previous ISSW’s, including his well-known work on “escape strategies” when caught in an avalanche.

Last Monday, he presented a paper called, “Practitioners view on the quick study of snowpack: How to explain the vocabulary for pole probes and slope cutting.” In this presentation, he proposed some vernacular for quantifying the results of ski pole and ski cutting tests while ski touring and heli guiding.

He called heli guiding an “upside down adventure in ski mountaineering at warp speed,” referring to Canadian Mountain Holidays founder Hans Gmoser’s original statement that in ski touring, “with each ing, “with each push forward of the ski and plant of each pole, you get a message about the snowpack. He remarked that guides today use the same processes, but on the way down instead of on the way up.

Meiners died after falling two stories from an escalator at the Da’naina conference center in Anchorage. He is survived by his daughter, Alexandra, and son, Aiden, who work as general manager and guide at Alaska Rendezvous, respectively.


Heli-Skiing’s Theo Meiners Dies in Fall at Convention Center

September 24, 2012

Anchorage, AK - Theo Meiners, a pioneer in the sport of helicopter skiing, died last week in a freak accident at a convention center in Anchorage. He was 59.

Witnesses told police that Meiners was riding the handrail of an escalator at the city’s Dena’ina Center at around 10:45 p.m. Thursday evening when he fell 50 or 60 feet to his death. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses told police investigators that Meiners had consumed alcohol at a party earlier that evening.

Anchorage Police reviewed video footage and witness statements about the events leading up to the fall, but foul play is not suspected.

Meiners was in Anchorage to attend the annual International Snow Science Workshop. A heli-ski guide for 30 years, Meiners was the owner of Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides, based both in Teton Village, Wyo. and Valdez, Alaska. He was also an instructor and guide for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Mountain Sports School. In his honor, the bottom cliff band on the North Face of North Maroon near Meiners’ hometown of Aspen, Colo., is named (and misspelled) Miners’ Leap.

“We lost our father, Theo, in a tragic accident yesterday,” Meiners’ daughter Alexandra, and son Aiden, posted on Facebook page of the company where they work as general manager and guide, respectively. “Your love and support has been incredible.”

Family members are establishing an avalanche awareness fund in Meiners’ name.