*If you’d like to share any stories, memories or photos of Jake, The AS Review would like to get in touch with you for a memorial piece about Jake's life. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jake Merrill loved the outdoors. Last year, Merrill served as the AS Outdoor Center’s Excursions Coordinator, where he planned trips for Western students to engage in the outdoors, learn about the Pacific Northwest and gain confidence at a multitude of activities – from snow camping to whitewater kayaking.
Merrill graduated from Western with a degree in Outdoor Recreation in December, and moved out to Halfway, Ore. where he worked as a ski guide for Wallowa Alpine Huts in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
On Feb. 11, Merrill was on his third day of a five-day backcountry ski trip on the 8,640-foot-tall Cornucopia Peak when he was killed by an avalanche that travelled up to 1,200 feet. A 30-year-old man from Seattle also perished in the avalanche, while six others from Merrill’s party survived, according to the Associated Press.
Merrill was a Bellingham native and accomplished skier and climber. Merrill worked as a Mountain Guide in the Mt. Baker Ski Area as well as in the Outdoor Center. While with the Outdoor Center, Merrill led several backcountry ski excursions for students and aimed to make the trips as accessible as possible.
The current staff of the Outdoor Center are looking at ways to memorialize Merrill as well as educate Outdoor Center participants about avalanche safety. Equipment Shop Coordinator Brian Bates and Excursions Coordinator Jason Davis presented a tentative plan to the AS Management Council on Feb. 13, which would assemble several avalanche preparedness kits to be available for rent at the Outdoor Center.
The kits will include a radio beacon [which helps rescuers to locate avalanche victims] a snow shovel, snow safety measuring kit and avalanche float packs. The float packs can be worn by skiers and deployed in the case of an avalanche, which helps keep the wearer closer to the surface of the snow.
Associated Students personnel are currently preparing ways for students to celebrate Merrill’s life and his impact on the organization.