'Nicest guy' dies in skiing mishap

Valkama remembered for his love of sport, life

A 47-year-old Whistler resident whom a friend called "happy go lucky," and "just a really good guy" died in a skiing accident on the lower portion of the Dave Murray Downhill run on Whistler Mountain on Christmas Eve.

Henry Valkama was skiing along the edge of the run on Dec. 24 at 2:51 p.m. when he caught an edge and tumbled into some rocks, RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair said in a statement. Ski patrollers and two mountain doctors were called to the scene and attempted unsuccessfully to revive Valkama, LeClair said.

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Valkama, who was single, was a construction worker who most recently was working on the wastewater treatment facilities in the Callaghan Valley, friend Tracy Kerr said on Tuesday (Dec. 30). He and his brother Paul also started and maintained a music website called RadioTower.com, Kerr said.

Valkama grew up in Burnaby and, starting in Grade 7, was best friends with Kerr's husband Rob Velenosi, Kerr said. He moved to Whistler from Burnaby about two years ago, she said, and last year skied about 100 days, she said.

"He was just an awesome skier," Kerr said. "At the time, he was skiing with Rob and my two children Gabe, 11, and Chase, 9.

"They were skiing as a group, and he caught an edge and went down. Chase said, 'Way to go, Henry, good wipeout.' They were almost at the end of Lower Dave Murray, and he just caught an edge. It was just a freak accident."

Kerr said Chase then started digging Valkama out and asking him to wake up, then waved to the others, who were near the bottom of the run at the time.

"By the time Rob walked up, it was too late," Kerr said.

Kerr said she will remember Valkama for his love of skiing and his jovial nature.

"He was just the nicest guy," she said. "He loved skiing with my kids. When we saw him that day, he said, 'Where's Chase?' He was just a real good, kind-hearted guy."

Valkama his survived by his brother Paul and sister Rita. A memorial for Valkama is set for Friday, Jan. 9, at 4 p.m. at Burnaby Mountain Golf Course.

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