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The Cara Dunne-Yates Statue (Snowmass)


The main article for the Cara Dunne-Yates statue is below, but the author has inserted this notice here at the beginning to note that in 2017, due to the Base Village construction at Snowmass, the statue was moved to a parking lot some 100 yards or so away from the spot near the bottom of the Gondola were it was located.  The photo of it below below was taken by the author in December of 2017.  Later it was moved to a spot near the Transit Facility. 

Click on images to enlarge.



When this statue was first erected, in June of 2010, it was located near the base of the Elk Camp Gondola at Snowmass.  Later it was moved to a location near the Transit Facility.  For information on Cara and the statue, read the various articles shown below after the photos, and also see this web page:  One of the plaques on the base of this statue states it was dedicated on September 3, 2009; however, the statue was not erected in Base Village at Snowmass until late June of 2010.  The sculptor was Jerry Snodgrass. The statue is of Cara with her dog Haley. Photos of it are below. 

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Read various articles about this statue in the section following the photos below.

The first section of photos below are of the statue in its first location near the base of the Elk Camp Gondola.

Click on images to enlarge.


The photos in the section below are of the statue after it was moved to a location near the Transit Facility.  These photos were taken in February of 2019.  Click on images to enlarge.


The four photos below were taken on July 15, 2019.

See the articles below that contain information about Cara Dunne-Yates and this statue.  These articles are in chronological order, starting with the most recent. 

Cara Dunne - part of Base Village forever
Snowmass Sun, Wednesday July 14, 2010


Cara Dunne and her seeing-eye dog Haley look as if they are ready to walk over to the Elk Camp Gondola and head up the mountain.

But this bronze likeness of a girl and her dog will forever be frozen in time at one end of the Base Village Plaza.

“Cara is the most amazing individual you would ever meet,” said Houston Cowan, co-founder of Challenge Aspen, who had been her skiing guide since the mid-1990s.

Partially blind from birth with retinal cancer, she had both eyes removed by the time the she was five, but she accomplished much in her short life that ended on October 20, 2004.

In 1984 when she was 12 years old, Cara won two bronze medals and one silver at the winter Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria, and in 1988, she returned to win two more silver medals, one in the downhill and the other in giant slalom.

She gave up competing for a while in order to attend Harvard University where she graduated magna cum laude in 1992 as class president. This was followed by a law degree from UCLA in 1997.

In 1995, she decided to return to competitive skiing and heard about Houston Cowan, who had been a guide for the B.O.L.D program in Aspen, which was then under the directorship of Peter Maines. At the time, Cowan and Amanda Boxtel were beginning to build Challenge Aspen and Dunne helped to develop their programs for the visually impaired.

“I became her skiing guide and helped her train to be on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. We immediately became good friends,” he said.

The two trained on the slopes of Snowmass ski area and during the summer at Mount Hood.

“She was the top totally blind skier in America and one of the top in the world,” said Cowan.

Cara Dunne was invited to try out for the 1996 U.S. Paralympic Tandem Cycling Team and competed in the sport at that summer's Paralympics in Atlanta, winning a silver medal in tandem kilo and a bronze medal in the 200 meter sprint.

She not only became the only competitor to have won medals in the summer and winter Paralympics, but she also fell in love and got married to another cyclist.

With a new life and then two children, she gave up the dream to compete in skiing again, but she didn't give up her love of the sport.

Once her youngest daughter was three–and–a–half years old, Dunne brought her back to Snowmass Village and taught her to ski with the help of Cowan.

“I guided her while she snowplowed with Elise between her legs on Fanny Hill. She is probably the only blind mother to teach her child to ski. It was something to see. I cried on many occasions,” he said.

The creation of a statue to honor this incredible person was the idea of her father, Mike Dunne of Boulder, who works in promotions for winter sports including with the U.S. Ski Team.

After her death, he had been reading an article about her in the Boston Globe, which talked about her being “influential in increasing the opportunities for people with disabilities in sports both in this country and internationally,”

“At that moment I conceptualized the statue all in one piece. I felt that Cara was guiding me. I wanted it to be more than a tribute, it was also a way to promote disabled sports and Challenge Aspen. I hope people read her story on the plaques at the base of the statue and get motivated,” he said.

There was never a doubt in his mind where the statue should go. It was to make its home at the base of the ski area that Cara loved and near Challenge Aspen.

Created by sculptor Jerry Snodgrass of Boise, from donations by Cara's friends, family, her graduating class, Related WestPac, Aspen Skiing Co. and many more, it is a tribute from so many who knew her and those who were inspired by her life story.

Some notables who felt the need to give were Lance Armstrong, Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Scott Turow. The list is too long to mention here, but one of the plaques on the base of the 750–pound statue includes all of the donors.

More than five years after Mike Dunne had the inspiration to immortalize his daughter, the statue has arrived in Snowmass Village with only the landscaping to be finished.

It's been a long road for him to bring his initial idea to fruition, and that road has ended near the Elk Camp Gondola.

This week Dunne will bring his two grandchildren to view the bronze likeness of their mother when she was a child herself.

“Now I will let Cara do the work,” said Mike Dunne.

In the June 30, 2010 issue of the Snowmass Sun newspaper, an article ("New Girl in Town") by Ann Larson appeared, reading as follows:  "Skier Cara Dunne has been honored with a statue of her likeness that stands in Base Village.  Who was Dunne and where did this statue come from?  Check out next week's Snowmass Sun for more!"  (In fact the article was not in the next Snowmass Sun, but was in the next one after that--The July 14, 2010 article quoted just next above.)


Snowmass Village, CO - Mike Dunne, father of Cara Dunne-Yates, remembers his daughter on Father's Day 2009 with the future dedication of a bronze statue in this Colorado ski resort town. Late scholar Cara Dunne-Yates was an influential athlete, public speaker and mentor who motivated others to overcome their own life challenges. Her legacy will be honored in August when the statue is placed at the base of Snowmass Ski Area.

Dunne-Yates won medals at both the summer games in Atlanta and winter games in Innsbruck, a feat accomplished by few Paralympic or Olympic athletes. Sadly, her life was cut short in 2004 from cancer at the age of 34.

Dunne-Yates’ father is sharing his daughter’s story of courage and determination so others are motivated by it. He funded the statue project with an invitation-only fundraising campaign for those who supported her in life and wanted to keep her memory alive. More than 200 donors responded with more than $70,000 in four years.

Dunne-Yates is remembered as an outstanding athlete and scholar who helped found Challenge Aspen, an organization providing adaptive sports programs that teach people with disabilities like hers to ski, cycle, raft and hike, along with other activities.

“My daughter was an incredible athlete who won medals for Alpine ski racing and tandem cycling in the Paralympic summer and winter games,” said Mike Dunne. “Cara survived many challenges in life, but never let anything stop her drive to accomplish great things. She was an inspiration to everyone who met her.”

Dunne-Yates is remembered as an influential person who increased opportunities for disabled individuals. Despite the loss of both eyes from cancer at age five, Dunne-Yates graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University with a degree in East Asian studies and economics and served as class president in 1992. Dunne-Yates’s high academic goals motivated her to complete a law degree from UCLA Law School in 1997. She received many awards including the United States Association of Blind Athletes 1997 Female of the Year and the Gene Autry Courage Award for showing heroism amid adversity.

Sculptor Jerry Snodgrass was so taken by Dunne-Yates’ story that he reduced his fee significantly to create her statue. The piece contains Braille messages on the statue’s jacket and lower right pant leg to allow blind individuals to view the statue’s meaning. Mike Dunne also included some personal memories, including one of his daughter’s favorite sayings: “Get up, get out.” There are four plaques adorning each side of the base, including one for 106 Harvard donors and another for 102 additional donors.

November 10, 2004

Cara Dunne-Yates

Cara Dunne-Yates was blinded by cancer, but that didn't stop her from obtaining an Ivy League education, raising a family or winning several medals as a Paralympic athlete.

Born and raised in Chicago, Yates was less than a year old when she was diagnosed with retinal cancer. Although she lost both her eyes to the disease by the time she was five, Yates still learned to ride a bike and ski on her own. Using a team skiing technique, however, Yates was able to participate in competitions by following the sound her of sighted partner's skis. In 1988, she won a bronze medal in alpine skiing at the Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

With a guide dog by her side, Yates became president of her class at Harvard University and earned a bachelor's degree in East Asian studies. After graduation, she worked as a volunteer ski instructor at a school for the disabled in Utah. Yates was training for an upcoming winter event when cancer returned -- this time in her cheekbone.

After a year of treatment, she enrolled at UCLA Law School. Yates joined the university's cycling team and competed as a tandem racer with her sighted partner Scott Evans at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. There she won a silver medal in the mixed tandem kilometer race and a bronze medal on the 200-meter sprint. She also met Spencer Yates, the sighted partner of another blind cyclist. They wed in 1998.

Yates had just finished competing in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, when she was diagnosed with cancer for a third time. While undergoing chemotherapy, she received the 2002 True Hero of Sports Award from Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. She served as co-president of the New England Retinoblastoma Family Foundation and recently began writing her memoirs.

Yates died on Oct. 20 of cancer at the age of 34. She is survived by her husband and two young children.

Posted on November 10, 2004 6:27 AM


Cara Dunne-Yates, 34, earned medals, gave inspiration in sports

Cara A. Dunne-Yates was a scholar-athlete who graduated from Harvard College and UCLA Law School and earned medals in biking and ski racing, despite losing her sight at the age of 5 and enduring three bouts with cancer.

Ms. Dunne-Yates, 34, who was saluted as a True Hero of Sport in 2002 by Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sports in Society, died of Wednesday in her home in Sutton, after cancer struck again.

''She was influential in increasing the opportunities for people with disabilities in sports both in this country and internationally, " Eli Wolff, director of disability at the Northeastern center, said yesterday.

Ms. Dunne-Yates was born in Chicago with bright blue eyes. Shortly after birth, one eye began to wander. It was eventually determined that she had retinoblastoma, a genetic disorder in which a gene that suppresses tumors is missing. One of her eyes was removed before her second birthday. She endured bouts of chemotherapy and radiation treatment in order to save her other eye, but it was removed before she turned 6.

But that didn't stop her from wanting to have a normal childhood. ''She wanted to be just like the other children," her mother, Mary Zabelski of Chicago, said yesterday.

So, when Cara wanted to ride a bicycle, her mother helped her. ''We bought the smallest bicycle we could find," she said. Soon Cara was riding up and down an alley near her house, first with training wheels and then without.

''She was supposed to stay in the alley," said her mother, ''but she started slipping away."

In no time, Cara was riding around the block by herself.

In a story published by the Colorado Spring Gazette in 2000, she recalled once bumping into a pedestrian. ''What's the matter with you, kid?" he asked. ''You blind?"

Her stepfather, Rich Zabelski, encouraged her to try skiing and soon he was leading her down the slopes. Eventually she was making it down on her own and entering competitions.

She won Paralympic and world championship medals and competed in events around the world.

After graduating from Harvard in 1992, she took time off to enjoy herself on the slopes of Utah and volunteered at a ski school for the disabled.

Doctors soon discovered that she had cancer in her cheekbone, perhaps as a result of the radiation treatments she received to save her second eye. Her right cheekbone and part of her throat were removed in two operations.

''It was at about this time she began cycling again and really enjoying it," said her mother. ''Soon she was competing in tandem cycling events. "

Ms. Dunne-Yates decided to become a lawyer like her stepfather and she entered the University of California at Los Angeles law school, where she graduated with the help of readers who guided her through the intricacies of the law.

''She was always lucky in attracting the support of a wide range of devoted supporters," said her husband, D. Spencer Yates Jr.

She and Yates met at a bicycle competition at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996. He was the sighted rider on another tandem team.

They fell in love and were married in November 1998.

''How many people get to say they were married to their hero?" her husband said yesterday.

Though Ms. Dunne-Yates figured chemotherapy and radiation treatments made it impossible for her to get pregnant, she gave birth to a daughter on Jan. 13, 2000. The couple named her Elise after a Beethoven composition.

''She is my true gold medal," Ms. Dunne-Yates said in 2000.

Shortly after competing in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Ms. Dunne-Yates discovered a growth in her abdomen that was diagnosed as sarcoma, cancer of the soft tissue.

She continued her motivational speaking and was copresident of the New England Retinoblastoma Family Foundation.

''I felt like my life has been saved through sports," she said at the True Heroes award ceremony in 2000. " I feel like God's put me in this position where I can help people see that you can really be sick and have a disability and still have an awesome life."

Tonight at the 2004 awards in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Eli Wolff intends to say a few words in Ms. Dunne-Yates's honor

In addition to her husband, daughter and parents, she leaves a 16-month-old son, Carson David Alexander. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Buma Funeral Home in Whitinsville.

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