Squamish's Chris McCrum, 42, who was swept up in an avalanche near Pebble Creek on Jan. 3, is being remembered as a passionate volunteer, athlete, and friend.
"I considered Chris family and know how lucky I am to be able to say that," said his long-time friend Bryan Raiser. "A legend in every sense — unbounded love and positivity bounced out of him while keeping a level of maturity that was humbling. In the mountains, his endurance and work ethic were baffling to the point that I have long used ‘The McCrum Gene’ as a unit of measurement when assessing other humans. I still can’t comprehend that his physical form is gone, but for as long as I live there will not be a single adventure that he is not there with me."
For many others, McCrum is also remembered as an avid mountain biker who helped build and maintain the trails Squamish is famous for.
"Chris was a dedicated volunteer, a passionate past SORCA exec board member, an exceptional trail builder, an incredible athlete, and a friend to many of us. His energy will be felt for years to come on many of the surrounding Squamish trails that he had a hand in building and maintaining," reads an online dedication by the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association.
"The next time your tire hits the dirt, or your shovel strikes the ground, tip your helmet in thanks to an incredible pioneer, Chris McCrum. We like to think that on Jan. 3rd, just like he did in every toonie he raced in, Chris simply took another path, he ventured off somewhere to explore the mountains and we lost sight of him for the time being."
The post also notes that he died doing what he loved, exploring the mountains.
McCrum was one of a group of experienced skiers on an outing near Pemberton last week, when the weather conditions suddenly worsened. The group had been out "several days," before the deterioration in conditions, according to Whistler RCMP.
RCMP was contacted using an emergency beacon. The group transported McCrum to a cabin in the area where they waited for rescue crews to arrive, Whistler RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton told Pique Newsmagazine.
"It's an unfortunate story... it's a group who went out that's experienced in the backcountry, they had all the equipment that they're supposed to have, they had emergency beacons to be able to reach us or call for help if something happened," Knapton said.
"Unfortunately, even with that, this person died in this avalanche."
McCrum appeared in the pages of The Chief many times over the years for his trail work, mountain bike advocacy at municipal hall, or for his rankings in local races.
Former Squamish councillor, Susan Chapelle remembered him more personally.
"My dear friend. My first Squamish boyfriend. A man that showed me just how wild I could be in the mountains," she wrote on Twitter.
“There are so many ways to describe how he was the ultimate community contributor. People like that, who contribute with a whole heart to the community are few and far between,” she later told The Chief.
“Chris would help anyone with anything. He was just a really kind, smart, funny, quirky, strong, resilient, helluva man. I'm so lucky I was able to spend some time with him.”
Those at municipal hall also expressed their sorrow about McCrum’s death.
“Like countless others in our community, District of Squamish Council and staff are incredibly saddened by the passing of Chris McCrum, who has contributed so much in his young life to what Squamish is today,” reads a statement from the District of Squamish.
The news release said he was instrumental in the development of the Smoke Bluffs’ infrastructure and noted his work with SORCA.
“His deep base of trail building knowledge and sustainable practices have helped shape Squamish’s trail network into the world-class asset it is today,” the statement continued.
“To give of oneself so fully to the betterment of community is truly admirable, and from all of us who have benefitted from Chris’ selfless work, we remember him with gratitude.”
~With files from Braden Dupuis and Joel Barde / Pique Newsmagazine
**Please note, this story has been updated to incorporate more accurate information about the use of an emergency beacon. A further update was made the morning of Jan. 7 to incorporate a statement from the District of Squamish and to note new information that the group had been on their excursion several days prior to the avalanche.