Valdez H20 owner Dean Cummings charged with murder

Dean Cummings, the founder of Alaska’s Valdez H20 Heli Adventures, has been charged with an open count of murder in New Mexico.

Cummings, 54, is a former U.S. Freestyle Ski Team member and winner of the 1991 Rocky Mountain Mogul Champion. The same year, he took second place at the inaugural World Extreme Skiing Championships in 1991, behind Doug Coombs. He won the event in 1995.

During his lifetime, he’s claimed more than 220 first descents, mostly in Alaska’s Chugach range, where he owned and operated Valdez H20 Heli Adventures. The operation, which started in 1995, paused operations last season.

In 2012, he claimed the Best Line Award for the first descent of Meteorite Mountain’s Dragon’s Back, the longest of the dramatic spines on the mountain off Thompson Pass.

On February 29 Cummings called 911 around 5:45 p.m. to report that he was attacked by Guillermo Arriola and shot him dead. Sandoval County Sheriff’s Deputies found Cummings outside a mobile home in San Luis, NM, and arrested him.

Cummings grew up in Los Alamos, but it is not clear why he was in New Mexico. He did tell Sandoval County deputies he was trying to buy the property where the shooting took place, and a disagreement over that sale led to the altercation. Cummings claims he shot Arriola in self-defense.

Arriola’s body was found face down inside the mobile home and a rifle was on the stairs outside. Cummings told deputies he shot Arriola after Arriola sprayed his face with a “burning chemical.”

The Chugach Mountains surrounding Valdez, Alaska have been the proving grounds for big mountain skiing and the foundation of Cummings’ The Steep Life. Since 1991 Dean has been dedicated to exploring and guiding in the Chugach and developing the protocols needed to safely access this terrain. Here is his 2015 version of “The Steep Life”.

This is sad news for the Cummings family and friends and wish the best possible outcome for everyone involved.

Source: Albuquerque Journal