Leigh Lamphere remembers when he realized Ian Lamphere, his cousin, college roommate, and best friend, was headed on a different path. Leigh was hiking to one of the back bowls from Smugglers' Notch and Ian had, serendipitously, walked to the same bowl from Stowe.
"It was a powder day," says Leigh. "And I just skied a little off the main path, and I looked back and saw him launch a 25-foot drop and land in powder, just out of the blue, and I was like, yeah, he's definitely a skier now." Ian's father started dropping the boys off at Smuggs for ski lessons when they were 3-year-olds. They continued skiing together through their time at the University of Vermont.
On April 20, Ian died in an avalanche near Loveland Pass that claimed five lives, the deadliest avalanche in the state in 50 years. He leaves behind his fiancé, Elizabeth Codevilla, and a 6-month-old daughter named Madelyn. Like many in the ski industry who have suffered a similar fate, Ian was invaluable to his community. To those that knew him, he was the light, the energy.
"He was so genuine and loving and funny," says Leigh. "I don’t know anybody like that. Even when things are bad and money is tight and it's raining on the mountain, he had a smile on his face. He just made things better. He was amazing."
Because Ian was smart and well-rounded—he graduated UVM with degrees in math and English—his family assumed he'd be some kind of office job professional—maybe a lawyer. His charisma, sense of humor, and love for skiing, lead him in a different direction.
Ian’s involvement in the ski industry was multifarious. He was the talent on Dan Egan's Wild World of Winter and a co-creator of Backcountry TV. He went on to become a partner in Stockli Ski USA and an owner of Gecko Skins. He trained as a heli-ski guide with Alaska Heliskiing in Haines. He was also an associate producer of Matt Herriger's recent film, Winter's Wind and co-founder of the Stowe Mountain Film Festival. In 2009, the Vermont Ski Museum named him the volunteer of the year.
"He was just a take charge guy, the leader of the group," says Leigh, recounting a time in high school when Ian sewed stitches on Leigh's face after high-sticking his cousin with a hockey stick. "He could party like nobody and was always the last person in bed and the first one up in the morning."
One spring, Ian did the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt with guide Steve Banks, a friend from high school. Banks said that wherever Ian went, he was always laughing and making new friends.
"Ian taught me the value of loving the situation, no matter what was going on," says Banks. "I have been in some quirky situations with Ian in the mountains and in the city, and he never failed to see the humor of any circumstance. I will miss those weird situations where you are wondering if this is for real, and seeing his grin and knowing, yup, this is an Ian moment."
Friends and family will host a memorial at the Trapp Family Lodge on May 4. Named By Strangers, the locally renowned rock band that Ian played drums for, will play in his honor.
Leigh says that since Ian's passing, he has hiked, biked, or skied every day. He says it's helped him get closer to the best friend he lost.
"I learned (from Ian) that if you give love and you give hugs and humor and positivity, it really can make a difference in the world and in life," says Leigh. "And it doesn't take much to do that. Just trying to be a positive human being, that's what I'll take away the most."
To contribute to the fund the Lamphere family established to help with the costs of raising Madelyn, go here.