Ed and Doris Lachapelle, avalanche expert and writer

Passing Date: 
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ed and Dolores LaChapelle, Backcountry Pioneers

Ed LaChapelle, an avalanche expert known for his ground-breaking research in snow safety, and his former wife Dolores LaChapelle—ecologist, teacher, scholar, ski pioneer, and writer—lived lives of energy, curiosity, and example.

Dolores died on January 21, 2007 at the age of 80 at her home in Silverton, Colorado. Ed, to whom she had been formerly married, followed Dolores in death after suffering a heart attack while skiing at Monarch, Colorado, on February 8, 2007

Ed Chapelle was a snow-science expert and part of the pioneering crew of Forest Service snow rangers at Alta, Utah, who laid the groundwork for ski area avalanche-control programs. Born in 1926 in Tacoma, Washington, he started his career at the Swiss Avalanche Institute in 1950 and served as a Forest Service snow ranger at Alta from 1952 to 1972. He joined the faculty of the University of Washington in 1967 and retired as Professor Emeritus of Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences in 1982. From 1973 to 1977 he was involved in avalanche studies at the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado.

The author of The ABCs of Avalanche Safety (which was to become a mandatory pocket-size manual for backcountry skiers), Ed also helped shepherd the development of another ground-breaking innovation, the avalanche transceiver. The radio transmitter/locator became the primary avalanche search beacon for many years.

Dolores LaChapelle was a lifelong mountaineer (she made the first ski ascent of Canada’s Mt. Columbia in 1950), skier (she taught skiing in Aspen in the late 1940s and became known for her legendary powder skiing), Tai Chi teacher, a proponent of Deep Ecology (a philosophy which teaches the virtue of all living creatures) and writer. Her books, seven in all, included Earth Wisdom, Deep Powder Snow, Earth Festivals, and Sacred Land, Sacred Sex: Rapture of the Deep.

Dolores was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but grew up in Denver. She began climbing mountains as a teenager, scaling all 52 Colorado Fourteeners by the time she turned 21. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Denver University in 1947, she taught skiing at Aspen, then married and moved with husband Ed to Alta, where she she made the first known ski descent of Alta’s Baldy Chute. She later moved to Silverton, where she directed the Way of the Mountain Learning Center, counseling others on the spirituality of mountains and powder skiing. —Combined Sources 

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