In Memory

June 7, 2010 at 7:27 AM 5 comments

Over the weekend, I heard news that my friend passed away; he died doing what he loved, skiing. I have wrestled with what to write or even if to write anything at all. But as I have learned from losing my dad last year is that it is better to hear stories from those who loved him, then for them to say nothing at all. The challenge comes in with trying to express how much Arne Backstrom meant to me as a friend and to so many others.

He was always an adventurer and he brought out my inner dare devil from time to time. The most memorable time was when we decided to go on a “mission.” Arne and I had a game where we would look at each other and just say “mission” and we’d figure something fun out to do. That particular night,we decided to get on our bikes and go up to the local golf course to ride a golf cart. The golf carts were locked up and we were out of luck. I turned to Arne on my bike as we exited the course and faced a hill to home and I said, “Arne ,I’ll race you down.” Now this guy was by far and away the star skier at Whitman and he would go on to win the McConkey Cup as the overall Freeskiing World Tour Champion and to be a Patagonia Ambassador, probably the wrong person for me to race. But he was so humble that he probably believed I had a chance. He took my bet with his adorable chuckle and huge grin. And off we went. Unfortunately, I pushed myself too fast and next thing I knew I was sprawled out on the pavement. My face was badly cut up and bruised. Arne took great care of me and went straight into Dr. mode, meticulously picking bits of gravel from my face. I ended up looking like a battered woman for about a week after that but I wouldn’t have changed it then or now for the world. It was such a rush exploring the world with Arne. He could even make the sleepy town of Walla Walla an adventure.

He was more then an adventurous spirit though, he was also incredibly intelligent and focused. I invite you to read his blog here and I assure you, you will be blown away by his eloquence. He would spend hours studying anything from his actual school work to how to perfect his game at chess. He was forever curious and engaged.

He was also a sensitive and caring friend. At one point in college, I was going through a rough time emotionally; he could see this and he just told me to let go and to have a good time. I did just that, with him and two other friends as we took off on a camping trip to Palouse Falls. We had an amazing time there and soon my fears, anxieties and doubts erased because of his light hearted spirit. On the way home from the trip, we stopped off by a bridge that was really high up. The four of us walked out to the center of the bridge, my friend Erin and I thought it was to take in the sites. We were all standing there speaking of the beauty and without a word of warning Arne jumped off the bridge. Erin and I screamed as gravity took over and he accelerated down to the cool water below, but not a peep came from Arne. After he had scrambled back up the rocky bank and met us at the car, he had the hugest grin on his face. Ha ha. That’s how I remember Arne, in true Arne form.

Sadly, we had lost touch as so often happens as moves and years pile on top of another. I was “facebook friends” with Arne and loved following where his next adventure would take him to. My two oldest brothers are avid skiers and I just recently told them that as I soon as I was living back in San Francisco, we would all go to Tahoe and Arne would take them skiing, cause that’s the kind of guy he was. I was thrilled to reunite with my old time mission seeker. I never got that chance.

Arne Backstrom you are loved by so many, including me. I know you are on to your next adventure and just as you did not let anything get you down or get you in your way here – I’m sure you are unstoppable where ever you are. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Backstrom family and to his close friends.

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Happy Friday Breakfast Room

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Graham Belchers  |  June 7, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    Sounds like a really great guy. I am grateful for the friend that he was to you and I wish I could have met him.

    I also really liked his blog. All about skiing and food!

  • 2. Miles Imwalle  |  June 7, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    Kate —

    I was very saddened to hear of Arne’s death. I knew of him as a figure in the Squaw ski scene, but also as your friend, and thought of you when I heard the news. I’ll never forget when you showed up at home with a scraped up face — good to know the more complete story and who was inspiring you to bomb down that hill! Thanks for sharing. My thoughts are with his family.

  • 3. caitlin  |  June 7, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    good memories. i forgot all about your “missions” with arne and the uh-oh results on your poor face! such a sweet post, thanks for sharing. arne will definitely be missed.

  • 4. Pete Imwalle  |  June 7, 2010 at 1:58 PM


    I don’t really know what Arne did or how he died, but I feels like you have introduced me to his spirit. I can tell that he made you happy as a friend and that you’ll miss him. Sorry to hear it.

  • 5. bridget  |  June 8, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    so sorry to hear this. nice to know who was behind the bike crash story! this is a lovely post, kate, and a wonderful way to honor your friend.


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