The way of the mountain: powder snow, Dolores LaChapelle, and a search for 'the answers'

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Longstanding narratives in Europe and the United States about progress as emancipation from nature construct perceptions of separation between humans and everything else. This separation justifies human mastery of and control over nature, leading to environmental exploitation as well as individual experiences of alienation from place. Dolores LaChapelle, author of 'Deep Powder Snow: 40 Years of Ecstatic Skiing, Avalanches, and Earth Wisdom', countered dominant Eurocentric and anthropocentric ascendancy with knowledge that she argued came from her experiences as a powder snow skier in the western United States during the twentieth century. Using theories of neo-materialism and vital materiality, this study examines relational, more-than-human agency that produced cultural identity and embodied ethical knowledge. In particular, it focuses on LaChapelle's encounters and relationships with mountain places, and transformations in her thinking that occurred after she learned to ski powder in Aspen, Colorado, from 1947-1950, as well as after she experienced a large avalanche in Alta, Utah in 1963. This study argues that LaChapelle is an overlooked, original thinker about the agency and ethical standing of non-human beings in the material world.




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