Avalanche victim remembered as adventurer
When Brian Jones and his sister were thumbing through photos recently taken during a family gathering at his house, they noticed that none contained their brother, Stephen, who was also there.
"My sister didn’t have any pictures of him because he kept disappearing and would slip downstairs where all the kids were playing," Jones said in an interview with The Park Record. "He would just go down there to goof-off and tease them.
"It’s a strange memory to have of him not being there because he was, but he was playing," Jones said, before quickly adding that it’s how his older brother was: "always playing and always teasing."
A life lost in the backcountry
The body of Stephen Jones, of Wanship, was discovered Tuesday in the backcountry outside the boundary of Park City Mountain Resort in an area known as Shale Shot, near Murdock Peak.
Stephen had been missing since Sunday after his family reported that he failed to return home from a day of skiing. His truck was found still parked in the Cabriolet parking lot at Canyons Village.
Summit County Search and Rescue volunteers, aided by Park City Mountain Resort ski patrol, AirMed and Life Flight crews, spent more than a day combing the area where his cell phone had last pinged. Despite a strong-showing of volunteers, authorities declined their assistance due to the hazardous weather and terrain.
Stephen was found under three feet of snow during a probe-line search after a rescue beacon picked up the signal from his avalanche beacon. According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, an avalanche about 40-feet wide and 300-feet long appeared to have swept him down the hill.
The 50-year-old, long-haired athlete and lifelong Utahn relished in the outdoors, consistently pushing his body to its brink with skiing, backpacking and long-distance running, his brother said.
Stephen’s Facebook page contained several photos from running events, including one from September where he brags about competing two endurance races, covering more than 200 miles each. Another photo he captioned, "My chest was about to explode and I was about to blackout, but I was done. Done at last until next year."
"He would run 200-mile races in the mountains with thousands of feet worth of elevation gains when he wasn’t skiing," Jones said. "He was in incredible shape and incredibly skilled."
Growing up in Provo, Stephen led a lifestyle that constantly revolved around the outdoors.
"My dad took us backpacking a lot growing up and that was something that my dad did with the family and some of us really embraced it and have kept doing it more than others," Jones said. "He loves Utah and has covered almost every inch of it. From backpacking to skiing to running, he spent his whole life here."
‘If he did anything, he did it fully’
Like his attitude with sports, Stephen had the same approach toward other aspects of his life: he gave it his all. He taught himself how to work with computers in the early 1980s and was a software engineer until his death. He helped build his home in Wanship and recently built a bobsled run on his property.
"He was all in with everything," Jones said. "He wasn’t the kind of person who did everything, like he didn’t stick his nose everywhere, but where he did decide to go or do or say or talk about, he did it comprehensively whether it was his work, with topics of conversation, activities, his family or kids."
Stephen’s world revolved around his family, especially his two young children and wife of more than 20 years, Jones said.
"Just a few weeks ago, Stephen invited all the kids and siblings over because he had dug out that big bobsledding run," Jones said. "Actually when I was looking through my photos of when we went sledding I don’t have a single one of him in it either. I got pictures of everyone, but he never went sledding. He was too busy building the track and heating up the hot chocolate and getting stuff so other people could have fun. He was always behind the scenes."
Support continues to roll in
Less than a day after Stephen’s death was confirmed, Jones started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising money to help Stephen’s family pay for the funeral and cover day-to-day expenses.
Jones set the original target at $25,000, but the donations quickly surpassed that amount. As of Friday at around 1 p.m., $36,585 had been raised from more than 300 donors. Jones increased the goal to $40,000.
"It’s been amazing to see the support and the number of people, even strangers, who have reached out and tried to help. This is the best thing for me to see right now," Jones said. "We want her (Stephen’s wife) to be able to focus on her kids, rebuilding and even have the space for her to grieve. As long as we can prolong that, it’s what we want to do."
On the page, Stephen is described as adventurous, outgoing and "completely devoted to his family."
Candice Burt, a race director for one of the events Stephen competed in, wrote on the page, "I have received condolences from around the world. I do hope that Stephen’s family knows that he had a positive and lasting influence on countless people from all over the world."
She wrote, "In the name of the Stephen we knew, who loved every moment on the trail, both the highs and lows and most of all, the man who loved seeing others succeed all around him and who inspired all with his super-human feats of endurance."
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Midway Town Hall. Visiting hours will be from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the service from 11 a.m. to noon, according to the GoFundMe page. It says the family will receive visitors at the Probst Family Funeral Home, 79 East Main St, in Midway, Thursday, Feb. 11, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Interment will be at the Heber City Cemetery following the services.
To donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/StephenJones50.
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A public hearing regarding Summit County’s $50 million open space bond is scheduled Wednesday in Coalville. Officials hope to hear from those who live on the East Side.