Theo Meiners’ Legacy

Theo Pano portrait

Teacher Coach Guide. Remembering Theo Meiners.

By Emma Franzeim

On September 20 2012, we lost an exceptional man and member of our community when Theo Meiners fell to his death in an accident in Anchorage, Alaska. Although Theo’s career as a ski instructor began in Colorado, we have claimed him as one of our own in Jackson Hole since 1978. In Jackson, Theo worked as an instructor, backcountry guide, and DECL. However, although he was an integral member of our community, it was understood by all of us that Theo’s heart belonged to Alaska. He had spent time in Alaska as a child, but it wasn’t until the World Extreme Skiing Competitions, when Doug Coombs made tracks on the landscape of the Chugach Mountains outside of Valdez, that Theo Meiners found his way home. Theo worked for Doug Coombs at Valdez-Heli Guides from 1996-2000. When the opportunity arose for him to start his own operation at Mile 45 onThompsonPass, he seized on it with the full force of his passion, and began Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides.,

In the short time since his death, there have been many articles published about the remarkable legacy that Theo Meiners leaves behind. When you read of him in Powder Magazine, Outer Local, and JH Underground, you will learn of a man of many accomplishments who filled his life with exceptional people and experiences. Although these articles do a tremendous job of detailing Theo’s biography, there is something they cannot fully convey about the hole he leaves behind.

When we think about the tremendous loss that Theo’s death brings, and all that we admire about him, there is one quality that must be conveyed – that above all Theo was a remarkable teacher. Theo’s talent as teacher came through in everything that he did. He was an individual of singular conviction. Intense and passionate; you could easily describe him as someone whose expectations of the people around him were only exceeded by his expectations of himself. But it was more than that – it was sincere belief.

When Theo looked you in the eye and said “You’ve got this.” whether you were looking into Corbet’s, or listening to the pulse of helicopter pull away behind you – whatever it was that you faced – when he looked you in the eye and said those words, you knew not only that he meant it, but for one brief heady moment, he also made you believe it. For those who found ourselves in the position of being his student, this quality of sincere belief made it particularly hard to shrink from any challenge that Theo presented you with. Especially when considering the standard he upheld with his own fearlessness and passion. How do you tell someone like Theo that you simply don’t have the courage? This was another element in him that made him such a phenomenal teacher. It was implicit in these moments that he had pushed himself into the unknown many times.

Like any great teacher, Theo was a lifelong student. He was a curious and driven individual. Theo died while attending the International Snow Science Workshop in Anchorage. Deeply engaged in the study of Avalanches, and committed to his chosen profession, he was always learning and adapting. He was hungry for knowledge and whatever he learned, he shared; with that came the confidence of a risk taker. It is hard to accept his death. When the news came that in one sudden moment, he was gone – there was no being prepared. He was larger than life, as formidable as the mountains he cherished. Someone like that cannot disappear so suddenly.

In truth, it is an impossibility. Because Theo was such an inherent teacher, he is woven into the world he leaves behind. It is also for this reason that it is so hard to accept his passing. For him, the magic of the Rendezvous, and of skiing, derived from the joy of sharing it. Sure, his smile would always be big on a huge Powder day – but it would grow so much bigger the moment he caught sight of yours. He ran the Rendezvous with the help of his son Aiden, a guide, and daughter Alexandra, manager of operations. He loved watching them come into their own and sharing that world with them. His pride was apparent. It was the same pride that extended, to a lesser extent, to anyone who had the privilege to learn from him. Clients were friends, the Rendezvous crew – family. For all his accomplishments, he continued to have his eye on the future.

His mind always on the next goal – the untracked peaks of the Chugach, the designs for the new heli pad, the new possibility presented in each new ski season, in every new person he met, in each new day. It is hard to accept that he will not be here to see those dreams realized. There can be no doubt to the legacy he leaves behind. Theo Meiners’ impact is so strong that be assured those dreams will be realized by the people who carry forth his spirit – a pioneer spirit. Playful and daring, he was an irrepressible adventurer who will continue to inspire and compel not only those who were fortunate enough to know him, but all those that his students will teach. Lucky for us, that landscape is as endless as the peaks of the Chugach.

Theo: know that we will hear your voice often – your poetry and philosophy – in every lesson we teach. On behalf of so many, those who know how you’ve impacted us and those who have yet to discover it, I hope you hear us now as we say with the deepest gratitude: Thank you.

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