Dean Cummings’ storied career in the mountains

Dean CummingsThe guy is like a Marine, in all the best ways—super fit, intense, smart and dedicated to saving lives—including his own. Dean Cummings has for years skied and guided on some of the most extreme terrain in the world and, unlike too many ski pioneers, he’s still alive and running one of the safest operations around.

Dean is internationally recognized as one of the preeminent big mountain skiers and heli ski guides in the world today. He also is a leader in outdoor safety and avalanche awareness education.

Dean’s storied career in the mountains includes a stint as captain of the US Freestyle Ski Team, several first descents, and claiming the 1995 World Title Championship in the World Extreme Skiing circuit. Dean has been featured in nearly 50 films and numerous television programs, including several produced by Warren Miller, Match Stick Productions, and Teton Gravity Research. Today, Dean is the owner of H20 Guides, a helicopter skiing operation in Alaska’s Chugach Range.

Dean CummingsVisiting with him at this year’s Winter Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City was like taking a hit of pure oxygen. His enthusiasm is rooted in a deep love of mountains and skiing.

Dean uses a strike system to determine whether it’s safe to ride. A strike could be unstable snow, concave terrain traps, rough weather or human factors, among many others.

“The mountain always wins,” he says. “Apply strikes liberally. When you get to three, it’s a good idea to work in the garage that day.” 

Dean also designs and makes an innovative line of skis and guide packs under the label H2O Outdoor Gear.

AkMaster - Dean CummingsDean has had sponsorship deals for more than 20 years and has helped develop some iconic big-mountain powder skis, but he says the big companies couldn’t ever get it quite right.

 “With H2O Gear, our ‘Access the Goods’ skis are everything I’ve always wanted. We designed the 133mm AK Master as a beefy, all-mountain ski. The softer extremities allow the ski to release snow on a steep, slarving turn and the stiff middle rides groomers at speed with confidence.”

While this wide board is clearly optimized for deep snow, I rode my AK Masters with giddy pleasure at Grand Targhee this year on pow, chop, frozen surf and groomers. They rip. Plus they match my jacket.

The gear is the embodiment of Dean’s essence: enthusiasm for the sport and a powerful commitment to share the mountain experience and educate participants. His professional involvement and affiliations include NSP, ISSW, PSIA, AAA, NAOI, and Terrapass. He is an active contributor to the Taylor Family Foundationterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeeper Alliance.

When not guiding or educating, Dean, his wife Karen, their son, Wyatt Kodiak, and daughter, Tesslina, along with their overgrown Alaskan malamute, Kona, spend their time adventuring and enjoying family in Valdez, Alaska and Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

Want to get to better know Dean and his philosophy in the mountains? Check out this his 20-minute video called “The Steep Life.

What do you find most inspiring about Dean Cummings?

This article was written with help from Dean Cummings’ website

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