Ski What You Sow: Remembering Farmer Dave


If you’ve skied at Alta in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon since 1973, chances are you’ve seen David Van Dame. An old man in a faded red jacket, knit cap and Pocket Rocket skis isn’t necessarily what we would conjure up in our minds as a modern-day ski legend but Van Dame wasn’t like most other skiers. Rather than the fancy gear or social media followers, Van Dame was always more concerned about maximizing his powder turns by hiking above the Wildcat chair and spooning his last run’s tracks, lap after lap. This unique approach is what eventually led to his nickname and legendary status as The Farmer. 

Farmer Dave harvesting the goods last season. PHOTO: Rocko Menzyk

Farmer Dave’s biggest priority has always been skiing powder. So much so, he figured out how to retire at the age of 39 and live as efficiently as possible in order to ski every day. From living in a small apartment with his wife along Salt Lake’s ski bus route—eliminating the need for a vehicle—to using the same equipment for multiple decades and packing a pocket sandwich everyday, sustainability was always the name of Farmer Dave’s powder skiing game. 

His frosty ice beard became such a staple at the ski area over the last 48 years, Alta teamed up with Mike Brown and Sweetgrass Productions to tell Farmer Dave’s story in the eighth episode of its STEEPED IN TRADITION series. 

“He just really embodies the soul and spirit of Alta as much as any of our skiers,” says Alta’s Marketing Director, Brandon Ott. “He’s understated, he’s not caught up in exposure and the newest things. He’s just enamored with the mountains and chasing and finding quality snow.”

Shot over the course of two seasons, Brown followed Farmer Dave up and down the Wildcat chair, farming over 40 ski lines in a single slope. With the stamina and endurance that could put any professional athlete to shame, fame and recognition were never the priority for this 73-year-old skier. Up until his passing on October 17, 2021, from bladder cancer, Farmer Dave was most concerned about skiing for the pure joy of it. 

“He represents a kind of truth or soulfulness in skiing in that he was the type of person that just did it for the love of it,” says Brown. “He always put his focus on what mattered most in life, which to him, was experiences and relationships.” 

The Farmer in his element. PHOTO: John Shafer

A legend surely to be missed this coming season, Farmer Dave’s legacy is a great reminder to prioritize what matters most to you in life—and never leave a patch of powder unharvested. 


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