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Remembering Johnny

Johnathan Patrick Likeke Walker — “Johnny” to all who knew him — was by all accounts a remarkable young man. His death on Saturday, just hours before the annual Bavarian Night fundraiser for the Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol, hit the close-knit ski community hard.

Walker, 23, had been a member of the Ski Patrol since 2015.

Walker was skiing the backcountry on Saturday with other Ski Patrol members when he fell into a tree well — loose snow under a tree — and was trapped upside-down. By the time his colleagues reached him, he was not breathing and could not be revived.

A statement from the Mt. Ashland Ski Area issued Sunday described Walker as “a Man of the Mountains,” calling him one of Mt. Ashland’s “brightest and best Ski Patrollers,” a core patrol member and a leader.

Walker’s tragic death, coming as it did to a highly skilled skier who knew the risks, stands as a stark reminder that even the best skiers — those trained in rescue techniques whose job it is to keep other skiers and snowboarders safe — can become victims themselves.

Local skiers expressed shock and grief on social media when the tragedy was announced. One Facebook user said Walker was “everyone’s best friend,” who knew your name when you lined up for the ski lift to open.

Ski area General Manager Hiram Towle said the wounds from Walker’s loss would be healed “one ski run at a time. That’s how Johnny would have wanted it.”

Ski on — and be safe.