The Colorado Snowsports Museum inducted former U.S. Ski Team member and professional racer Dave Stapleton Jr. into the Hall of Fame’s class of 2021. Stapleton Jr. (or “Stapes” as he is known), was one of five new inductees who were honored at the 44th induction ceremony held on Sunday under sunny skies at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail. He joins an impressive group of more than 200 athletes, pioneers, and sport builders who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since the first class in 1977.
Stapleton Jr., a sixth-generation Aspen native, now joins his father Dave Stapleton Sr. who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017 as a sports builder for promoting international competitions at Colorado ski resorts and for improving safety in racing by launching a successful initiative that resulted in safer standards for alpine course design.
At Sunday’s event, an emotional Stapleton Jr., joined on the stage by his daughter Chandler, told the crowd that “growing up ski racing in the mountains could not have been a better way of living.” He added, “Learning about myself as a person to traveling the world has all led me to be the person I am today. Ski racing taught me some of the more important life lessons, more importantly, taught me how to live life to the fullest something we overlook these days.”
From an early age, the sport of ski racing excited him. Stapleton Jr. spent his formative years on the slopes of Aspen with the Aspen Valley Ski Club and accrued more than 70 podium appearances. “One day I’m just this kid and then suddenly I’m 15 years old competing against collegiate [athletes], beating them. I get my first airplane ride to go to the Junior Nationals, I get 6th in the downhill. The next thing I know I win the overall NorAm title.” These successes earned Stapleton Jr. a spot on the World Cup tour at the age of 18. At his third World Cup downhill start, he raced the famed Hahnenkamm in Kitzbühel, Austria, an accomplishment he still remembers vividly so early in a ski racing career. He raced on the World Cup tour for two more years, finishing third in the Alpine Combined in Wengen, Switzerland.
Stapleton Jr. ended his amateur career in 1981 and joined the U.S. Pro Ski Tour, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in his first season. For 10 years on the circuit, he was a formidable competitor, winning eight Pro Ski Tour races and dominating competitions in Winter Park. Over the course of his career, Stapleton Jr. amassed more than 50 trophies and podiums in roughly 400 race starts.
With competitive ski racing behind him, he opened Stapleton Sports in 1992 and became a sponsor of the Aspen Valley Ski Club, supporting hundreds of young ski racers. He launched the club’s most important fundraiser, the Ajax Cup, which raises $500,000 annually. He also initiated an annual fundraising golf tournament which, in its ten-year existence, has generated more than $700,000 for the Aspen Valley Ski Club, Aspen Junior Golf Club, and the Aspen hockey program. In addition, he led the fundraising effort to create the Stapleton Training Center at Aspen Highlands, aptly named in his honor. The Aspen Valley Ski Club honored Stapleton Jr. by inducting him into their Hall of Fame in 2012.
Reflecting on a lifetime and career Stapleton Jr. remarked, “Now after many years of skiing in the World Cup and owning a ski shop, my point in life is where I wanted to help make a difference and make sure every kid gets the opportunity to experience ski racing. I’ve become much more involved in our Aspen Valley Ski Club in working in development and I couldn’t be happier.” He went on, “to me, this has been the most rewarding [part] of my career.”
Also inducted into the Colorado Snowsports Museum’s Hall of Fame were Colorado native James Niehues, renowned painter of more than 200 ski resort trail maps; standout mogul skier and U.S. Ski Team coach Scott Rawles of Breckenridge; Ellen Post Foster of Beaver Creek, a former freestyle skier and snowsports educator; and Telluride’s Pam Conklin, an accomplished writer, and media relations official in the ski industry.