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Passion for outdoors led to 'dream job'

| Saturday, June 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Craig Patterson, of Park City, Utah, died Thursday, April 11, 2013, in a tragic avalanche accident in Big Cottonwood Canyon, while working for the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).

Whether he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, skiing in South America or scaling the summit of Mt. McKinley in Alaska, Craig Patterson loved the outdoors and the life of an adventurer.

His passions eventually led to a “dream job” seven years ago as an avalanche forecaster for the Utah Department of Transportation, his mother said.

“He knew there were risks involved, but he accepted them,” said Donna Patterson of Franklin Park.

Craig Patterson of Park City, Utah, died in an avalanche on Thursday, April 11, 2013, while gauging snow conditions on a mountain slope above the Big Cottonwood Canyon highway outside Salt Lake City. He was 34.

A 1997 graduate of North Allegheny High School, Mr. Patterson attended Miami University of Ohio, where he graduated with a degree in geology in 2001.

Mr. Patterson moved to Alaska to work as an avalanche instructor and guide, where he met his wife. The couple moved to Utah, where Mr. Patterson worked as a mountain guide and for a manufacturer of climbing and skiing equipment until landing a job with the state's transportation department.

Mr. Patterson also taught avalanche education classes for Utah Mountain Adventures, a private company that provides guides and instruction for people interested in rock climbing, skiing and other outdoor activities.

Patterson said her son began to “fall in love” with skiing and outdoor adventures when the family moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, for her husband's job with Alcoa.

“Craig was 4 years old and learned to ski there,” his mother said. “When we moved back to the Pittsburgh area during junior high, he loved going on school bus trips to ski at Seven Springs and to the different places his dad took him to go skiing.”

Mr. Patterson's love for outdoor adventure was surpassed only by his devotion to his family and friends, his mother said.

“He was a great husband and father,” she said. “And he touched so many lives with his friendship. It was amazing to see the hundreds of people who attended a memorial that was held in Utah after Craig died.”

Mr. Patterson is survived by his wife, Renae, and their daughter, Kaya, 6, of Park City, Utah; his parents, Lewis and Donna Patterson of Franklin Park; and a sister, Lauren Ralph of Delmar, N.Y.

A Mass will be celebrated for Mr. Patterson at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 22, at SS. John and Paul Catholic Church on Wexford Bayne Road in Franklin Park. A memorial service will follow at 10:30 a.m. in the parish hall.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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