RIP Bela Vadasz, Legendary California Mountain Guide

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Bela Vadasz ripping it up.
Bela Vadasz ripping it up.

Legendary mountain guide Bela Vadasz passed away yesterday at the age of 62.  Bela was a technical director of the International Federation of Mountain Guides (IFMGA), Owner of Alpine Skills International (ASI), a fully IFMGA certified mountain guide, recipient of the American Mountain Guides Association’s Lifetime Acheivement Award, and absolute god on skis.

Bela passed away yesterday during a medical procedure in Oceanside, California.

“On behalf of the family we wanted to let you know that Bela passed away yesterday unexpectedly while undergoing a medical procedure in Oceanside, Ca. We are all saddened and shocked, a memorial will be held but understandably there are no current plans, we will keep you posted. Most important to Bela was his family, followed by his deep love of the mountains, the oceans, and his music. I’m sure he had a profound influence on many of you as we know you had on him. Bela followed his passion and lived the pure life. Something we all hope to do at some level and he nailed it. We just do not run across many people like Bela, he was truly one of the good guys.” – Rich Everett

Bela Vadasz
Bela Vadasz

Bela grew up in San Francisco but lived in Truckee, CA for over 30 years.  Bela and his wife Mimi founded the guiding service Alpine Skills International (ASI) in California in 1979 after graduating from San Francisco State University with degrees in outdoor recreation.  ASI teaches a wide array of mountain skills to students including backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering.  Skiing was always Bela’s focus.

Bela worked with other guides in the 1980s to create a certification program within the AMGA that would be acceptable at an international level and was 20+ years later was awarded the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Bela Vadasz in "Chute Out" in Ellery Bowl, Yosemite National Park, CA.
Bela Vadasz in “Chute Out” in Ellery Bowl, Yosemite National Park, CA.

Bela has done it all (and much of it with his wife Mimi) the first American ascent of the Puterey Ridge on Mont Blanc (the longest alpine route in the Alps) to the first freeheel ski decent of Denali to over 20 tours of the famous Haute ski route in the Alps to being one of the first American guide to be internationally certified to IFMGA standards.

“Bela started the ski program which was the crux of the AMGA being admitted into the IFMGA. Without his vision and perspiration, the AMGA wouldn’t be where it is today.” – Rob Hess, the AMGA technical director


“Bela is the epitome of passion when it comes to mountains. You don’t realize it at first because he is so soft spoken, but it was more than evident in his attention to detail while developing the certification program.” – Dick Jackson, owner of Aspen Expeditions and former president of the AMGA

Bela was an absolute legend in the American mountain world who was best known for his skiing and his love for skiing.  His impact on the Sierra Nevada ski scene will never be forgotten.  His impact on the entire American mountain guiding and skiing world is undeniable.  Thank you, Bela.

Bela ripping it in Norway photo: Steven Sig CAMERAMEN: Tom Day, Keoki Flagg, Peter Norquist TALENT: Doug Stoup, Grant Corigan, John Davis, Tao Fletcher
Bela ripping it in Norway photo: Steven Sig

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7 thoughts on “RIP Bela Vadasz, Legendary California Mountain Guide

  1. Some Epic (looks like late 80’s) steep pics ! Know his wife’s sister (in Reno). Mimi is the oldest woman to summit Everest. They sure have done a lot. Very sad to hear. Rip in peace, bro.

  2. To Mimi:

    Please accept my sincere condolences, regarding Bela’s recent passing.

    You might remember me from our expedition to Makalu.

    May he, rest in peace,

    With peace and light,


    You can feel free to write me at:

  3. Dear Mimi & family-
    my thoughts are with you at this time. Although it has been quite some time, I did spend a lot of time with Bela in the line up. I will always remember our time together in 1976-77 during the last big drought when we charged outside VFW together for days on end. He certainly took his passion further than any of the crew that I can remember and will always be held in high regard. I am sorry for your early loss.

  4. Condolences to Mimi and the boys.
    Bela touched countless lives, and had a profound impact on guiding, skiing and climbing in the Sierra.
    I’ll cherish the memories of time spent with Bela.
    He will be missed dearly.

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