In Memoriam: Blake Morstad - 1980 - 2005

BackpackingLight.com Staff Member dies in avalanche in Montana's Centennial Mountains.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2005-01-04 03:00:00-07

In Memoriam: Blake Morstad - 1980 - 2005

In Memoriam: Blake Morstad

“I’ll go first.”

Three words that ring mixed emotions when they come from your partner at the top of an untracked backcountry north face. Mixed, because you know that you’re not going to be the one cutting virgin powder down this beautiful line. Mixed, because you know they are the unselfish words of your partner, as part of the unspoken rules of backcountry skiing: big guys go first. If it slides, it will slide under his weight, not mine, and remaining at the top, I’d be in a better and safer position to facilitate a rescue.

Those were the words of Blake Morstad on a subzero morning at the top of the ridge in the northern Bridger Mountains of Montana. After carving perfect S-turns down the slope, Blake skied over to “hide” behind a rock band, protected in case the slope avalanched when I skied it. He peeked his head out, gave a thumbs up, and down I went, trying to complement his S’s into mountain art.

As I skied over to Blake, we looked up in awe at our masterpiece: nearly 1,600 feet of an infinity chain directly down the 39 degree fall line. We agreed that the most rewarding part of the run was not in our own turns, but in watching the other ski, dance, create.

The conversation turned to our shared faith in God as we continued to look back up. After some silence, broken only by the squawk of a raven demanding a bite of my donut, Blake closed the day with a simple and quiet, yet utterly profound, “Thank you."

That would be the only run of the day. After all, I had to get Blake back to MSU for his class by 11:00, and I had to teach a class. It wouldn't look good if we both showed up late.


On New Years Day 2005 (Saturday), Blake Morstad took his final turns along the Continental Divide in Hell Roaring Canyon of the Centennial Mountains in Montana.

Blake was backcountry skiing as part of a group of five experienced backcountry skiers. Two skiers had skied the 34 degree slope and were waiting in trees below when Blake’s first turns triggered a 2 ½ foot deep by 120 foot wide by 800 foot long slide, which caught both of the other skiers waiting in trees below, and injured one of them.

Cool heads and experience allowed the rest of the team to recover Blake from the debris at the toe of the avalanche within eight minutes, normally enough time for a buried victim to survive before suffocation occurs. However, Blake was found dead immediately, and died as a result of trauma during the slide.

Please be cautious about reading news media accounts of this accident. Early reports have been inaccurate and sensationalized. Reliable information can be found in Doug Chabot's accident analysis report here from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.

Rescue efforts then focused on treating the other victim, who had a severe compound fracture to his lower leg. After the injury was stabilized, two members of the party skied out to a cabin and called for help.

Rescue efforts were hampered by a severe storm that brought high winds and new snow to the area. The rescue was initiated Sunday morning, but rescue workers on foot, snowmobile, and helicopter were still unable to reach the party, who were located in a remote and mountainous region in the Northern Rockies. By Monday, more than thirty-five people were involved in the search, including two county SAR units, but it was not until a helicopter issued from Malmstrom Air Force base that the rescue could be completed. The pilot’s skill, perseverance, and courage to fly in what were incredibly difficult conditions warrant tremendous thanks. Exceptional behavior and effort on behalf of other members of the ski party and the SAR volunteers is also to be commended. Mountain temperatures and conditions had been on the wrong side of normal during the few days during and following the accident and survival of the remaining injured victim and the rest of the party is remarkable.


Blake Morstad left an indelible impression on every person he met. In the years that I knew Blake, he never had a critical word to say about anyone, appreciated every God-given circumstance that he was faced with, regardless of how good or bad it felt, and loved his wife, family, and friends with a passion and level of maturity that one does not see often from a 24 year old man.

Blake may have left this world a young man – certainly “too young” by most of our standards, but a clear fact remains: he left an honorable legacy of compassion, friendship, honesty, and integrity that wise men three times his age would have been proud of.

The last time I saw Blake, we prayed together. I asked God to use Blake for a higher purpose as a husband and father. I have no doubts that God is answering those prayers, even in the face of tragedy.

Blake Morstad’s wife, Adele “Addie” Morstad, gave birth to their son, Blake Samuel, on February 5, 2005. Please keep them in your prayers.

We will miss you, Blake. But you ‘done good’ – and lived a rich and full life as a model for the rest of us. And for that, we thank you.

Rest easy, friend.

Blake Walden Morstad was born May 21, 1980. Blake enjoyed the outdoors, and especially, backcountry skiing and rock climbing. The photo above is Blake at the summit of Montana's highest mountain, Granite Peak (12,799'). Blake grew up in Calgary, Alberta and Plentywood, Montana, and attended Montana State University-Bozeman, where he earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering studying snow facet recrystallization - the same phenomena that eventually took his life in an avalanche in Montana's Centennial Mountains on January 1, 2005. Blake was married to Adele Myers in December of 2002, and they are expecting their first child in February 2005. Blake was a devout Christian and this was reflected in his primary passions: knowing God and loving his wife, Addie. Funeral services will be held Saturday, January 8, 10:30 am at Faith Chapel, 517 Shiloh Road, Billings Montana. A memorial account for baby Blake has been set up at Merrill Lynch through Craig Anderson at 550 North 31st Street, Billings, MT 59101.

Endowment Information

The intent of the Blake Morstad Memorial Endowment in Engineering at Montana State University is to provide scholarships, in perpetuity, to outstanding engineering students who reflect the spirit of Blake's exemplary character as well as his sound engineering approach to understanding avalanche phenomena.

  • Administration of the Endowment is managed by the Montana State University Foundation.
  • Endowment liaisons: Adele Morstad and Ryan & Stephanie Jordan.
  • Special thanks to Ed Adams and Linda Wyckoff at MSU for facilitating endowment logistics.

Information about individual scholarships and recipients will be maintained on this page.

How to Contribute

You may contribute to the Endowment by going directly to the MSU Foundation's online giving page.  Click the link to donate directly to the Blake W. Morstad Memorial Scholarship at Montana State University.  Please designate your gift to the College of Engineering and make your donation “In memory of Blake Morstad.”

100% of the funds you contribute will be issued directly to the Montana State University Foundation for the Endowment.

TAX INFO: Your contribution is tax deductible and should be recorded in your tax records as a gift to the "Montana State University Foundation - Blake Morstad Memorial Endowment in Engineering". The MSU Foundation will issue a receipt to substantiate your charitable contribution to Montana State University.

Please leave comments and goodbyes for Blake's wife and family below.


Citation

"In Memoriam: Blake Morstad - 1980 - 2005," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/blake_morstad_memorial.html, 2005-01-04 03:00:00-07.

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Forum Index » BPL.com News and Info » In Memoriam: Blake Morstad


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michael plummer
(pipes) - F
My friend on 01/06/2005 13:06:45 MST Print View

Blake and I became friends almost two years ago when a friend gave me his name because he was looking for a training partner for the Ridge Run. We spent many miles together out there on the trail talking about adventures to be done, his wife Addie, his new baby on the way, and his growing relationship with God. I could always count on Blake to go mountain biking and trail running with me. He was the one guy that always pushed me to go longer and be stronger. He was a loyal friend and a dedicated husband. He was always searching for how he could be a better husband to Addie. If I ever made a negative comment about someone he would always have something good to say about them.
He was always asking me questions about training and how to get an edge. I found it funny because Blake was extremely bright and certainly didn't need my advice. Addie, Blake and I loved CSI and I went over there a couple of times to watch it on tape with them. He and Addie would always have it figured out before I ever had a clue.
Blake and I shared hearts for adventure in God's magnificent creation.The picture of Blake posted on this sight was taken on Granite Peak (highest peak in Montana). Sam and I are next to him in the Picture. We did a stellar one day ascent of the peak on a beautiful July day. Sam and Blake are both great athletes, great husbands, and men of God. I will always think of Blake when I am out on the trail.
Last year I went on the ski trip to the Centennials with Blake but canceled this year due to illness. Like all of you I will never forget where I was when I got the phone call. I will miss you Blake, but I know that we will meet again my friend in the midst of our loving Jesus.
Please continue to pray for Addie,and Blake's family, as well as Sam and Sarah as Sam continues to recover.
Michael Plummer
Bozeman

Kathryn Tweedie
(ktweedie) - F
Condolences on 01/06/2005 13:39:48 MST Print View

My deepest sympathies in the tragic loss of a beloved husband, son, brother and friend. May God comfort you in your sorrow and may your memories sustain you.

Keli Tondre
(ktondre) - F
Sorrow, loss and hope on 01/06/2005 14:05:46 MST Print View

Sweet Blake - I will never forget one day as we sat high in the auditorium of Campus Crusade. Blake had been contemplating a decision to ask Jesus into his heart. As many of us prayed and conversed with Blake during this time, he continued to seek answers, to seek truth. I said to him, "Blake, I just want you to know, I really hope you will accept Christ into your heart." And his reply, "Really, why?"

Perhaps that was one of Blake's greatest qualities. He always asked why or how. He never settled for mediocre. That is apparent in the way he lived his life, the way he pursued the outdoors, and the way he chose his beautiful wife.

Though my heart is broken at our loss, I am so thankful that he asked "Really, why?" about Jesus. He found his answers over time. He found truth. And today, because of his persevering pursuit, he celebrates with his heavenly Father. He knows not only in part, he knows in full.

I can only say that I love you, Blake. I love you, too Addie. This baby of yours may not meet Daddy here on Earth, but one day, your child will know who we all have had the greatest blessing of knowing. We look forward to eternity… see you soon, Blake.

Amy Fink
(amypro2001) - F
remember the great things Blake did on 01/06/2005 15:02:35 MST Print View

Dear Friends, Family, and Loved Ones,

Although I knew Blake for a very brief moment in his life, I would like to express by deepest sympathy for your loss. I met Blake when he decided to share his warmth and generousity with a 2nd grade student by participating in the CAP mentoring program. I was the coordinator for the school Blake was assigned to. I'd visit with Blake and his CAP student only for a few moments each month throughout the school year. However, I remember him always greeting me with a huge smile. He always seemed like he was having the time of his life hanging out with his 2nd grade buddy! The student always expressed how much fun he had with Blake and thought Blake was the "coolest". Blake was always there for him, and was a dedicated and caring mentor.

I am so sorry for the pain your family must be going through. Please find comfort in all of the wonderful things Blake did his short time here. Sharing his day with his CAP student, gave that student stability and a safe place to talk. Blake was always a great listener and made his student feel important. I know he touched that little boy's heart.

I wish you all the strength and love you need to help ease the pain.

Sincerely, Amy Fink

Karen Taylor
(karenmurray) - F
So Sorry on 01/06/2005 15:45:01 MST Print View

Oh, Addie....Our hearts go out to you and your family. I can't even express how I feel. Only a few days ago you and Blake joined us for lunch on your way to Calgary. Blake was such a fine young man! I hurt for you, and your unborn baby. I hurt for Blake, and how it must have hurt him to leave you.
I hurt for James at the loss of his roomate & best friend as they journeyed through school together. The only condolence is that we KNOW where Blake is now. And that we will all see him again one day.
Thank you for being a wonderful wife to Blake. We love you. We are praying for you. And we hurt by your side. Take good care of yourself & that precious little one who will carry on Blake's memory.
May our God comfort you, as only He can!
Karen & Murray Taylor

Tim Thompson
(timothom) - F
'Cousin' Blake on 01/06/2005 20:23:52 MST Print View

Blake was one of those family friends of mine, more like a cousin than a friend. My first really good memory of Blake was a New Year's Eve party. He got this red GI Joe Cobra boat for Christmas, I can't remember the name of it, Hydro-something. Erin, Blake, my brother Casey, and I stayed up until the wee hours of the new year playing board games (Sorry!, I think) and getting to know each other better. I think we used to call him 'Blake-ie' back then, but I can't really remember for sure. The few times I had out at the Morstad's place always moved by too quickly.

I remember racing remote controlled cars with Blake, hauling grain with Blake, hunting deer with Blake.... He really was like a cousin to me. Blake and I were on the same wavelength, and when my parents told me he got his ME degree, I wasn't surprised one bit. I always knew he was an engineering guy. He was one of those bright blubs, it showed in everything he did. His eyes had a certain sharpness to them, calcualting and cool. In our brief times together, I don't think I ever heard him raise his quiet voice, not even once.

I don't know if our paths would have crossed again, I kind of figured they would, guess I figured wrong. I'm going to miss you, Blake. All of us who knew you will. God was with you that day, and someday, all of us will understand.

Very truly
--Timmy

David Coletta
(davecole) - F
A Godly Man on 01/06/2005 21:21:53 MST Print View

My family has been deeply saddened by the news of Blake's passing. We knew him only for a short time through Addie and her family. But even with our brief experience, Blake displayed an evident love for God and others. We are comforted by the knowledge that he has gone home to be with the Lord. Our prayers are for Addie, the baby, and the family.

David Coletta

Rees Art
(motorcycle) - F
Blake morstad on 01/07/2005 11:05:17 MST Print View

Dear Margie, Rachel and Erin
I am so sorry I am not able to attend the service tomorrrow to pay my respects to Blake, the roads and weather here are very bad. I feel honored to have known Blake better than most for a brief period of five or so years as a very young boy, and while being able to visit with him usually at least once a year when he came back to Calgary to visit his family it was easy to see what a truly unique and gifted young man he had become. Appropriate words are difficult to find describing Blakes accomplishments and character. It is obvious from all other accounts he was more mature and accomplished than people much older than himself. This is a rare attribute and one you can all feel very proud about as you go through your own journeys in life.
I wish you all peace,happiness,health and succcess in all your future endeavors, and above all my most sincere condolences for this terrible tragedy.

Mark Vandervort
(markvandervort) - F
In my prayers on 01/07/2005 16:20:10 MST Print View

I had the privilege of getting to know Blake as we both started grad school together. I was immediately impressed with the way Blake acted around others, his intelligence, and his strong faith in the Lord. He helped me and all of the other grad students studying numerous times and was always patient and kind. I feel honored to have climbed and skied with Blake a few times. His conversations let you know of his deep faith in Christ, and his love for his wife. Addie, know that Laura and I are praying for you, and that your husband was a great man who left a lasting impression on many people.

His Peace,
Mark and Laura

Bob Edwards
(zn819) - F
A Tragic Loss on 01/07/2005 19:48:01 MST Print View

To my first ever college roommate, your presence on this earth will not be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. Although we may not understand now, God must surely have a plan for you. We will meet again.

Bob Edwards

Becky Houser
(beckyhouser) - F
Skiing with Blake and Addie on 01/07/2005 20:57:45 MST Print View

When the annual Morrison Maierle ski day rolled around last winter, I was reluctant to go. My husband, Justin, convinced me to go by saying that we would be skiing with Addie and Blake, since Addie and I were at about the same skill level. I'm glad I went. Blake who was a superior skier, stuck with us, and waited for me numerous times as I was the last one to make it down. Every run, he had encouraging words and that huge smile of his.
Although, he probably wanted to ski the more challenging runs, he stuck with us showing how patient, kind, and good hearted he truly was.
Blake will be sadly missed and I feel honored to have gotten the chance to know him. In the journey of life, it will be hard to find someone as caring, kind and considrate as he was.
Our hearts go out to Blake's family, you are all in out thoughts and prayers.

With love,
Becky and Justin Houser

Michael Zieske
(mikezieske) - F
A Wonderful Person on 01/08/2005 16:19:47 MST Print View

My fondest memories of Blake are from a summer spent building fences for his dad on their ranch. Day after day, we pounded posts and strung wire. It wasn't the most exciting job, but as many others who have noted in these messages, Blake brought his "inquiring mind" to everything he did. I remember Steve saying "that'll never work," but I'd bet those corner-posts still stand today.

After falling out of touch for almost six years, I received and unexpected phone call from Blake earlier this winter. That conversation is one I'll cherish forever.

Our hearts go out to his family. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you always.

Mike Zieske

Ashley Dawson
(ashleydawson) - F
He will be missed on 01/08/2005 18:12:02 MST Print View

As Sam Kavanagh's cousin, I met Blake a couple of times at Sam and Sara's house. I remember him being so kind and friendly and an obvious representation of an amazing Christian.
I followed the helicopter to the hospital this Monday and was standing in the emergency room when Sam was brought in. When we finally got to see him, the first words out of his mouth were about Blake. It was then that I truly understood what a tragic loss this is for everyone.
I don't doubt that Addie and Blake's baby will be a living legacy of Blake and his memory will be forever told to this child.
It is hard to comprehend why Blake left so soon, but there's no question God now holds him tightly in His loving arms. My prayers and thoughts are with Addie, Blake's family, Addie's family and all of those who were touched at one time in their lives by Blake. I know he will truly be missed and forever loved.

Russell Rees
(russell_rees) - F
The little brother I had on 01/08/2005 21:41:29 MST Print View

As a teenager & in my ealry adulthood Blake was my stepbrother that was always full of energy & life. I have not talked with Blake for years & am both glad to see he accomplished so much & sad to see that he left us so tragicaly. I rememeber many times being with Blake, Erin, Rachel & Marjie for special occassions. Life is short & I am glad to see that Blake has made so much of his. I am truley sorry for your loss as a family, I wish you all the best & hope Blakes child will be as happy & outgoing as he was.

James Hamaker
(jhamaker) - F
Condolences on 01/09/2005 22:27:03 MST Print View

I met your whole party the night before we left Hellroaring Cr. tents. Despite your grueling ski in the night before, you were so full of energy, you were up before we were. We really appreciated the use of your up-tracks, though we only had time for two runs before we had to ski out.

I was surprised to see such a large party w/ such good discipline. You were staying in the trees and and exposing only one person to danger at a time.

I will remember you all as a strong, safe party who was beaten by the odds.

God Bless,
James

Zach Tondre
(ZachTondre) - F
In Memory of a Dear Friend and Brother on 01/10/2005 16:36:33 MST Print View

In Memory of a Dear Friend and Brother, Blake Morstad


As I sit down and take time to reflect upon Blake’s life, my mind and heart are filled with images and feelings of the peaceful presence that was Blake.

A cherished friend, a brother in The Faith, a wise and knowledgeable voice, a smiling face, an inquisitive and sharp mind, and one of the kindest and most sincere hearts that I have known…this is and always will be Blake Morstad.

All of my memories of my time with Blake have the common thread of his excitement and willingness to go out and enjoy the kind of adventure that is so deeply needed in the heart of a man. I could call Blake and, with a moments notice, know that he would be sure to join me on any outing and charge hard the whole time. I would always return satisfied with adventure, but even more so, with great fellowship.

The most enjoyable part of hanging out with Blake was his desire to have deep and meaningful conversation every time we were together. Blake preferred silence to small talk and he usually broke that silence with a question or comment that would cause all members of the conversation to examine the situation or themselves with more depth. Blake lived a deep and meaningful life that affected everyone around him.

Shortly after Blake and I had started hanging out, I went on a road trip with him to Canada to see his mom and sister. This trip was a trip of leisure and sight seeing that was a bit different than the trips we were usually together on. After spending hours in the car with Blake, we became much closer friends and started to hang out all of the time. We spent endless days up at Bridger bowl, riding our bikes and climbing rock. Blake was as good as a friend gets and a true man of God.

I thank God for the way that Blake’s heart was captured by a love for and faith in our Savior and God, Jesus Christ. This faith is responsible for the only peace I can find in my heart when thinking about my dear friend who has departed from us. What I wouldn’t give to be with him and talk with him one last time, but he is God’s child and for a short time we will not be seeing him. I take rest and relief in the fact that I will get to be with Blake again and for eternity. Praise God for that promise.

I will always remember Blake and his immense effect on my life. Good bye for a short time my friend.


Zach Tondre

hank young
(piuscemo) - F
the final gift on 01/11/2005 13:50:46 MST Print View

As a child my grandmother taught me" when those we love are gone forever they leave us one final gift. The wonderful memories of time shared togather."
My sincere condolences to the Family and friends of Blake.
May fond memories of him comfort you at this time.

KEVIN BOS
(bosman) - F
Living from your true heart on 01/12/2005 18:17:41 MST Print View

It really grabbed me to read this account about Blake Morstad. The reason I even read it is because I wanted further insight to BPL's views on Life, Living, and Faith. It caught me deeply to read about how friends viewed Blake. It touched me deeply because the person who did the write up wrote from the heart. I could feel it so deeply in the words written. I have been reading a phenomenal book by John Eldridge called “Waking the Dead”; another amazing book would be “Wild at Heart” (a book every man should read). “Waking the Dead” is all about discovering your true heart and living within the purpose God created you. It is when you live out of your true identity that you truly come alive. Blake was doing what he loved and gave the glory to God for all he possessed and no doubt his most important possessions were not his backpacking gear but his family and friends because he apparently made an impact on everyone in a way that built people up. The message to us in the book “Waking the Dead” is that our heart is good. In Christ we are cleansed and he has plans for a hope and a future for all of us whom he loves (Jeremiah 29:11). Tragic things happen. People close to us suffer and some just die. Just remember that God sees the other side of that. On the surface allowing Jesus ridicule and jeering and beatings unimaginable seem to make one think, where is God now? Well he's at the right hand of the father and he lives, we have an eternal washing of sins through his shed blood. God saw the other side of the equation we can take comfort in that. Blake is no doubt with our lord now. Blessings to Blake’s family and friend’s take courage and have faith.
In Him,
Kevin Bos

Margie Morstad
(MargieMorstad) - F
In Loving Memory of my son, Blake on 01/18/2005 17:48:28 MST Print View

I would like to give my deepest heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the Beaverhead SAR, the Freemont SAR, the Sheriff Dept., the pilot of the Huey Helicopter from Malmstrom Air Force Base, his crew, Ryan Jordan for such a fitting commentary of Blake, also Blake's friends who with him on that tragic day and along with several volunteers brought Blake down from the mountain for their selfless efforts, time,and energy to honor Blake in such a gentle and loving manner. May God bless us all...Margie Morstad

carolyn colpitts
(carolyn) - F
I'm so, so sorry... on 01/18/2005 22:16:13 MST Print View

I remember the day Blake came home from the Hospital! As a good friend of Margie, Blake's mom....I rushed over to see the new baby - her third child, and only son. And what a close-knit family they were - the 4 of them shared an amazing sense of humour and deep affection! I watched Blake grow from a little boy to an amazing young man. His sisters adored him, and his mom was so proud of her son - and justifiably so! What Blake accomplished in only 24 years could take the rest of us a lifetime. Margie, Rachel, and Erin - I am so, so sorry for your loss. Please know I am praying for you. And Addie, while I've never met you, you must be a very special lady - may the Lord keep you and your precious baby safely under his wing. God bless.