[UPDATE: Arne's obituary on ESPN can be found here.]
According to sources close to the family, freeskier Arne Backstrom, younger brother of Ingrid Backstrom, passed away on June 3 after a fall in Peru. Backstrom was on a ski mountaineering trip with Sweetgrass Productions when the accident took place. He was 29.
Backstrom and his team were in South America to attempt a descent of the southeast face of Artesonraju, a 5,999 meter peak in Peru's Cordillera Blanca region. The accident, however, took place during an acclimation day on a smaller sub-peak, reports Powder Magazine. On the trip were Arne, Kip Garre, Dave Rosenbarger and Jamie Laidlaw -- all experienced ski mountaineers.
A Patagonia Ambassador and a rising star on the competitive big mountain scene, Backstrom had gained momentum this past season with a number of breakout performances in contests and on camera. In addition to winning the McConkey Cup and becoming the '09/10 Freeskiing World Tour champion, he filmed his second straight segment with Warren Miller Entertainment and a part with Matchstick Productions. Backstrom also made a name for himself in the world of ski mountaineering. In April of 2009, he visited Chamonix and successfully descended the fabled Mallory Couloir, a giant ice-climbing route under the Aguille du Midi that almost never gets skied, and the Himalayan Face, an 11,066-foot run off the west face of Mont Blanc.
Backstrom's parents, Steve and Betsy, spent decades as volunteer ski patrollers at Washington's Crystal Mountain. Growing up, Arne raced for the same alpine club that produced World Cup racers Scott Macartney, Libby Ludlow, Tatum Skoglund and Paul McDonald. Said Olympic champion Phil Mahre, watching a young Arne on the race course: "That kid's got a great feel. You can't teach that."
Backstrom went on to attend Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., where he majored in chemistry and excelled on the ski team. He worked briefly as a rep for Volkl/Tecnica after graduation before moving to Squaw Valley in August 2006 to join his sister Ingrid and younger brother Ralph, who is a professional snowboarder.
Said Keith Carlsen, Visual Media Director for Mountain Sports International: "Arne's talents as a skier were only surpassed by his incredible persona. He was a humble, quiet, caring and compaassionate man. This season he proved that he was a force to be reckoned with, winning not only the Canadian Freeskiing Championships in Revelstoke but also the coveted Backcountry.com Sickbird Award. Soft spoken and humble to a fault, Arne was an incredible ambassardor to the sport, always willing to take part in promotional endevors that would further skiing as a whole."