Anchorage avalanche victim remembered in an uplifting ceremony

Published: Dec. 14, 2017 at 9:49 PM AKST
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“He was a legend of his own making, always curious and always seeking new adventure around every corner.” That was how Steve Bergt remembered his brother Randy, the pilot, project manager, Nordic ski coach, world traveler, and experienced backcountry skier who died in an Avalanche,

Friends, family and a community of Nordic skiers came together in the Kincaid Park chalet Thursday evening to reminisce about Bergt’s life over a beer. His wife Tasha reiterated that the event was not going to be a melancholy memorial. “Tonight is not going to be a sad night because that is absolutely not what Randy would want, tonight is a celebration of life, a really really good life.”

Bergt was born in Fairbanks in 1957 to a family steeped in aviation. Randy’s brother Steve said that his love for skiing was quickly evident with their mother Lynelle often saying, “If I hadn’t been there I would have thought he was born on skis.” Steve Bergt described how Randy learned to ski on wooden skis — with leather boots in leather-strap bindings and bamboo poles down their driveway. “We would strap on our state-of-the-art skis and ski every possible line the driveway had to deliver.”

At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, while studying Business Management, Bergt met Tasha. The couple spent a carefree period of their lives traveling the world: “We were clueless backpackers in Europe, biked around New Zealand, made three trips to Australia and had lots of fun trips to the Lower 48."

It was during this period that Randy and Tasha Bergt spent winters in Utah at Alta Ski Area. “We had no money and thought living in a closet with a pull-down bed was the most coveted room in the canyon,” said Bergt. “Your quality of life was measured in how close you were to scoring fresh tracks in powdered snow.”

Eventually the couple settled in Anchorage where they started coaching Nordic skiing at Service High School in the 1990's, inspiring a generation of skiers scattered throughout the audience. “Unfortunately we never had our own kids but started acquiring them anyway,” said Tasha to laughter. Skiers repaid the love by

, the trail at Service High named in his honor. As well as coaching, Bergt worked for 20 years in transportation, developing the transit-to-trail systems throughout Anchorage and working for HDR Engineering and Anchorage People Mover.

Bergt had recently retired before passing away suddenly, a fact Tasha spoke about sadly. “We were really looking forward to regressing to our old adventurous life in retirement. In moments of self-pity I get a beautiful picture in my head of us traveling down that last slope together holding hands, it would have been perfect.”

Tasha Bergt also touched on the day when Randy died, saying his mother had text her to say that someone had been killed in an avalanche. Tasha said she didn’t think it was him because someone would have contacted her. A few hours passed and she got worried and called 911. “I said, 'I don’t need to know who died I just needed to know that it wasn't him,' I just kept spelling his name. There were two very kind officers at my door a few minutes later and I was in total shock." The following day, Steve Bergt and two friends were able to

from the avalanche site after State Park Rangers had determined it was too dangerous.

For Tasha Bergt, the loss of her husband came after a series of tragedies with her father and brother dying: “I really thought I’d gotten to the worst but that isn't the same as your everyday life. The coffee cup in the morning, the text you get midday and the hand that reaches for yours every night across the giant fat cat that thinks he's my boyfriend.” Laughter again thundered throughout the room.

Despite the sadness and tears, there was a mood of joy and laughter as a community came to remember someone who touched so many people. Tasha Bergt was amazed by the turnout. “We did not do things on a big scale, more just day to day, working in small groups or individually. I don’t think he had any idea that he had so much impact on this community or was loved this much. No idea.”