I remember my first visit to Bellingham well. It was 2002. I was a senior in high school, driving north from my rural home in Oregon looking for a place to go to college. Bellingham left a profound feeling that I had found my place. I knew it was for me.
Adam Roberts was a big part of that. He was the first person I met in Bellingham. That was fitting. In many ways, he was Bellingham. We met as prospective students at Western Washington University, on a tour of the campus. He was with his family, and I remember thinking how they looked like the Pacific Northwest idyll: warm, tough, and kind of hairy.
We met again on our first day of college. We both ended up in the Fairhaven dorms, where Adam fit in well. I would see Adam everywhere those first years of college. Every interesting community and campus event, every big dinner party. He was a beloved and vital part of the community.
It was obvious why. Adam’s resting face was a smile. He often wore a big, brown wool sweater and was always warm, inviting, and happy. He seemed free, but he was also honest, and as the above video shows, he certainly wasn’t without inner conflict.
It wasn’t until later that I learned Adam was a really good skier. It was a beautiful discovery. One day I was skiing by myself at Mount Baker. It was gray, raining. The snow was shit. I saw Adam in the lift line and we took a few laps together. He had grown up in the small mountain town of Randle, near White Pass Ski Area. He loved skiing powder, but more than anything, he just loved skiing and being in the mountains. That dreary day was the extent of our skiing together. After I started working at POWDER, his name began popping up in the photo credits on many of the images from Jason Hummel that we posted to our social channels. I always loved seeing that. It felt like our Bellingham world was still connected, if a bit impersonally. The last time I heard from Adam was in 2015, when he sent me a message through Facebook about a ski trip he was going on. I never responded.
I always pictured Adam growing old and becoming one of Bellingham's many local legends—still seen everywhere, known for his happiness, his full life, his beard, and his love and respect for all he met.
Sadly, that isn't going to happen. Last week Adam was skiing with a friend near White Pass and triggered an avalanche. Patrollers found him buried five feet beneath the snow.
"My friend Adam Roberts dreamed of snow. It was his index to life," wrote Hummel on his Facebook page. "He told me how he used to stand in the rain at five in the morning and hitchhike to Mount Baker, even on the worst of days. Imagine that. He did it day after day after day, nearly seven days a week."
That’s why I went to Western. To be around more people like that—like Adam. As I drove back toward Oregon after that first visit, I followed I-5 as it curved along the thick woods that line that part of the freeway in Washington. As I passed Lake Samish—just south of Bellingham—the sun was setting, turning the sky a fiery pink and black. I knew I’d be back. I knew it was a place where people went to follow their love.