Editor’s Note: The following is part of a series of articles compiled by the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame that will take a closer look at the sport of downhill ski touring. The museum sits atop the Vail Village parking structure and features a treasure trove of skiing history and heritage.
When Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame member Lou Dawson planted his poles and took off from Colorado’s 14,165-foot Kit Carson Peak on May 9, 1991, he began a race that would culminate in the one of the greatest achievements of American ski mountaineering. the story. With his successful Kit Carson ski climb and descent, he became the first person to climb and ski from the summit of the state’s 54 14,000-foot peaks.
It was a project that began in 1978 with a 14,265-foot descent from Castle Peak. Along the way, Dawson’s quest has been filled with both successes and failures, including fatal injuries from avalanches as well as first or second descents of extremely technical routes over mountains such as Pyramid Peak. , Capitol Peak, Crestone Needle and the Maroon Bells, which seemed to be practically inskiable at first.
Aside from the fact that Dawson never envisioned bagging all 54 peaks within a set amount of time, another reason it took him almost 13 years to complete his feat was the fact that he was forced to make several attempts on various peaks due to unsatisfactory snow. conditions, promising to ski from the top and ski the longest line of snow available in a normal year.
Unsurprisingly, some 16 years later, the Carbondale resident would also play a role in the next big chapter in Colorado winter history. Three years after his historic achievement, he published “Dawson’s Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners,” a comprehensive year-round guide to the state’s 14,000-foot peaks, including snow climbs, routes techniques, ski descents and classic hikes.
Enter a young and enthusiastic Chris Davenport. Shortly after arriving in Boulder from New Hampshire to study at the University of Colorado, he was exploring a mountaineering shop and came across the Dawson Guides. At the time, Davenport was a promising alpine racer who dreamed of being able to make a career in skiing. He immediately fell in love with the book.
It was Shane McConkey who proved to be the next guiding force in leading Davenport’s career. âDavâ had moved to Aspen in 1993 and was working in the Snowmass racing department when McConkey called with an invitation to join him at the American Extreme Championships at Crested Butte.
Although he had never heard of the event, Davenport accepted the invitation. Coming back from competition, he couldn’t wait for the next event. His career turning point came in 1996, winning the World Extreme Championships in Alaska.
Fast forward to summer 2005. The idea to climb and ski all fourteen Colorado in a single year came to Davenport on a mountain bike ride. In his mid-thirties, he felt he was nearing the traditional âendâ of his professional skier career and was looking for the ultimate encore.
Between January 22, 2006 and January 19, 2007, Davenport made ski history in Colorado, . By his estimate, he logged over 200,000 vertical feet of climbing and skiing, without avalanches or serious injuries. Only one mountain, Long’s Peak, forced him to retreat for a second attempt.
âMother Nature deserves the most thanks,â Davenport said. âThese peaks would never be skiable without the abundant snow and the good weather that we had. Lou Dawson was a huge inspiration for me on this project.
âI think what Chris has done is not only an amazing and inspiring athletic achievement, but the way he goes about sharing it and making it accessible to everyone is wonderful,â Dawson told Denver. Post.
Davenport has too and skied the adjacent face of Lhotse. He’s skied Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, is a two-time extreme ski world champion and Winter X Games medalist, while also ticking Colorado’s 100 highest peaks from his bucket list. Dawson remains intimately connected with ski touring and mountaineering through his work with Wildsnow.com, the ski touring blog.
Ironically, the Aspen region is home to four men and the first woman to accomplish the feat: Dawson, Davenport, Jordan White, Ted Mahon, and Christy Mahon. Christy became the first woman to climb and ski All Fourteen of Colorado in 2010.