"I remember one bright powder morning at Alta,Utah. I watched from inside the warm living room of our cabin as my father scooped up a handful of snow crystals, examined them with his pocket magnifying lens, and then let the snow fall from his hands. It was in the time the powder snow took to fall from his fingers and reach the ground that I saw a side of my father which transcended the science that anchored his life. He was, in that moment, reverent, as if listening to a greater voice than his senses could convey. He stood for a moment and I witnessed him encounter the world as if it were sacred. He turned from that moment, came inside and began to call the lodges to tell them that there would need to be some avalanche control work before the ski area could open." - David Randall LaChapelle, son. For the full and loving obituary by David, from where this excerpt was taken, click this link PDF.
Ed's archived professional book collection:
Ed's off-the-gridhomesite, McCarthy Alaska:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
May 31, 1926 - February 1, 2007
LaChapelle was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. Following high school at Stadium High School, he served in the Navy from 1944–1946 and then attended the University of Puget Sound, graduating in 1949 with degrees in physics and math. He then studied at the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos, Switzerland from 1950–1951, and returned to the US to work as a snow ranger for the Forest Service in Alta, Utah starting in 1952. Montgomery Atwater, who had established the first avalanche research center in the Western Hemisphere
at Alta over the preceding 7 years, said of his hew hire: "To describe
Ed LaChapelle is to write the specifications for an avalanche
researcher: graduate physicist, glaciologist with a year's study at the Avalanche Institute, skilled craftsman in the shop, expert ski mountaineer.
He even looked like a scientist, tall and slender with a slight stoop
and that remote look in his eye which means peering into one's own
mind." LaChapelle worked at Alta for the next two decades, eventually becoming head of the avalanche center. He married Mary Dolores Greenwell and they had a son Randy (later changed his name to David)
whom they homeschooled and offered a life filled with skiing, art, high
mountain adventures and a crucial blend of Ed's scientific,
mechanically oriented and inventive mind and Dolores' care for the earth
and what the field of her work would later call Deep Ecology.
They would travel with the seasons following Ed's professional work and
so they shared their time between three homes: Alta in the winter, Blue
Glacier in the summer and Kirkland the rest of the year. From 1967 to 1982, LaChapelle was professor of atmospheric sciences and geophysics at the University of Washington, and then professor emeritus
following his retirement until his death. From 1973 to 1977, he was
involved in avalanche studies at the Institute for Arctic and Alpine
Research (INSTAAR) of the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 1968, he was involved in the development of the avalanche transceiver, which has since become a standard piece of safety equipment for backcountry skiing. He also travelled extensively to do research on snowfall and glaciers in Greenland, Alaska, and notably the Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus in Washington. He retired to live with his partner, Meg Hunt, in a one-room log cabin in McCarthy, Alaska completely off the grid with solar energy systems and a garden rich diet. The homesite, Porphyry Place,
is (at the time of this update 11/2010) of interest to Wrangel St Elias
field school, Ed and Meg's long time neighbors who are raising the
money to purchase it. Ed and Meg were in Colorado to attend the memorial service of his former wife, Dolores LaChapelle, in January of 2007. They were doing what Ed liked best, skiing powder snow at Monarch Ski Area near Salida, Colorado
when he suffered a heart attack at the high altitude and very recent
loss of his dear friend Dolores. Though they were divorced for nearly 30
years, their connection and mutual support was strong. They were both
80 years old. Ed's professional library of research
became the property of his son who in turn placed the collection in the
keeping of the San Juan Historical Archive building in Silverton,
Colorado through a grant from the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies.
The collection remains on loan and is now the property of Ananda Foley,
companion and partner to Ed's son David, who passed only two and a half
years after his parent's deaths.
Books by Edward LaChapelle
- "In Memory of Ed LaChapelle". http://www.atmos.washington.edu/LaChapelle.html. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Berwyn, Bob (2007-02-01). "Avalanche Pioneer Ed LaChapelle Dies". NewWest. http://www.newwest.net/index.php/snow_blog/article/avalanche_pioneer_ed_lachapelle_dies/C458/L41/. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Berwyn, Bob (2007-02-02). "Skiing community loses a pillar". Summit Daily News. http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20070202/NEWS/102020073. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Stettler, Jeremiah (2007-02-04). "Renowned avalanche researcher dies". The Salt Lake Tribune. http://www.sltrib.com/ci_5155364. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Young, Bob (2007-02-11). "Avalanche researcher "a giant in his field"". NewWest. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003566791_lachapelleobit11m.html. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Goodwin, Stephen (2007-02-15). "Ed LaChapelle: Snow scientist and author of 'The ABC of Avalanche Safety'". The Independent. http://news.independent.co.uk/people/obituaries/article2271620.ece. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- Skoog, Lowell (2001-12-05). "Alpenglow Ski History - Edward R. LaChapelle". taped phone interview. http://www.alpenglow.org/ski-history/notes/comm/lachapelle-ed.html. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Atwater, Montgomery M. (1968). The Avalanche Hunters. Macrae Smith Company. ISBN 0825513456.
- LaChapelle, Dolores (1993). Deep Powder Snow: Forty Years of Ecstatic Skiing, Avalanches, and Earth Wisdom. Kivakí Press. ISBN 1-882308-21-2.
Date of birth 1926-05-31
Date of death
Place of death