Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
Louis (Lou) Dawson II
One of the world’s foremost experts on ski mountaineering, Lou Dawson is an inspiration and guiding light in backcountry skiing. Growing up in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado, surrounded by the Elk Mountains, Lou climbed his first peak at the age of nine and began skiing at an early age. Over time his passion for the mountains as well as his love for the sport of skiing would continue to grow and come together.
In 1978, with a ski decent of 14,265 foot Castle Peak, Lou began an odyssey few had ever thought possible; to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains (fourteeners). After many years of well planned ski descents (including numerous first ski descents), Lou was one peak away from his goal. Finally, on May 9, 1991, with a 16 mile, 16 hour ascent and ski of Kit Carson Peak, Lou became the only person to ski all of Colorado’s Fourteeners, a feat that still goes unrepeated as of 2005.
This thirteen year skiing and climbing quest included both setbacks and tremendous successes, including first or second descents of extremely technical routes on Colorado fourteeners such as Pyramid Peak, Capitol Peak, and The Maroon Bells, which appear virtually unskiable at first. While a stunning accomplishment, this milestone in Colorado’s ski history is only a small part of Lou’s legacy.
Lou’s ski accomplishments go beyond climbing and skiing mountains. In the 1970s he pioneered a high ski traverse route through the Elk Mountains of central Colorado, and in 2001 he 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.
Not only an expert backcountry skier but an accomplished author as well, Lou has dedicated his life to helping others enjoy Colorado’s backcountry through his writing. His published work includes numerous magazine articles that cover the experience of backcountry skiing, as well as the sport’s equipment. More, since the beginning of the Internet Lou has contributed to numerous websites and online forums, and publishes a popular website that makes a large contribution to general knowledge of the sport.
Lou’s first book, Colorado High Routes, was published over two decades ago and was the first detailed guidebook for Colorado ski mountaineering. It received several printings, and was recently re-editioned as Dawson’s Guide to Colorado Backcountry Skiing. His most stunning literary contribution to skiing is Wild Snow, a History of North American Ski Mountaineering. This was the first book published to extensively cover the history of ski mountaineering in North America, and helped transition the sport into the mainstream skiing public. Lou’s other titles include Colorado 10th Mountain Trails, and Dawson’s Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners, a two volume guidebook to Colorado's most spectacular peaks that was the first guidebook to include information about skiing the fourteeners.
Louis Dawson’s devotion to mountaineering, accomplishments as a ski alpinist and generosity with his knowledge have inspired many to explore and enjoy the mountains of Colorado.