Lou Dawson: First in Fourteeners – and then some | VailDaily.com

Lou Dawson: First in Fourteeners – and then some

Alex Miller

Special to the Daily Lou Dawson in his natural element: Making turns far from the lift-served resorts.

VAIL – When most people speak of climbing one, some or all of Colorado’s Fourteeners, they’re generally not talking about skiing down them as well. But for Lou Dawson, climbing the lofty peaks is simply a way to get in one heck of a run from the top.Dawson, considered one of the world’s top ski mountaineers, will be the first of his kind inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame this Saturday.

Mike Marolt, an Aspen accountant who’s also a ski mountaineer, said he discussed promoting Dawson for the Hall with his father before he died. “We said we thought we should get some ski mountaineers in there,” Marolt said. “Lou came to mind.”While others have followed in Dawson’s footsteps, no one has yet repeated his feat of skiing all 54 Fourteeners. “Having skied a lot of those peaks myself, it’s hard to comprehend skiing them all,” Marolt said.

Dawson began his Fourteener odyssey in 1978 with a ski descent of Castle Peak, 14,265 feet. He finished in 1991 with a 16-hour ascent and ski of Kit Carson Peak. In the process, he nailed first and second descents of some extremely technical routes on mountains such as Pyramid Peak, Capitol Peak and Maroon Bells – which some thought were unskiable.And, most importantly, he did it safely, Marolt said.”He’s proven you can go out there and have fun, cool adventures and keep your priorities straight,” he said. “He’s made mistakes but he learns from them; he’s very wise.”

Marolt also pointed to the fact that Dawson remained in the Roaring Fork Valley, living the life many dream of and supporting his family in the process.In addition to his accomplishment skiing Fourteeners, Dawson has advanced the sport of ski mountaineering by penning several books. His first one, “Colorado High Routes,” was the first guidebook to climbing and skiing Colorado’s mountains. Reprinted several times and renamed “Dawson’s Guide to Colorado Backcountry Skiing,” the book is standard issue for aspiring ski mountaineers.Other books by Dawson include “Colorado 10th Mountain Trails” and “Dawson’s Guide To Colorado’s Fourteeners” – the first to detail how to ski the state’s highest peaks. Dawson has also contributed articles on backcountry skiing and equipment to a number of magazines, and he also publishes a popular Web site – wildsnow.com.

Along with his other accomplishments, in 2001 Dawson researched and led a historical re-creation of the famed 1944 10th Mountain Division ski traverse from Leadville to Aspen – now known as the Trooper Traverse. In the 1970s, he pioneered another high ski traverse through the Elk Mountains.Marolt said Dawson’s contribution to Colorado skiing is clear.”He’s the first ski mountaineer, outside the 10th Mountain Division,” he said. “More impressive than his skiing and climbing is that he’s a great guy, a great dad and husband.”

Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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