Kye petersen can't wait for his big ski trip to Europe next week. According to the 15-year-old, the snow "sucks" this winter in his hometown of Whistler, B.C. The freeskiing phenom is also looking forward to meeting up with his pals Tanner Hall and C.R. Johnson, two of the biggest names in the freeride skiing world, in Italy's steep backcountry. But what Petersen is most excited about is a planned visit to Chamonix, France. There in the Alps, Kye will speed down big lines and perform huge jumps and spins not far from where his father, Trevor, was doing the exact same thing when he was killed by an avalanche nine years ago. � "I think my mom is real stressed out, but I'm so stoked because I've never been there," Kye said on a recent sunny afternoon at the base of Whistler's Blackcomb Mountain.
"Hey, Mom, will I get to see the run Dad did?"
"You'll only see the top [of the run] from the tram," says Tanya Petersen, giving her son a wan smile.
"Cool," says the boy.
trevor petersen stood only 5'10", but to those who followed the sport he was the biggest ski icon in British Columbia. Petersen was a driving force in a ski movement that pushed the sport off the slopes and into the backcountry. During the mid-1980s the fab four--Scot Schmidt, Glen Plake, Eric Pehota and Petersen--were among the first to seriously pursue extreme skiing. While Americans Schmidt and Plake tackled mountains in the Lower 48, often heading into the backcountry by helicopter, Canadians Petersen and Pehota embraced ski mountaineering, which involves summiting tall peaks and massifs with ropes, ice axes and crampons and then skiing down vertical faces and off cliffs.
Together, the Canadians ticked off dozens of first descents in the Coast Mountains in British Colombia. Over the years the peaks got bigger, the runs steeper and the weather conditions more stormy. "It's the ultimate paradox. The closer you come to the edge, the more alive you feel. Trev lived for that," says Pehota. "There's nothing like being the first to set foot where no one has gone before. Trevor wanted to be a pioneer and explorer. He always talked about [Ernest] Shackleton and all those hard-core dudes."
Petersen himself was a hard-core dude who was constantly restless for the next adventure. In 1980, at age 19, he left his hometown of New Westminster, B.C., and headed north to Whistler to live the life of an adrenaline junkie. "He was a long-haired, crazy-intense fellow," Pehota says. Petersen climbed during the spring and fall, skied in the winter and boogie-boarded Class V rapids in the summer. Even in more sedate moments, he knew how to live on the edge. At parties he was known to jump off a second-story balcony and run off into the woods or swan-dive off a 15-foot ledge into a pool of shallow water.
His zeal for life brought him to a tragic end in late February 1996. After a three-week stint in Italy doing a photo shoot for Powder magazine and heli-skiing for his sponsors, Petersen decided to spend a few days in Chamonix, the mecca of ski mountaineering, before heading home to Whistler.
"He called me that morning [from France] to vent," says pro skier Johnny Chilton. "He felt like he hadn't done anything during the trip. They'd been shooting him all week. He called it posing for the mags. He hadn't skied anything big. He was psyched to be in Chamonix. He said he was going to ski something that would satisfy his itch."
Later that day, Feb. 26, Petersen took a tram that climbs nearly 9,500 feet from Chamonix to the summit of Aiguille du Midi in the Mont Blanc range. From there Petersen trekked about an hour east to the Cosmique Couloir, a line that he had done four times before.