Aspen’s Chris Davenport, Dave Stapleton to be inducted into the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame in Vail
A former history major at the University of Colorado, Chris Davenport has long had a fascination with the past. And when it comes to ski history, there isn’t a place that holds his attention like Aspen.
“People on the hill don’t realize that people 30, 40, 50 years ago shredded these same slopes and made a big impact on the sport of skiing, which has got us to where we are today,” Davenport said in an interview with The Aspen Times earlier this week. “They paved the way and we just improved upon or utilized the vision they had to create a foundation for our own vision in the mountains.”
Davenport, a former ski racer from New Hampshire-turned big-mountain ski icon, was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2014. Saturday in Vail, he’ll add to his legacy by being one of five inducted into the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame for the Class of 2017. Among the five inductees is Aspen’s Dave Stapleton.
Stapleton, part of a multi-generational Aspen family, is receiving the organization’s “Pioneer Award,” which goes to “an individual that has given the majority of his life to the ski industry, that has made significant contributions and is now retired from active participation,” said John Dakin, vice president of communications for the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame.
Stapleton, who moved to Grand Junction in 2015 to get away from Aspen’s high elevation for health reasons, is largely being recognized for his time as a race official and for his work in ski-racer safety. On top of working in some capacity for every Aspen World Cup race from 1968 to 1991, Stapleton served as the women’s downhill chief of course at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and for the pre-Olympic event at the 1988 Games in Calgary.
“My parents would tell me the reason they started me on skiing was because I was born bowlegged and pigeon-toed,” Stapleton joked. “It’s a pretty humbling situation, as a matter of fact. I never thought anything about it.”
Unlike Stapleton, Davenport didn’t find his way to Aspen until after college. His first winter in the Roaring Fork Valley was in 1993-94, where he began work with Snowmass’s ski-racing department. His first major breakthrough as a big-mountain ski star came in 1996, when he won the World Extreme Skiing Championship in Alaska.
It was at a congratulatory party back in Aspen following his world title when the significance of his win hit home.
“The main focus of the minute or so that I talked was thanking all of those skiers and people in Aspen who came before me and sort of paved the way for Aspen to be this place where people can achieve their dreams,” Davenport said. “I felt all of a sudden woven into that landscape of Aspen skiing history. … It’s like I’ve got a little bit of a seat at the table in the history of Aspen skiing. That’s what was really cool.”
Davenport’s accomplishments are well-noted, such as becoming the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in less than one year as well as skiing Mount Everest. But what he wants to be remembered for is his desire to give back to the sport, especially when it comes to fighting climate change and making sure skiing is affordable for everyone.
Davenport, 46, has three sons, ages 16, 14 and 9, all of whom went through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. He has long helped raise funds for the AVSC and works with many other organizations, such as Protect Our Winters and the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education.
Then there is Aspen and its people, who have greatly influenced his journey to the hall of fame.
“Aspen is legitimately one of the greatest ski communities in the world. I think that’s something we all take pride in and I hope we can all maintain in this day and age of corporate takeovers and commercialism,” Davenport said. “When I’m 90 years old and taking my last runs, the things I’m going to be most proud about are the impacts I had with climate change and with keeping skiing affordable.”
Davenport said he has no intentions of slowing down. He has a full winter season planned, which includes guiding trips in Japan, spending time in Alaska in the spring, and working the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. He also has a yet-to-be-announced ski mountaineering project where he will try to “ski some high peaks on a certain continent.”
Saturday’s hall of fame induction ceremony takes place at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort. Joining Davenport and Stapleton in this year’s class are Vail’s Diane Boyer, former U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association National Competition Director Walt Evans, and recently retired Steamboat Ski Resort President Chris Diamond.
Since the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame’s inception in 1977, 224 people have been inducted, including this year’s class.
“What Chris has done through his fourteeners project and all the backcountry advocacy is really very special,” Dakin said.
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The steep Jail Trail that leads into downtown Aspen is getting a better grade to address safety concerns and make it easier for people to use.