Ski the Fourteeners


Lou Dawson is the first person to have skied down all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. He finished his project in 1991. Below, please enjoy his list, and a few comments. (Dawson has also skied most of the the fourteeners on many other occasions, including numerous first descents of routes, hence this is a “partial list” of Dawson’s descents, which actually number in the hundreds.)

Peaks marked with an asterisk are his known first summit ski-descents of six peaks: Little Bear Peak, Crestone Peak, Capitol Peak, La Plata Peak, South Maroon Peak, Snowmass Mountain. As far as Dawson could ascertain, all remaining peaks had been skied at one time or another before he got to them. Some many times, some only once, some a handful of times.

Though Dawson has made many fourteener ski descents during times of thin snowpack, he did not count such descents if they were partial or spotty to any significant degree, instead, he returned and repeated them until he felt good about claiming them as one of his 54 descents.

Even after completing his project, Dawson continued to descend Fourteeners from the summit if at all possible, looking for better more aesthetic lines — often finding them — and writing about them on and elsewhere.





Castle Peak (1)


Joel Weismann, John Quinn

North Couloir, from exact summit. Also
later skied first descent of East Face from exact summit, May 1990.

Mount Massive (2)


Randall Udall (during O.B course)

West Face from exact summit.

Mount Elbert (3)


Tim Lane (O.B. Course)

West Couloir from exact summit. Also
did numerous other summit ski descents in 1980s and 1990s to present.

La Plata Peak * (4)


Bruce Adams

North Face from exact summit.

Uncompahgre Peak (5)


Outward Bound Students

Southeast Face from exact summit.

South Maroon Peak * (6)



East Couloir from exact summit. Couloir had been skied numerous time previous, but no descents from exact summit.

Snowmass Mountain* (7)


Peter Kelley

Big Bowl from exact summit. Also did
first descent of west face with Bob Perlmutter in 1996.

Holy Cross (8)


Ted Kerasote

North Shoulder from exact summit,
started down small north face.

Grays Peak (9)


John Quinn

Northwest side from exact summit. (Also
later skied from exact summit down Ruby Gulch.)

Torreys Peak (10)


John Quinn

Southwest from exact summit, later
skied in 2005 via north Tuning Fork from exact summit.

Quandary Peak (11)


John Quinn

Cristo Couloir from exact summit.

Mount Lincoln (12)


John Quinn

Russian Couloir from exact summit.

Mount Bross (13)


John Quinn

Moose Creek from exact summit.

Mount Bierstadt (14)


John Quinn

West Side from exact summit, skied
again later.

Pikes Peak (15)


John Quinn

Bottomless Pit from exact summit, also
skied later via Railroad Couloir from exact summit.

Mount Sherman (16)


John Quinn

Leadville side from exact summit.

Mount Democrat (17)


John Quinn

Northwest Face from exact summit.

North Maroon Peak (18)



West and North aspects from exact summit.

Mt. Sneffels (19)


Sandy East

Snake Couloir, 75 foot rappel into
couloir, several years later skied from exact summit via South Face Birthday

Wilson Peak (N Wilson) (20)


Sandy East

East Face, from exact summit.

Mt. Oxford (21)


Ken Ward

West side from exact summit. Also skied from summit down west face 4-7-07.

Mount Belford (22)


Ken Ward

West Face from exact summit. Also skied from summit down east face 4-7-07.

Missouri Mtn. (23)


Ken Ward

North Face from exact summit.

Mount Harvard (24)


Ken Ward

South Face from exact summit.

Mount Columbia (25)


Ken Ward

West Face from exact summit.

Mt. Evans (26)


Pat Ellingwood

Summit Lake Bowl from exact summit,
also climbed & skied west ridge and flanks from Guanella Pass, from
exact summit, 1994.

Mt. Princeton (27)


Ken Ward

East bowl from exact summit.

Mt. Antero (28)


Jim Gilchrist

West Side from exact summit.

Mt. Shavano (29)


Pat Ellingwood

Angel Snowfield from exact summit.

Mt. Yale (30)


Chris Beh

Delaney Gulch from exact summit, later
also skied from exact summit down Silver Creek Bowl

Huron Peak (31)


Ken Ward

East Face from exact summit.

Mt. Tabeguache (32)


Lisa Dawson

West flanks from exact summit.

Capitol Peak * (33)


John Isaacs

Knife Ridge from exact summit.

Handies Peak (34)


Ken Ward

East Face from exact summit.

Redcloud Peak (35)


Bob Perlmutter

West Side from exact summit.

Sunshine Peak (36)



West Side from exact summit.

San Luis Peak (37)



Yawner Gully from exact summit.

Wetterhorn Peak (38)



East Face from Ships Prow, near summit.

Mount Eolus (39)



West Face from exact summit.

Windom Peak (40)



North Face from exact summit.

Sunlight Peak (41)



South Face from base of summit boulder.

Humboldt Peak (42)



Southeast Flank from exact summit.

Crestone Peak * (43)



South Couloir from exact summit.

Culebra Peak (44)



West Ridge from exact summit.

El Diente Peak (45)


Kim Miller, John Winsor

North Face from summit ridge east of
summit, about 300 feet from exact summit. Also skied this
route in 2003, from about same spot. Skied from exact summit down south couloir to Kilpacker drainage, spring 2007.

Pyramid Peak (46)


Jeff Maus

E & N combo (upper part of Landry
Route connected to North Cirque), from exact summit.

Mount Wilson (S Wilson) (47)


Jon Waterman

Slate Creek, from south side of summit a short distance from summit.

Mt. Lindsey (48)


Ken Ward

South side, from exact summit.

Longs Peak (49)


Glen Randall

North Face, from exact summit.

Blanca Peak (50)



West Face, from exact summit.

Ellingwood Peak (51)



South Face, from exact summit. Also
skied from exact summit with Chris Davenport in 2006.

Crestone Needle (52)


Glen Randall

South Couloir, from exact summit.

Little Bear Peak * (53)


Glen Randall

West Couloir, from exact summit.

Kit Carson Mtn. (54)


Glen Randall

Coles Couloir, from exact summit.

(While Dawson was the first person ever to ski all 54 fourteeners, many had already been skied. He did have the fortune, however, of being the first to ski several—those are marked with an asterisk on the peak name in the above list.)

It should be noted that while there is no true "official" USGS definition of these 54 peaks being the "fourteeners," common wisdom holds that they are. To lock his claim as the first to ski all of Colorado’s highest, Dawson also skied many additional high peaks, including North Mount Eolus, Challenger, and North Mount Massive, many unnamed highpoints, and scores of the states high 13,000 foot peaks.

Dawson took great care to ski these peaks as completely as possible, with some descents taking many tries to find safe, skiable snow from the summit. All but a handful of the Colorado fourteeners are historically skiable from the exact summit — during normal snow conditions a few require starting literally a few feet below a rocky summit block or cliff, and Wetterhorn Peak’s start is at the Ship’s Prow rock outcrop and "Keyhole" feature about 150 feet below the summit, (as of spring 2007 part of the upper portion has been skied, albeit combined with downclimbing rocks on skis.)

As for what defines a ski descent of a fourteener, Dawson says that for his public project that was a critical factor, as he wanted to stay in line with traditional mountaineering standards and be "honest" about his accomplishment of a mountaineering first.

For his project (and for subsequent projects) Dawson defines a ski descent of a fourteener as skiing "the best (most often the longest) continuous descent available on an average snow accumulation year, almost always from the exact summit, with the exception being the few fourteeners (such as Wetterhorn and El Diente) that have rocky summit blocks or boulder caps that were never known to be in skiable condition prior to the project. "

"Since you’re skiing natural snow, some descents might have gaps where you remove your skis and move a few feet across rock or tundra. Again, if you’re up there on an average snow year with decent coverage, such maneuvers are legit so long as they are not excessive. But, and this is the big BUT, if I’m on a peak with bad coverage because it’s too early in the year or a drought, and I have to connect snow patches that would otherwise touch each other, then I don’t count it as a descent of the peak. Instead, I go back again and again ’till I get it right. To me this is a critical part of my standards, because doing otherwise would allow me a sort of ‘post modern’ style of ski mountaineering wherein I could claim a descent of a peak even if I skied a few hundred feet of snow on the thing in the middle of summer. I don’t think people would buy that, and it just wouldn’t feel good."

More, Dawson says that he’s pretty strict with himself about his meaning of the word summit "On most of the peaks I actually stood on my skis on or next to the summit cairn before I took off," says Dawson, "and the others I claimed as ‘exact summit’ starts involved touching the summit cairn with a hand or ski pole before launching, and of course I climbed to the exact summit of every peak as that’s an important component of claiming a ski descent. In ski mountaineering tradition, one usually doesn’t say they skied a peak unless they climb it to the summit — whether you ski from the exact summit or not — so I stuck with that standard as well. (Note, "reverse" climbs of Pikes Peak and Mount Evans were okay according to my standards — I drove to the top of those, skied, then climbed back up, and believe that’s a totally legit way of doing those peaks as it honors Colorado tradition and adds a fun wrinkle to the chore of skiing all 54.) "

"Perhaps what’s most important to me is qualifying my claims based on those who came before me," Dawson continues, "Most of the fourteeners had been skied in good style from the summit before I got serious about my project, and I knew about most of those descents. The last thing I’d do is say I skied a peak if my style deviated much from that of some past guy who did the known first.

"For example, Fritz Stammberger did the first descent of North Maroon Peak in 1971. Fritz skied a continuous line from the summit, so for my descent I made sure I started from the top and stayed on snow the whole way down, even though I used a different route than Fritz. Another example is Longs Peak. Before I got there it had been skied twice from the summit, via the North Face. During several of my attempts I could have skied Longs from lower down below the summit, but there was no way I was going to say I ‘skied’ Longs peak unless my style matched (or exceeded) the style of the two other summit descents that came before me."

Dawson continues: "By the same token, I realize the limitations of gear and vision that extreme skiers have worked under over the past, so I’m not going to chest pound if I found a better line than the guy who did what’s obviously the first descent of a peak. All sports involve a progression of skill (and in this case of skiing, gear). Each generation improves on the last — while respecting the accomplishments of those who came before. For example, ski mountaineers eventually figured out several ways to ski El Diente Peak from the exact summit."

Again, as a rule nearly all Colorado fourteeners are skiable from the summit down snow routes that are beautifully long and continuous, during average snow years. Surprisingly, the harder looking more improbable fourteeners are all skiable from the exact summit, such as Capitol Peak, Pyramid Peak, Maroon Bells, Longs Peak, Crestone Peak, and Crestone Needle.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's personal website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners.

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