Wallowa man killed by avalanche while skiing remembered by colleagues

By on Wednesday, March 13th, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

BAKER COUNTY — The man killed in an avalanche in the Anthony Lakes area of the Elkhorns is being remembered by colleagues.

37-year-old Nick Burks of Wallowa died after being caught in an avalanche on Wednesday, March 6.

According to a statement from the Baker County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were summoned to the scene around 4:38 p.m. on March 6 with reports that two skiers had been buried. When they arrived on the scene, they found witnesses performing CPR on Burks, but those efforts were unsuccessful.

During the investigation, it was determined that Burks and his friend William Sloop were skiing the chute on Gunsight Mountain. Both were experienced backcountry skiers and were equipped with avalanche airbags and beacons. Sloop was the first to arrive at the bottom and watched Burks begin to make his way down. An avalanche was triggered and overtook Burks. Sloop immediately turned on his transceiver and was able to locate Burks near a tree.

A group of individuals at the lodge saw the avalanche occur and immediately notified first responders. The group made their way to the avalanche location and assisted with lifesaving efforts. 

Burks was pronounced dead at the scene. Sloops was uninjured.

According to the Northwest Avalanche Center, Burks was an avalanche forecaster for the Wallowa Avalanche Center, based in Wallowa County.

“NWAC is heartbroken to report the death of our friend and colleague, Nick Burks,” the center wrote on Facebook. “We offer our deepest sympathies to our friends at WAC, and stand with everyone touched by this devastating event.”

The Wallowa Avalanche Center posted this message to Facebook, which also says a former colleague at the center died this past week as well :

Our hearts are mourning with the loss of two incredible humans this week. Nick Burks worked for the Wallowa Avalanche Center, as a forecaster and educator. After spending his young adulthood ski patrolling at Mt Hood, Nick moved to NE OR and began another chapter in his life. A man of few words, (but always important ones) the local community accepted Nick as a member of the community. He touched so many lives and gained so many new friends in just a couple of years.

Matt Primomo who passed away in a rock climbing accident this week was a forecaster for NWAC. Matt spent the winter of 2009 ski guiding in the Wallowas. His reach was also vast, extending across the mountain west. Matt will be remembered in so many ways.

It’s hard to also consider that March 8th marks the passing of former WAC ED, Kip Rand. Another young snow safety professional, educator and guide Kip was an amazing human.

As we all go through different stages of mourning we hope everyone has someone to call to console and comfort them during this hard time. Spending time with friends and loved ones is critical right now. Call your friends and remind them that you love them.