Alta’s first season in nearly 50 years without ski legend David Van Dame, who has died aged 74


Van Dame was given the nickname ‘The Farmer’ due to the tracks he plugged in the snow while skiing.

(Alta Ski Area) David Van Dame, nicknamed ‘The Farmer’, died in October after skiing in a nearly 50-year career at Alta.

On November 24, legendary skier David Van Dame made his final lift to Alta.

It will be the 74-year-old’s 49th season at the ski area. But he passed away on October 17 after a battle with cancer, more than a month before his winter cottage opened for the season. In his honor, Van Dame’s loved ones sent his ski pass to Alta’s first seat of the season on opening day.

“He was always a quiet guy, really a strong presence there,” said Brandon Ott, Marketing Manager at Alta Ski, who first met Van Dame in 2001, , who first met Van Dame in 2001. “Basically, Dave had his first songs this year.”

The Legend of ‘Farmer Dave’

Van Dame is a recognizable figure in Alta – and it’s not just because of the signature ice beard he exudes from skiing without the buff.

During his nearly 50 years of skiing at Alta, Van Dame was nicknamed ‘Farmer Dave’, because he would ‘farm’ S-shaped tracks in the snow as he slid down. He has become such an icon to the ski community that Alta Ski Area even produced a documentary about him in February.

“He will always slide in the same straight line, just below the left,” said Evan Thayer, a forecaster at OpenSnow who runs the Wasatch Snow Forecast.

“We would pass him when he passed us, and we would always shout his name when he went under,” Thayer continued. “In the end, he was always like, ‘I wish you would please stop shouting my name,’ … He was afraid he was going to crash and crash because people were watching.”

Van Dame first discovered his passion for skiing in Delaware, where he met his wife, Kathy. The two moved to Utah the day after they were married in September 1973, after he learned Alta was the place for ski powder.

“We both love Utah,” Kathy said. “I still love Utah – the mountains and the people. And it’s been a privilege to be in Utah, and I’m so grateful to still be here. And David is very grateful for the opportunities we have. ”

In addition to skiing, David and Kathy have spent many years traveling around the country and around the world. In the late 70s, David even bought and modified his own truck, the pair traveled all over Canada and the US to Central America. The car is still running after 350,000 miles.

“I really enjoyed traveling with him the most because that way we spent time together and explored together,” says Kathy. “When we travel, we are really in each other’s company. And that’s what I love the most. ”

Van Dame’s friends say he approaches life the best way because he knows what he likes and makes it a priority. After a career in industrial technology, Van Dame retired at the age of 39.

A few years later, the couple moved into an apartment near the bus route up the mountain to Alta.

“I got past Alta for the first time 47 years ago. Most of the time, I can ski any day of the week because of the way I design my life,” Van Dame said in the Alta-produced documentary. “There’s an old saying: no waste, no want – and that allows me to trade time working for time playing.”

(Alta Ski Area) David Van Dame slides down a slope at Alta Ski Area.

Wearing his favorite faded red jacket, Van Dame takes the bus every day to Alta, bringing his old gear – which Kathy says he modified himself – and the occasional avocado sandwich peanuts, stuffed in his pocket to snack on on flour days.

“Somehow, he was immune to all the normal pressures of the world and life and the bad things of everyday life,” says Ott. “And he realized that he traveled a lot in the summer and then skied a lot in the winter. By simplifying everything else in his life, he was able to clean up the mess and do what he loved. ”

Even up until last year’s ski season, Van Dame was “skiing as easily as anyone,” says Ott. He first met Van Dame in 2001, when Ott was an elevator operator working on Van Dame’s favorite elevator: an old double chair with access to some of the area’s best terrain. .

On November 3, three weeks before Alta Ski Area officially opened for the season, Thayer and a few other Van Dame friends visited The Farmer’s favorite run. The group hiked in the snow with their gear and skied Van Dame’s signature tracks downhill.

“If you’re in Alta, you know who he is, because he’s been there, day in, day out, actually more than 48 years,” Ott said. “People describe him as the most Alta-like of all the skiers – you know, the old-school kind of nature and just there for the mountain.” Alta’s first season in nearly 50 years without ski legend David Van Dame, who has died aged 74

Yasmin Harisha

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