Whitefish community strengthens during difficult time - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Whitefish community strengthens during difficult time

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WHITEFISH - Monday marked the ninth day since the search began for missing backcountry skier, Doctor Jon Torgerson.

Search efforts were put on hold Monday morning after nine straight days of tracking in the suspected area. The Flathead County Sheriff's Office made the decision due to group fatigue and hazardous conditions. 

As progress has been hard to make up on the mountain, community members continue to do all they can in town to make a rare and difficult situation a little less hard on the family.

A tree in Depot Park was designated last week to hang letters, notes, thanks and prayers to Jon and his family. Valerie Kneeland who works closely with the Torgerson’s set up the tree and the supplies.

“It’s turned into such an amazing and overwhelming show of support and love for a family that truly has meant so much to our community for so long,” said Kneeland. 

Kneeland also talked with MTN News about how involved Jon and his wife Sara are in the Powdered Soul organization that provides youth community members with connections, opportunities and funds to help them be successful in whatever they want to pursue.

Kneeland saw Torgerson’s passion for community growth in the work he did with the youth.

“You’re not going to find anyone who doesn’t describe him as an amazing physician that went above and beyond for his patients, not out of a sense of responsibility but because he truly cared about his patients, he truly cared about this community, he cared about the future of the community,” Kneeland said.

Kneeland says although ski communities are aware that these dangers do exist in the backcountry, it has been a wake-up call to many locals who know Jon.

“I’ve heard from multiple people who have sat down and said 'gosh that could have been me. I could drive up to the mountain today and get in a car accident. What do I need to change in my life, I want to be more like Jon'. And that, I think, is such an amazing sign of a life well lived,” said Kneeland.

Folks looking to donate food or resources can stop by American Bank in Whitefish.

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