January 31, 2007
Dolores LaChapelle, ecologist, ski pioneer, teacher and writer, died at 80 on Sunday, Jan. 21, in Silverton.Dolores was born July 4, 1926, and began climbing mountains as a teenager in the Colorado Mountain Club, and had climbed all the original 52 Colorado fourteeners by the time she was 21. She began skiing in the 1940s on a pair of Army surplus, 7-foot-long hickory skis, hitchhiking rides up Loveland Pass in passing trucks for the thrill of skiing untracked powder. From 1947 to 1950 she was a schoolteacher and ski instructor in Aspen. In 1950, she made the first ski ascent of Mount Columbia, the second-highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. That same year she made the first ski ascent of Snowdome, the hydrographic apex of the continent.After marrying snow scientist and avalanche expert Ed LaChapelle, she moved to Alta, Utah, where she became known for her powder skiing and various first ski descents in the area. Dolores is featured in two films, “The Greatest Snow on Earth: Utah’s Skiing Story,” filmed by Shawn Emery, and “Spirit of Snow,” filmed by Dave O’Leske.Dolores was the daughter of a Kentucky farmer with barely an eighth-grade education who brought his family to Denver while serving in the Army. Dolores was a voracious “answer seeker” and lifelong teacher; she became known as one of the country’s leading deep ecologists, a branch of philosophy that recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings and views human beings as just one particular strand in the web of life. Her books include “Earth Wisdom”; “D.H. Lawrence: Future Primitive”; “Deep Powder Snow: 40 Years of Ecstatic Skiing, Avalanches and Earth Wisdom”; “Sacred Land Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep: Concerning Deep Ecology and Celebrating Life”; and “Earth Festivals: Seasonal Celebrations for Everyone Young and Old.” Dolores was a frequent speaker at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies summer workshops on deep ecology.Dolores is survived by her son David LaChapelle of Hawaii and ex-husband Ed LaChapelle of Alaska; sisters Patricia Hubbard of Cortez, Adrienne (Paul) Bergstrom of Golden, and nine nieces and nephews, including Alice Hubbard Laird and family of Carbondale.