According to an Alaska State Trooper’s dispatch report, authorities in Haines, Alaska, were notified just after 11 a.m. of an avalanche that buried two skiers at a location just off of the Haines Highway.
Two other local men have lost their lives in avalanches this winter, Nate Soules in Bear Creek and Garrett Carothers in the La Sal Mountains of Utah.
Authorities say Liberman and a group of five other skiers were heli-skiing when the avalanche hit. Liberman was buried and died at the scene. Another individual was pulled from the snow and has been transported to Seattle for medical treatment. That individual’s identity has not yet been released.
A report in the Anchorage Daily News said Liberman was leading the group as a guide when the avalanche was triggered.
All of the skiers were wearing avalanche beacons at the time of the avalanche.
Liberman was a well-known fixture in Telluride’s skiing community for 17 years. For the past eight years, he worked at Telluride’s La Marmotte restaurant for most of the year, and guiding expeditions for Haines-based Alaska Heli-Guides during the spring.
“He was a fun guy to be around,” La Marmotte owner Mark Reggiannini said Wednesday. “He was really knowledgeable about skiing and outdoor sports. He was always getting other employees to go skiing with him or biking with him. He definitely got me out skiing more than I normally would.”
In his online biography posted on Alaska Heli-Guides’ website, Liberman described skiing as a “deep-rooted love” from early childhood. In college, he was a member of the University of Colorado’s ski team, while studying biology and kinesiology. After graduation, he spent three “endless winters” traveling South America and entrenching himself in the skier lifestyle that he would soon embody.
“Rob was a dedicated skier and had an infectious personality,” Watch photographer Brett Schreckengost said. The two were friends and skied together throughout the region for a number of years. “He had a great enthusiasm for all of the stuff he did, especially skiing. He was a skier first, above all things. People were affected by his spirit for it. He had such enthusiasm for the sport, and he chased it all over the world.”
While skiing in Bear Creek in 2009, Liberman and a friend heard a major avalanche and went to inspect it. After searching the slide, Liberman spotted a glove and started digging and quickly found Eric Zuaro unconscious. Just before Liberman was going administer CPR, Zuaro opened his eyes, and was later airlifted with serious injuries. The quick response from Liberman and his ski partner saved Zuaro’s life.
Be it in the backcountry or in the workplace, both Schreckengost and Reggiannini characterized Liberman as the type of person who would go out of his way to help anyone.
“He was a big part of our restaurant,” Reggiannini said. “He was always willing to jump in and give a hand. Last summer, he was riding his bike by during lunch and saw that it was really busy. He stopped in and helped out – on his day off – to make sure everyone made it though the rush. That was the kind of guy he was.
“He was the kind of guy that would have your back out in the backcountry,” Reggiannini said. “I never really went backcountry skiing but if I did, I would go with Rob first.”
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