A man known for being in control while moving through some of Mother Nature's most uncontrolled environments, Theo Meiners exuded a passion for life and stoke for skiing that made him known the world over. In a sad twist, the 59-year-old owner and operator of Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides fell to his death Friday of last week in the controlled confines of a convention center while in Anchorage, Alaska, for the International Snow Science Workshop.
When news hit the digital waves, members of the storied Jackson Hole Air Force immediately coalesced to honor Meiners, a longtime Air Forcer. "Guys I haven't talked to in years called me up and told me, 'Air Forcer down,'" said Micah Black, an old friend of Meiners from their days working as janitors at the Tsaina Lodge on Alaska's Thompson Pass outside Valdez.
During the early-to-mid '90s, Meiners contributed to the cowboy culture that formed the backbone of Alaska heli skiing led by Doug Coombs and Dean Cummings amongst others. He lived in the bathroom of the Tsaina while Black called a snowcave home. Those glory days atop Thompson Pass for Meiners consisted of scrubbing down the Tsaina bathroom before scoring a seat for afternoon heli bumps. He and the trailblazing group logged countless first descents in the Chugach, writing the map to the region. And Meiners was instrumental in it all. "He was always stoked," says Black, "with a spaghetti head and meatball eyes. We lived the life together and Theo always talked about 'technique, technique.'" Meiners eventually became the logistics manager at Valdez Heli-Guides, working for Doug and Emily Coombs from 1996 to 2000.
But Meiners influence wasn't just felt in Alaska. He brought the skills and wisdom he learned in the Chugach back home to the Tetons while working as a patroller at Jackson's Snow King Resort and an alpine guide for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. "He was a mentor to me," says former JHMR alpine guide Eric Henderson. "He was a silent giant, as you really had to prove yourself to him. But once you did, he was open to sharing all his knowledge, which was a lot. He always had my back no matter the circumstances. He just had it." While in Jackson, Meiners continued working for the Coombs as one of their Steep Skiing Camps guides. His extensive experience analyzing snowpacks and working with clients allowed him to travel the world as a guide and patrol instructor. Eventually, Meiners was appointed National Ski Patrol Regional Avalanche Advisor for the Northern Intermountain Division.
Ultimately, his skier's soul led him to purchase 27 acres on Thompson Pass to launch Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides. With the help of his daughter, Alexandra, and son, Aidan, and fellow Jackson Hole Air Forcer and longtime Coombs guide Dave Miller, he shared his ceaseless stoke with others seeking to experience the Alaska heli-ski dream.
"He loved to ski," says Black. "He kept going. He got his place up there [Alaska Rendezvous]. But he wasn't a hater or ever on a high horse or anything like that. He'd always say, 'Let's bring it home today.' It was real, man. People came from all over the world to ski with him."
Alexandra and Aidan Meiners submitted to POWDER a beautiful letter they wrote about the life of their late father.
“Tomorrow We Ride”
The Rendezvous was Dad’s dream; it wasn’t just a business to him, it was his home. Powder skiing with family in the winter, living off the land in the summer. Helicopters and Harleys. We had the incredible gift of having him as a father: learning how to ski from him as toddlers, racing as youth and heli skiing as teens. Who gets to do that? The dream came full circle when we came to Alaska to work for him. His vision was to have the Rendezvous be a family run business and he felt he created a place where we could put our roots. But he wasn’t just a father to us. He extended his love and arms and mountains to everyone; once you were a part of the family you were in forever. Family was the most important thing to him. He taught so many people so many things and loved bringing them places never before imagined. He’s The Wizard and the father of skiing. He is irreplaceable.