Avalanche Education Community Mourns the Passing of Dr. Clinton Culp

Dr. Culp was instructing an AIARE Course Leader Training when he suffered a non-trauma medical emergency

South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jan. 30, 2023 — It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Clinton Culp, a highly respected and beloved AIARE avalanche educator and the Director of the Wilderness Education & Outdoor Leadership Program at Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) in South Lake Tahoe. Dr. Culp dedicated his life to educating his students to safely navigate and enjoy the outdoors.

Dr. Culp was instructing an AIARE Course Leader Training in South Lake Tahoe on January 27 when he suffered a medical emergency. Despite efforts by those in the field and emergency medical professionals who arrived on scene shortly after, he did not survive.

Hired in 2018 to direct LTCC’s wilderness education program, Dr. Culp was an incredible asset to his community and was widely recognized at LTCC for his experience and exceptionalism. 

“Clinton’s impact on our Wilderness Program was huge, bringing it to a whole new level of quality and national recognition, exceeding all our expectations,” said DeFranco. “It’s hard to make sense of this loss, but I and many others are finding at least some solace in the fact that he died in the mountains, on a gorgeous bluebird day, doing what he most loved to do with his students beside him.”

Dr. Culp was a longtime AIARE instructor and course leader, and during the 2021–22 season, he joined AIARE’s instructor trainer team. AIARE is proud to know that his legacy has influenced the next generation of leaders in the avalanche field.

Dr. Culp’s passion for education and his teaching philosophy are reflected on his LinkedIn page, where he wrote, “As you prepare yourself for your profession, for your life, do it not for yourself but for those whom you wish to lead and seek not to achieve greatness for yourself but seek to see those who you lead achieve greatness.”

“Clinton was not only an educator but also a mentor to many, and his passing is a great loss to the avalanche community,” said AIARE Executive Director Vickie Hormuth. “He will be remembered for his dedication to safety and commitment to helping others enjoy the backcountry safely.”

After growing up in the flatlands of northwest Texas, Dr. Culp learned to ski during a training operation at the US Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Center in Bridgeport, California, where he fell in love with the Sierra Nevada. After retiring from the Marines, he received his M.S. in Recreation and Ph.D. in Education from the University of Idaho. An avid backcountry skier, Dr. Culp taught at the University of Idaho, Washington State University, Montana State University in Billings. 

Dr. Culp is survived by his wife, Lisa, his two daughters, Leah and Lenny Culp, and Lisa’s sons, Peter and David Horan.

A GoFundMe page has been started to assist the Culp family as they navigate this unthinkable loss. Donations can be made here: https://gofund.me/2ae37734.

In collaboration with the Culp family, LTCC has set up the Dr. Clinton Culp Memorial Scholarship for Outdoor Leaders, which will be used to support associate degree-seeking students in the Wilderness program at LTCC.

To ensure the scholarship benefits both current and future students, a generous donor seeded the fund with a $25,000 gift to create an endowment. Funds will be invested to generate revenue to support Wilderness students for years to come. The goal is to raise an additional $25,000 to honor Dr. Culp’s legacy and support outdoor leadership students in their pursuit of excellence. The first scholarship recipient will be awarded in June 2023.

Donations via credit card can be made online at bit.ly/DrCulpScholarship.

LTCC will host a Celebration of Life event for Clinton on its South Lake Tahoe campus on Saturday, March 25. All are welcome to attend. Please save the date, and additional details will follow shortly.


AIARE was established in 1998 as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit educational organization to create a researched-based avalanche education model for back-country users with the belief that avalanche education, research, and training can prevent injuries and fatalities due to avalanches. AIARE develops and disseminates research-based avalanche curriculum to over 120 Providers in the US, South America, and EuropeFor more information, visit https://avtraining.org/.

About Lake Tahoe Community College

LTCC is an evolving, dynamic California community college located in South Lake Tahoe, CA. The waters and forests of Lake Tahoe are a national treasure, and LTCC’s campus is a microcosm of the region’s natural beauty. This enthusiastic and friendly college community serves students from the bi-state Tahoe watershed area and includes students from neighboring Nevada communities, other states, and around the world. LTCC currently serves 6,500 students annually, helping them to earn degrees, preparing them for transfer to four-year institutions, and readying them for successful careers.