Remembering Lisa – 1969-2018
On Wednesday, March 28, 2018, the world lost a beloved and bright light. Lisa Korthals – mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend – died in an avalanche while heli-ski guiding in the mountains near Pemberton B.C, not far from where she lived. She was 49.
Lisa was born in Toronto and grew up in an athletic family becoming an accomplished sailer, skier and (among many other pursuits) canoeist. First honing her canoe tripping skills at Camp Wapameo, when she was 16, Lisa was a participant on Wanapitei’s VII Nahanni ’85 led by Pat Bowles and Geoff Hodgins. This epic journey was the beginning of Lisa’s life long relationship with wilderness rivers.
Having learned to ski in the hills of Ontario under the guidance and inspiration of her mother, Judy, and alongside dear friend Gillian Frise (Bay Tripper ’85), a trip to Whistler during her last year of high school introduced her to the west and in 1987, Lisa moved from Ontario to attend UBC and to pursue perfection on skis. She quickly started achieving ski qualifications that culminated with her reaching the pinnacle of ski instruction, an impressive achievement.
Not slowing down in her summers off the slopes, Lisa continued to explore her passion for paddling at Wanapitei and, as a staff member beginning in 1986, she moved from a Temagami trip leader to eventually becoming a VI’90 and then VII’91 leader alongside co-leader and dear friend, Andrea Dorfman, leading trips down the Moisie and Coppermine Rivers. A gorgeous paddler, Lisa was graceful in a boat, the paddle and canoe, an extension of her body. Lisa was an adored member of the Wanapitei community, her smile beamed and her laugh was infectious. Lisa’s campers and fellow staff members loved her and echoed the sentiment that they simply felt great when they were around her. A completely grounded and authentic person, you felt embraced and brought into her realm.
Lisa was always a peripatetic adventurer constantly looking for new challenges. Her close friend Leeanne Patterson introduced her to rock climbing and Lisa took to it like any skill she perfected, with drive and determination. The natural outlet to this was attending Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops to study in the Outdoor Adventure Program.
These college years were punctuated with working at Outward Bound leading river rafting trips in Idaho and rock-climbing trips to places like Joshua Tree and Smith Rock.
In 1997 Lisa moved to Pemberton and then eventually 10 km north of town in a small nascent neighbourhood called Walkerville. She homesteaded here in true Lisa fashion, getting a friend to build her a tiny 10 x 10 shed that she lived in for two summers. At the same time she met her future husband and life partner, Johnny Foon Chilton, in a skiing contest. They proceeded to build their dream home on the hill.
Soon after settling in Pemberton Lisa decided to concentrate on ski guiding as a winter profession and began the Canadian Ski Guide Assoc. certification. This led to working at Mike Wiegele Heli-skiing and gaining a Level 3 ticket. Her summers were occupied with horticulture, working for the municipality of Whistler. Climbing and big mountain skiing became central to her life, taking on big objectives with her husband Johnny, culminating in the climbing and skiing of University Peak in Alaska. A daunting feat, skiing 2,700 meters at 50 degrees plus, Lisa became the first woman to log a descent of this face.
By this time family beckoned and Lisa gave birth to son Tye in the summer of 2005. Settled into her cozy neighbourhood, living alongside close friend Wendy Brookbank and raising their son, she decided to stay close to home and took a job as a guide with local Pemberton heli-ski operation Coast Range. Again, she excelled here and became the operations manager for two seasons.
A long off-season demanded a shift in gears and she decided to enter the real estate trade as a realtor for Remax Whistler alongside her neighbour and long-time friend Erin McCardle Stiel. As well, her husband Johnny began to make skis from local yellow cedar and Lisa dove into this endeavour, sharing Johnny’s passion for the technical and artistic complexities of making skis. Lisa transitioned to Whistler Heli-Skiing soon after and became a part-time guide as her real estate business began to flourish.
Lisa was a sublime skier. Fluid. Graceful. Powerful. An absolute dream to watch. Her son Tye has learned the trade well from this incredible athlete and is becoming a complete skier at the tender age of 12. Her passion for skiing and adventure were matched by her dedication and love for Tye who she introduced to all of her outdoor pursuits, including canoe tripping. Tye attended Wanapitei in 2017 as a Coureurs de Bois.
Lisa transitioned from rock climbing to mountain biking,dogged in her pursuit of excellence in this sport like everything else. Her texts to me about “cleaning” a trail became legendary. Lisa was known to many, carving out a life in the mountains surrounding Whistler and Pemberton for the past 30 years. As one close friend remarked, she was “a proper legend”.
Lisa is survived by her husband Johnny, her son Tye, her mother Judy, her father Robin, her brother Jamie and a colossal list of friends from the east to the west and in between. She was predeceased by her brother Chris. Lisa was a connector, a truly social being, a hugger and a kisser. She made people feel special. She was full of raw emotion and deeply felt love for everybody who crossed her path. She lived life INTENSELY. Her smile was extinguished by the whims of nature but its luminosity and power will forever be etched in our minds.
Written by John Inglis with some additions by Andrea Dorfman