William Brasher Schorr 02-13-10
Conoco Alaska president killed in avalanche
By KYLE HOPKINS and JAMES HALPIN, Anchorage Daily News, Published: February 13th,
JIM BOWLES: Company's chief dies snowmachining; skier killed in separate slide.
The president of Conoco Phillips Alaska, Jim Bowles, was one of two people killed
along with a third presumed dead aftertwo avalanches barreled down on Southcentral
Alaska off-road recreation areas Saturday afternoon, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Bowles, 57, was with a group of about 12 snowmachiners in the Grandview area wilderness
between Girdwood and Seward on the Kenai Peninsula when he and another rider were
buried by an avalanche that roared down a slope. His body was recovered before nightfall,
while the second rider, identified as Alan Gage, was missing and presumed killed,
Closer to Anchorage, residents along Mile 7 of Hiland Road saw a skier disappear
just after 4 p.m. in the snow an estimated 1,500 feet above the road. The man, who
had been skiing near the top of a ridge with a woman and dog, appeared to trigger
the avalanche, rescuers said. He was pronounced dead two hours later.
"The dog searched forever for its owner," said Megan Norgaard, who lives nearby
and called 911.
The Hiland Road victim was not identified because officials said they needed to
contact his family, though residents said he lived in the area.
Bowles has headed Conoco Phillips Alaska since November 2004 and oversaw roughly
900 employees in the state, said spokeswoman Natalie Lowman.
"He was a great leader for our company. ... Our deepest sympathies go out to his
family," she said.
Gage, 40, also worked for Conoco Phillips as a member of the company's capital projects
team in Anchorage, Lowman said.
Bowles was pronounced dead after rescuers tried to revive him with CPR for at least
30 minutes, troopers said. Searchers plan to begin looking for Gage again today.
Neither man wore an avalanche beacon, troopers said.
The deadly Kenai avalanche was along the West Ridge of Grandview near Spencer Glacier,
roughly a half mile from Mile 43 of the Alaska Railroad tracks between Girdwood
The search on the Kenai Peninsula -- involving personnel from troopers, the Alaska
Railroad, U.S. Forest Service and Girdwood Fire Department -- was called off for
the night as darkness fell and the threat of severe weather rolling in from Prince
William Sound increased, said troopers Sgt. Bryan Barlow, supervisor of the Girdwood
"We've got pretty hazardous avalanche conditions out here right now with the new
snow," Barlow said. "We're going to have a lot of natural avalanches coming down,
and the human-triggered ones are going to be a biggie as well. We've got three people
deceased today as a result."
A group of about a dozen snowmachiners were traveling together in the Grandview
area when the avalanche struck, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
Forecaster Carl Skustad with the Chugach National Forest's Avalanche Information
Center said the snowmachiners were in moderate terrain, with probably a 35-40 degree
slope. But with the weak layer underneath, that can be enough for snow to let loose,
At least one member of the party drove back to the railroad tracks to call in the
accident around 12:30 p.m. The response included a troopers helicopter and a Forest
By the time the troopers helicopter got to the scene, Bowles' body had already been
recovered, Peters said. Searchers were unable to locate the other victim.
The Hiland avalanche was reported by neighbors and by a woman who escaped the snow
and made it to the road, said Erich Scheunemann, assistant chief for the Anchorage
"Avalanches are fairly common in the Hiland valley here," he said.
The pair were skiing near the top of the ridge in an area known as "three bowls,"
said Dean Knapp, a volunteer for the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.
The avalanche looked to be about 150 feet wide, and roughly three-quarters of a
mile from the road, he said.
Kip Melling, an instructor for the Alaska Avalanche School in Anchorage, lives about
two miles from the avalanche site and recognized the man who died as someone who
lives in the area.
The first people on the scene were neighbors who saw the man's hand protruding from
the snow, Melling said. Debris from the avalanche was piled roughly three to four
feet high in the area.
Experts warned conditions are ripe for avalanches with a recent snow dump and high
"We're dealing with an instability that's long-lasting. It's been in the snowpack
pretty much since the beginning of the year," Melling said.
Firefighters and police lined the roadway Saturday as the sun went down and members
of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group worked to recover the body. Searchers rode Anchorage
and Chugiak fire department snowmachines toward the slide, switching to snowshoes
to reach the body.
The man was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m. by an Air Force physician who volunteers
for the rescue group.
The victim wasn't carrying an avalanche beacon or other rescue equipment, Melling
The Chugach National Forest's Avalanche Information Center was calling Saturday's
avalanche danger moderate with pockets of considerable danger. Forecaster Skustad
said in an interview that a layer of surface hoar that formed about two weeks ago
is now buried under about three feet of snow, making for potentially big slides.
Recent heavy snows and whipping winds are creating substantial danger that is only
expected to get worse in coming days as a new storm moves through, Skustad said.
The four feet of new snow was measured in eight days at Center Ridge in the Turnagain
Pass area, while winds gusted to 86 mph midweek
"Today was the allure of bluebird weather," Skustad said. "Today was a challenging
day because it had good visibility, the snow quality was nice and people were just
getting out there. We need to give the mountains a chance to adjust to the new snow
Friends on day trip when avalanche hit
By KYLE HOPKINS, Anchorage Daily News | firstname.lastname@example.org, Published: February 14th,
JIM BOWLES:Conoco Phillips' Alaska president dies snowmachining; skier killed in
The snowmachiners caught in an avalanche that killed Conoco Phillips Alaska President
Jim Bowles and left another Conoco worker missing Saturday near Spencer Glacier
were a group of friends on a day trip to the popular recreation area, a family member
"They know each other through work and hunting and fishing," said Dalon Gage, whose
husband, Alan, disappeared in the wave of snow that slammed down a slope in the
Grandview area wilderness. It was the first of two deadly avalanches in Southcentral
Alaska that day.
Bowles -- head of the largest oil and gas producer in Alaska -- was discovered about
45 minutes after the avalanche by friends using locator beacons, troopers say.
Poor weather conditions prevented troopers from resuming the search for Gage today,
said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.
Separately, troopers today identified the victim in an avalanche that came later
Saturday afternoon at Mile 7.3 of Hiland Road. William Brasher Schorr, 60, of Eagle
River, had been skiing in the area with a friend when a neighbor saw the snow slide
high above the road.
Schorr was a Seldovia cabinet maker who had recently moved to the area, said David
Chartier, a longtime friend.
FRIENDS ON A DAY TRIP
A trooper spokeswoman had said in an e-mail Saturday that neither man in the Kenai
Peninula avalanche wore an avalanche beacon.
But Peters said today Bowles was indeed found with a beacon.
Troopers still believe Gage wasn't wearing one, though his wife says that's hard
Gage "always played it safe," she said.
"This was not a go goof-off, play around, screw-off group of guys," Dalon Gage said.
"They were very safe, well-versed, trained."
Alan Gage, who was 40 years old with two young sons, grew up in Alaska and is an
avid outdoorsman, Dalon Gage said.
He worked for the oil field services company Veco for eight or nine years before
joining Conoco about five years ago, she said. Gage worked as a project control
engineer for the company's capital projects division.
He left for the snowmachine trip Saturday morning, she said. "They would have just
driven down to near the area where they wanted to ride in."
Troopers learned of the avalanche at roughly 12:30 p.m. along the west ridge of
Grandview, about a half mile from Mile 43 of the Alaska Railroad tracks between
Girdwood and Seward.
Bowles was pronounced dead after rescuers tried to revive him with CPR for at least
30 minutes, troopers said.
Gov. Sean Parnell issued a statement on his death just before midnight Saturday:
"Jim brought so much to our state: his love of the great outdoors, his leadership
of Conoco Phillips Alaska, and his dedication to making Alaska a better place for
all of us to call home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this
difficult time," he said.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called Bowles "a great partner in the responsible
development of Alaska's natural resources," in a written statement Sunday.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, praised the company's philanthropy in Alaska under Bowles'
watch. "Conoco Phillips contributed $13 million last year alone to hundreds of Alaska
nonprofits, from environmental causes to health care."
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who called Bowles a friend, said "Jim's generosity
in giving back to our community set a high standard for Alaska business leaders,"
citing the new Conoco Phillips Integrated Science Building on the University of
Alaska Anchorage campus as an example.
Bowles oversaw roughly 900 Conoco Phillips Alaska employees.
LAST RUN BY HILAND ROAD
The second avalanche came just after 4 p.m. in an area known as "three bowls," roughly
three-quarters of mile from Hiland Road, said Alaska Mountain Rescue Group volunteers.
Schorr was skiing down to meet up with the friend -- another skier who was waiting
about 700 feet below -- when he triggered the avalanche, according to troopers and
"He went up to do another run by himself with the dog," said Kip Melling, an Alaska
Avalanche School instructor who lives nearby and is examining the site today.
A neighbor who saw the slide from his home found Schorr's body about 45 minutes
later, according to troopers. He was buried in an area with about three to four
feet of debris, Melling said, with his hand protruding from the snow.
'Hard slab' avalanche killed Hiland skier
By KYLE HOPKINS, email@example.com, Published: February 14th, 2010
Troopers have identified the skier killed in an avalanche Saturday along Hiland
Road as 60-year-old William Brasher Schorr of Eagle River.
The avalanche came just after 4 p.m. in an area known as "Three Bowls," roughly
three-quarters of a mile from Mile 7.3 of Hiland Road, said Alaska Mountain Rescue
Group volunteers. Schorr was skiing down to meet up with another skier who was waiting
below when he triggered the avalanche, according to troopers and rescue volunteers.
Schorr was a Seldovia cabinet maker who had moved, perhaps temporarily, to the Eagle
River area, said David Chartier, a longtime friend in Seldovia.
One of Schorr's ski poles was found about 1,200 feet above the place a nearby resident
found him buried shortly after the slide, said Kip Melling, an Alaska Avalanche