Alaska News

Mother remembers North Pole snowmachiner killed in avalanche

The mother of a North Pole woman who died Sunday in an avalanche in the Summit Lake area said her daughter was a trained and safe snowmachiner.

The avalanche that killed 25-year-old Claire Sundgren was a "horrid accident," said mother Billie Tewalt.

"She was a good rider, took avalanche classes, had avalanche gear and was safe," Tewalt said.

Alaska State Troopers said in a dispatch that the avalanche was reported around 3 p.m. Sunday. The fatal incident happened the day before the annual Arctic Man Classic snowmachine event was to open nearby.

"Bystanders were eventually able to dig Sundgren out and CPR was attempted, but she was not able to be revived," troopers wrote.

"AST, (the) Fort Greely Fire Department and Delta Medical responded to retrieve the body, which will be sent to the state medical examiner," troopers wrote.

Troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain said in an email the slide that killed Sundgren reportedly occurred at about 2:30 p.m.

"A witness reported that (Sundgren) was parked on a snowmachine at the base of a hill when another snowmachine went up the hill and triggered an avalanche," DeSpain wrote. "The other rider was able to escape the avalanche."


Sundgren leaves behind two boys, ages 7 and 8, and a boyfriend described as the love of her life.

She was recreating with family and friends near Summit Lake and planned to attend Arctic Man on starting day, her mother said.

Tewalt was returning to the North Pole from Fairbanks, the area where her daughter was born and raised, with the two boys when they decided to call Sundgren.

"It was a glorious day and she was having a blast," Tewalt said. "The kids and Claire said they loved each other. So, it's amazing that, as a mom and as their grandmother, her last thoughts and words to us were that she loved us."

Sundgren was a "badass" who gravitated toward things like snowmachines and stock car racing at the Mitchell Raceway in Fairbanks, Tewalt said. Despite standing 5-feet-3-inches tall, Sundgren operated a 600 Arctic Cat sled and could high mark alongside her fellow riders, she said.

Family friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral expenses and to help Sundgren's boys.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.