December 31, 1957
THE LIFE OF DOUG COOMBS READS LIKE THE RESUME of five people, but he lived his life simply and with deep joy and great energy. He lived to be in the mountains and always had a ready, toothy smile when he talked about them. He once said in an interview, "The Mountains are my religion." He went to this church often and taught those around him to be respectful and humble in the mountains. Doug died while skiing with friends on April 3, 2006 in the steep Couloir de Polichinelle in the Fréaux sector of the vast off-piste region of La Grave, France. Doug will be remembered by his friends more for the endless play he brought to his work rather than the hundreds of spectacular first descents he logged. Also lost in the tragedy was Chad VanderHam. Chad was born in Minneapolis, moved to Colorado to attend college and was a certified AMGA ski guide. Doug was born in Boston 49 years ago and began skiing at the humble resort - 240' of vertical drop - of Nashoba Valley, MA. He learned his trade on the icy slopes of Vermont and New Hampshire. Six years "or so" to earn a geology degree at Montana State gave Doug plenty of time in Western mountain powder. Doug raced for the Montana State Ski Team for four years and began heli-ski guiding in 1986. He moved to Jackson, WY in 1987 and began a quest to invent the subtle skills of steep skiing. By 1990, Doug had become a master of his craft but was still largely unknown outside Wyoming. That was all to change. Convincing the folks at Life Link in Jackson to pay for his ticket to the first-ever 1991 World Extreme Ski Championship in Valdez, Alaska, Doug rocked the competitors with a bold, inventive and carefully calculated line down the near-vertical course. Emily, soon to be Doug's wife, won the Women's Extreme competition in 1992. He won again in 1993. Doug and Emily were married in 1994. He and Emily founded Valdez Heli-Ski Guides in Alaska in 1994 and are largely credited for developing the Chugach Range for heli-skiing, with help, as Doug explained it, from their cat, Kitty Coombs. Doug went on to win contests, ear n accolades and forge first descents for well over a decade. He won the National Powder 8 championships three times, placed second and third in the grueling 24 Hours of Aspen, was named the "World's Best Skier" by Outside Magazine, and traveled to Kyrgyzstan, South America, Europe and New Zealand as one of the star skiers in dozens of films. Most recently, Doug made the first guided ski descent of the Grand Teton in 2004, the same year his son, David, was born. Doug was named one of the top 25 skiers in North America in 2005 by Skiing Magazine. Doug and Emily took their Steep Camp instruction weeks from Jackson to Valdez, Alaska and Verbier and La Grave, France. Doug, Emily and David had made La Grave their second home. Doug was a fully certified UIAGM/ IFMGA Mountain Guide and a member of the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA). Doug was a sponsored athlete with Marmot for over a decade. His engagement with the company went deep into its product design and testing programs, sales meetings, creative marketing sessions and trade shows. Doug had his own signature series of Marmot clothing and designed the Marmot Randonnee pant and the La Meije pack. Doug has been, and his memory always will remain, a driving force behind Marmot. Doug leaves his wife Emily and their young son, David. A memorial fund for the benefit of Emily and David has been established at the Jackson State Bank and Trust, Jackson, Wyoming.