Words: Sam Petri
Skis, boots, poles, beacons, shovels, probes, gloves, goggles, ice axes, crampons, harnesses, ropes, helmets, jackets, tents, backpacks, and more — the Steve Romeo memorial gear sale Saturday in Wilson, Wyoming, was a treasure trove of ski mountaineering equipment. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike showed up to score a piece of gear to take Rando Steve's spirit with them into the mountains. Others showed up simply to celebrate the skier's life.
The fundraiser was organized by longtime friend and ski partner Reed Finlay and Julia Heemstra, who dated Romeo for four years. The goal was to raise money for The Steve Romeo Memorial Fund, which Finlay says will, "provide an opportunity for youth to have a ski mountaineering experience in the Tetons."
The garage sale raised $6,400. "It was amazing how many people showed up who wanted something of his to take into the mountains. One person bought a pair of socks and said, 'I just want a pair of socks to think about Steve every time I wear them,'" Heemstra said.
Romeo, known as Rando Steve on his popular backcountry skiing blog TetonAt.com, was killed in an avalanche on March 7 along with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tram operator Chris Onufer while the two ascended Ranger Peak in Grand Teton National Park.
Like the motto of TetonAt.com said, Rando Steve lived to ski. But he also lived to ski on the newest equipment available. At the sale, there was a rush for his newest gear right at 8 a.m. By 10 a.m., pickings were slim.
"A couple of people said to me, 'You know, this is weird, to have his gear,'" Heemstra said. "But I thought, 'This is what would Steve would want.' He would want people still getting out and still getting after it and thinking about him. That, to me, was clear."
Surprisingly, many of Rando Steve's skis and boots did not sell at the sale. Tents, and climbing and fishing gear went first. Heemstra and Finlay hope to include the leftover skis and boots in a silent auction during Skinny Skis' annual Avalanche Awareness Night at Snow King this fall so they can keep raising money for the memorial fund.
"Our dream is that this fund will continue on indefinitely and be self-sustaining so that Steve's spirit can live on," Heemstra said.
For now, TetonAt.com lives on in a static state, with commenting turned off to block spammers. Rando Steve's close friends are in the process of talking with his family about keeping the blog alive as an archive.
So what's the definitive piece of RandoSteve gear? Dynafit boots? Black Diamond skis? An Arc'Teryx jacket?
"For me, it was the morning fleece that he would wear all the time at home," Heemstra said. "It was the other side of Steve that I was so fortunate to see — his morning fleece, his slippers and his glasses and old Patagonia pants. For me, that's what represents Steve. I'm lucky enough to have that whole outfit. And that's worth more than any one of those carbon Megawatts."
For more information and to make a donation to The Steve Romeo Memorial Fund, email Randosteve@gmail.com . His family and friends monitor the email address.
Visit the blog at TetonAt.com