Press "Enter" to skip to content

Deep Powder Snow by Dolores LaChapelle

Review by Ken Wright

Skiing – March 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

Deep Powder Snow – 40 Years of Ecstatic Skiing, Avalanches, and Earth Wisdom
by Dolores LaChapelle
Published in 1993 by Kivaki Press
ISBN 1-882308-21-2

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I was in Innsbruck, in the Austrian Alps. A friend and I had just arrived on an overnight train on which I had spent a long night sleeping on a dirty floor. I was tired and grouchy and wanted a place to lounge for a few days.

We were picked up at the train station by an older woman who ran a bed and breakfast in the foothills above the city. As we whipped up the switchbacks out of town, she was not very friendly. The sick-of-tourists syndrome. You know how it is.

“Where you from?” she finally managed to mumble in her heavy Germanic accent.

“The U.S.,” I answered. “Colorado.”

She glanced at me. Then she smiled at us. “Mountain people,” she said. “We are different.” She treated us like royalty for three days.

Mountain people are different. I have always agreed with that view. But why is that?

A new book from a Silverton author answers that question, at least a little. Deep Powder Snow by Dolores LaChapelle examines the relationship between mountains, lovers of mountains, and how the steep-and-deep skiing for some mountain people seals the two together.

That action can seal the two together, that is, if you’re willing to strap on your skis and throw yourself down steep, powder-laden slopes. If you’re willing to give yourself over fully, completely, freely to the force of gravity, the texture of the snow and the contours of the terrain, the land has a lot to teach you, LaChapelle says.

“I know of nothing that teaches one to live validly as quickly as powder snow,” she muses.

Subtitled “40 years of ecstatic skiing, avalanches, and earth wisdom,” this book was not written by some powder-hounding dude. This book was lived by a woman who built her long life around access to mountains and snow, and who has thought long and hard about what the mountains have told her over those years.

What have they told her? “Powder snow skiing is not fun. It’s life, fully lived, life lived in a blaze of reality,” they have said. “Powder snow cannot merely be considered a metaphor for living, but rather, skiing powder shows us how to live.”

And her response? “We’d give our lives for these San Juan Mountains. It’s not heroism, it’s just deep gratitude and respect for the privilege of being here in such luminous light and space.”

From Aspen before the glitz, to Alta before the condos, to the San Juans of today, LaChapelle takes the reader through her experiences, lessons, and learning over her many years of giving her spirit to the hills. But reading is not enough; you must experience it on your own to become a mountain person. To help you get off your duff and do that, and to be inspired on the way, Durango-based Kivaki Press has printed this book in pocket size and on heavy paper, so you can carry it in your powder jacket and pull it out on the lift or on those long walks up backcountry slopes.

Pick it up. Take it to the mountains with you. Then give yourself over to the mountains and your passage over them. LaChapelle’s book and the San Juans are both gifts to be appreciated and savored.

— Ken Wright