Alaska heli-skiing guide killed in mountain accident

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 04, 2013 6:56 PM

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A heli-skiing guide in Alaska was killed when he fell while traversing over the snow with two clients on a mountain peak outside Haines, one of the nation's top heli-skiing destinations, authorities said on Monday.

Christian Arcadio Cabanilla, 34, died in what appeared to be a snow cornice collapse on Sunday afternoon, Alaska State Troopers said. The two clients with him suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were able to summon help.

Cabanilla was a guide with Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, which described him on its website as an experienced back country snowboard guide and former commercial helicopter pilot who worked for many years in Alaska, Chile and Antarctica. He was also described as an avalanche and wilderness first-aid expert.

The case is being investigated and an autopsy is planned, said Megan Peters, a trooper spokeswoman.

Cabanilla's death came a year after another accident in the Haines area that killed two helicopter skiers. In that accident last March, a guide with a different company, Alaska Heliskiing, and one of his clients died after being buried by an avalanche.

Haines is an increasingly popular destination for skiers willing to pay for helicopter flights to reach new and steep back country terrain. The city of about 2,000 is located at the northern tip of southeast Alaska's Inside Passage and is surrounded by towering peaks in the Chilkat Range.

A year ago, Outside magazine named Haines one of North America's top 10 heli-skiing destinations, citing "big lines that will soil your skivvies" and the opportunity to "nail a first descent."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)