Doug Coombs, the Skier’s Skier

March 12, 2007 by  
Filed under features

Doug Coombs was one of Extreme Skiing’s most enthusiastic promoters as well as being a highly skilled practitioner of this spectacular sport. Born in Boston, Coombs cut his teeth skiing the steep slopes of the Adirondack and Green Mountains in northern New England. Always pushing the envelope and expanding his limits, Coombs helped bring the sport to new levels of popularity. Doug Coombs spent a good portion of his college years at Montana State honing his extreme skiing skills. His favorite place to ski was Jackson Hole, Wyoming, renowned today as a mecca for extreme skiers from around the globe.

Doug Coombs was one part daredevil, one part visionary. He realized that the wild, unmarked “off-piste” slopes sought by extreme skiers were often difficult to access by conventional ski lifts. How to get to the top of a wild, virgin slope? The answer was: by helicopter. In 1986, Coombs founded Valdez Heli-Ski Guides and by doing so, single-handedly invented the heli-skiing industry. He was not content to settle down and run his new business, however.

In 1991, he captured the World Extreme Skiing Championship, and then repeated the feat two years later. Coombs was cognizant that as a proponent of a high-risk sport, he had a certain responsibility to stress the need for proper training and preparation required for safe extreme skiing. Following his 1993 World Extreme Skiing Championship victory, Coombs and his new wife Emily Gladstone established Doug Coombs Steep Skiing Camps Worldwide, moving the camp’s base of operations from Jackson, Wyoming to La Grave in the French Alps in 1997.

Doug Coombs lived life on the edge, and in that respect the events of April 3, 2006 were saddening but not entirely surprising. While exploring a difficult area of the Couloir de Polichinellein in La Grave with his friend Chad VanderHam, VanderHam fell and Coombs attempted to rescue him. Doug Coombs also fell and both skiers died as a result of their injuries. Although Doug Coombs is gone, his legacy as a pioneer, promoter and champion of the sport of extreme skiing remains. Doug Coombs Steep Skiing Camps Worldwide also carries on its founder’s dream to bring the thrill of extreme skiing to the world.