In memory of beloved snow safety professional Mike O'Leary who was killed in 2008 near Cordova while out checking snow conditions during a high avalanche danger period.
Tribute to Mike O’Leary –
Alaska Snow Safety Professional killed on the job
Michael Charles O’Leary died on March 8, 2008, in an avalanche on Mount Eyak in Cordova, Alaska. He was 56. A third-generation Alaskan raised in the woods and mountains of Moose Pass, Girdwood, and Anchorage, Mike’s trademark grin was as wide as the wild country he moved through with consummate grace and skill.
Mike learned the avalanche business from his snow ranger father, Chuck O’Leary. A keen observer respected for his intimate knowledge of snow and weather conditions, Mike was the avalanche forecaster for the city of Cordova and the Cordova Electric Cooperative. Cordova is a small town surrounded by big mountains. There has likely never been anyone in Cordova who knew those mountains better than Mike. He climbed every peak in the vicinity that afforded lines of descent and skied with a passion that reflected the beauty he found in the mountains. Devoted to teaching others, Mike trained hundreds of snow enthusiasts in avalanche rescue and hazard evaluation.
More than 35 years after Mike first came to Cordova to work a temporary job, it is impossible to walk through town without seeing tangible evidence of his creativity, competence, and energy. One of his favorite projects was the ski hill on Mount Eyak. He repeatedly nursed the ski lift – the vintage single chair from Sun Valley, Idaho – back to health. O’Leary expanded the ski area by 40% when he cut a half-mile trail and opened up the “Dark Side” of the mountain. In a 1998 citation for Cordova’s Citizen of the Year award, Mike was touted as the “ambassador of the ski hill” for helping young and old discover the joys of skiing. At the time of his death, Mike was vice-mayor of the city and a visionary member of the city council.
Mike was a balm of kindness to those in need, a trickster who loved to wrestle with children and dogs, a gourmet cook. He made a habit of assuming the best in people and had a heart that knew no bounds. Mike is survived by his wife Michelle, dog Pepper, and a remarkably wide orbit of family and friends who can only strive to incorporate his exuberance and generosity of spirit.
Sources: Jill Fredston, Michelle Hahn
Mike O’Leary Avalanche Education Scholarship Avalanche education is not always easy to afford. The Mike O'Leary Scholarship is for those living in rural areas of Alaska who would like to participate in a formal avalanche course, but may not be in the financial situation to afford full tuition cost.
Mike O'Leary was dedicated to his community and shared his mountain knowledge unconditionally, may his spirit live on with this scholarship
This scholarship is to help Alaskans attend formal avalanche courses: workshops, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 within Alaska. Applications received by December 1st will be given priority for the winter season. The amount of scholarship assistance will be determined by number of applicants and the cost of the course they are planning to attend. Preference will be given to Cordovans and other rural Alaska residents.
Get involved – keep the good momentum going. The Alaska Snow Safety Conference is a lead-in to next year’s ISSW 2012 Anchorage and 2013’s ASSC. These events require a great deal of volunteer effort and we need YOU to help organize the next conference. Whether you are a guide, an educator, a forecaster, a snow nerd, a public service provider, or all or none of the above, your energy and input are appreciated in continuing to provide education and resources for our avalanche community. Thank you.
Avalanche education is not always easy to afford. The Mike O'Leary fund was established to support those living in rural areas that would like to pariticipate in a formal avalanche training program but not be in the financial position to pay full tuition.
Mike O'Leary was dedicated to his community and shared his mountain knowledge unconditionally. May his spirit live on with this scholarship.
This scholarship is to help Alaskans afford Avalanche Level 1, 2 or 3 within Alaska. Applications received prior to December 1 will be given priority for the current winter season. The amount of scholarship assistance will be determined by the number of applicants and cost of selected course. Preference will be given to those living in Cordova or other rural Alaskan communities.