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Farmer Dave Van Dame

Remembering Farmer Dave

By Alta Ski Area 10-18-2021

Our hearts are heavy with the passing of David Van Dame—The Farmer.

David Van Dame | September 6th, 1947 October 17th, 2021

On Sunday morning, October 17th, 2021, David Van Dame—the legendary snow farmer of Alta—passed away following a battle with cancer.

Farmer Dave,

Alta will not be the same place without you. You taught us all how to love every moment in the mountains, how to live a life worth living, with a focus on simple pleasures not material things.

Donning your faded red jacket, wool-knit hat and Pocket Rocket skis, you showed us how to effortlessly ski deep powder for 48 years at Alta. You have inspired our entire mountain community with your calming demeanor, unwavering voice and gentile smile—almost always obscured beneath your frosty ice beard.

It is difficult to capture the impact that you have had on the Alta family, as it has been far-reaching over many generations of Alta skiers. You are an artist and the mountain has been your canvas. This is only the beginning of trying to tie together your life's work in these mountains.

Thank you for spending your days farming snow in the upper reaches of Little Cottonwood. We will forever save a spot for you on the Wildcat double chair.

- Your Alta family.

Farmer Dave's artwork | Photo: Rocko Menzyk Farmer Dave tends to his crops | Photo: Rocko MenzykFarmer Dave doing his thing | Photo: Rocko Menzyk

Farmer Dave perfected snow farming as a way to maximize his powder turns. It was also his artwork. | Photos: Rocko Menzyk


This short film, produced by Sweetgrass Productions, was released this past winter. We are forever grateful to have had the opportunity to share Dave's story, his words, his artwork and his spirit. While many people knew of the man through his ice-cased beard in the Wildcat lift line or from the unique tracks he left in the snow, it was his perspective on life and his quest for simplicity that touched so many people. It was a story that took a lifetime to author and could not be retold in just one chairlift conversation.

Meet The Farmer—Dave Van Dame. A staple of Alta for the past 48 years. His trademark look—a frozen ice beard and mustache—and his trademark style are hard to miss. Some call him old-school, donning the same red jacket for the last few decades, but the most beautiful thing about Dave is that he is a true skier at heart, with an unabashed love for snow and the mountains. Dave built a life that allowed him to take in Alta's stormy days, bluebird powder days and every day in-between and is a refreshing reminder that we are all here to ski.

Mike Brown, the principal filmer and editor of The Farmer, recently shared his thoughts on the project and Dave's passing.

I had the honor of working with him to create a short film that was meant to capture his unique method of skiing/farming powder. In reality the project for me became an exploration not just of skiing, but rather a way of living- a look into the unique philosophy that Dave applied to his life in order to maximize his experiences and relationships rather than his possessions or status. He lived humbly to be sure, perhaps to the extreme, sharing a small apartment with his wife Kathy (to whom he attributed much of his wisdom), reusing old equipment for decades, and constantly finding ways to increase efficiency in his life. But along the way he also managed to retire in his thirties, and spent decades chasing powder, sailing, and traveling the world.

I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with Dave and for the insights he imparted during our interviews and time together. It breaks my heart to see him pass away from bladder cancer just over six months after witnessing him at age 73 hiking enough pow laps to knock out most pro athletes, but I am also heartened by the knowledge that he was able to draw so much out of life.

Thank you for everything Dave - may your tracks lead to peace in all that lays ahead 🙏❄️

One local legend remembers another.

Farmer Dave | Photo: Lee Cohen

Photo: Lee Cohen

Farmer Dave without the ice beard | Photo: Lee Cohen

Lee Cohen first met The Farmer in the 80s where their paths first crossed in Goldminer's Daughter locker room. Lee remembers thinking that The Farmer seemed like an old dude back then. Looking back on it all now, it must have been The Farmer's throwback threads and gear, but undoubtedly, his timeless style served him well his entire life.

"He was the king of the frosty mug. He lived a super low-key existence that we all wished we could live."

Photos & Words: Lee Cohen

On The Lift With Farmer Dave | Alta Ski Area

Joe Johnson sat down for a chat with Farmer Dave in 2013. The location? Wildcat lift, of course.

Joe: So in the Wasatch area you're known as Farmer Dave. Why exactly are you known as Farmer Dave?

Dave: Well, I didn't ever know that I was Farmer Dave until I was out one day and fella caught up behind me and kind of yells up to me and says, "Are you the farmer?"

And I said, "no."

And he said, "well, aren't you the guy with the fish scales on his skis? And aren't you the one that skis side by side and spoons his tracks?"

I said, "yeah, that's me."

'We call you the Farmer.'

I go, 'okay, I guess I'm the farmer.'

The Farmer Interview | The Weather Channel

On March 14th, 2021, the Weather Channel interviewed The Farmer.

Farmer Dave Profile | WILLIAM DELEO of

William Deleo with the Gravity Fed network interviewed Farmer Dave in September of 2006.

He is a quiet and secretive man, an ardent bus rider and an Alta local since 1973. In many ways, Van Dame epitomizes the Alta culture of bare-bones, no-nonsense skiing.

Many who do not know him, and can only speculate, have their own theories about his past and who he is. Some believe he is a burned-out university professor who got sick of academia and now just skis all the time. Some maintain he is a reserved and enigmatic hermit who skis 200 days a year. Others say he's just an aging ski bum who comes back year after year, to quietly and methodically farm the snowfields of the Wasatch and ski his favorite runs off the Wildcat lift.

Farmer Dave Van Dame | Podcast

Johnny B. of the AltaCam Podcast interviewed Farmer Dave in February of 2009.

Farmer Dave: And so when I was skiing, it was a release for me. It was a way to that take my mind off of whatever was going on at work or at home or whatever, and allowed me to rejuvenate and go back to work refreshed.


Johnny B: Who inspires you? What skier inspires you?

Farmer Dave: Well, all you have to do is ride up the lift at Alta and when you look down, there's any number of skiers that are just great skiers. I mean one of the beauties about Little Cottonwood Canyon is it attracts the best skiers in the world.

Johnny B: Unbelievable.

Farmer Dave: And we all have different techniques and different styles and mine just happens to be enough different from most other people that I stand out somewhat, but I can't do the things they can do just like most of them don't want to do what I do. So we all do it a little bit different, but the point is that you're out there. You're enjoying nature. You're keeping your body fit. You're meeting nice people. You're meeting people from all over the world, and what's not to like about it?

Please help remember Dave by sharing a few words on this page for Dave's family to read. Dave's wife, Kathy Van Dame, created a Caring Bridge page with Dave's obituary, updates on future memorial services and a place to share your favorite Farmer Dave stories. David Van Dame | >

Kathy has asked that any donations be made to Dave's favorite charity, the Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP). Farmer Dave had first discovered the non-profit via the New York Times Choose A Gift That Changes Lives series. As chance would have it, the founder of HCP was visiting Alta and gave The Farmer a ride up the Canyon. According to Kathy, "David and Geoff Tabin, a founder of HCP, skied together after Goeff picked him up hitch-hiking one day. Geoff surprised David by keeping up."

The Himalayan Cataract Project

It has been said that Dave is the most Alta of all Alta skiers, embodying the heart and soul of this mountain. Thank you for all that you have given us, our hearts are full.

May you Rest in Powder, our good friend.

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