Michel Trudeau Killed by Avalanche in 1998

Aerial view of the Kokanee Glacier and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
Colin Payne / Getty Images

Michel Trudeau, the 23-year-old son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Kemper and younger brother of current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was killed by an avalanche in British Columbia's Kokanee Glacier Park on November 13, 1998.

Three other skiers also present on the slopes were rescued by a national park service helicopter from the provincial park in the wilderness area northeast of Nelson, B.C., where the young Trudeau was presumed to have been pushed off the ski trail by the avalanche and swept down into Kokanee Lake, where he was believed to have drowned.

A private memorial service for family and friends was held on Friday, November 20, 1998, in Outremont, Quebec, though his body was never recovered from the lake.

After the Incident

Nearly ten months after the avalanche that killed Michel Trudeau, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) sent a dive team into Kokanee Lake to search for his body, but a long winter, cold summer, and snow in the Rockies hampered search efforts.

Before beginning the search, the R.C.M.P. cautioned that it was possible young Trudeau's body may never be found because divers could only go down to a depth of 30 meters (about 100 feet) while the lake is 91 meters (close to 300 feet) deep at its center.

After nearly a month of searching — largely due to the limited number of days of open waters on the lake and the high altitude that prevented deep diving — Trudeau's family called off the search without recovering the body and later erected a chalet nearby as a memorial to Michel.

More About Michel

Nicknamed Miche by Fidel Castro (of all people) during a visit with his grandparents to Cuba in 1976, Michel Trudeau was born only four months before on October 2, 1975, in Ottawa, Ontario. Upon retiring from politics, Michel's father Pierre moved the family to Montreal, Quebec, where the 9-year-old Michel would spend the rest of his childhood.

Michel attended the Collége Jean-de-Brébeuf before pursuing a graduate degree in microbiology at Nova Scotia's Dalhousie University. At the time of his death, Michel had been working at a mountain resort in Rossland, British Columbia for about a year. 

On November 13, 1998, Michel and three friends set out on a backcountry skiing trip in the Kokanee Glacier Park, but the avalanche separated the group from Michel as he was swept downhill into the lake. 

After his death, a newly discovered varietal of rose was named after him, dubbed the "Michel Trudeau Memorial Rosebush," with proceeds from sales of the new flower benefitting the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, which helps survivors and victims of Canada's many avalanches recover after getting caught in one of nature's most destructive natural disasters.

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Munroe, Susan. "Michel Trudeau Killed by Avalanche in 1998." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/michel-trudeau-killed-511246. Munroe, Susan. (2020, August 28). Michel Trudeau Killed by Avalanche in 1998. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/michel-trudeau-killed-511246 Munroe, Susan. "Michel Trudeau Killed by Avalanche in 1998." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/michel-trudeau-killed-511246 (accessed March 25, 2023).