Ryan Van Garsse, 33, passed away peacefully after a long illness on January 12, 2020, surrounded by friends and family. His childhood years were spent in Rye, N.Y. and he graduated from Rye High School in 2004.
From an early age, his love of the outdoors was apparent; he’d spend hours traipsing through the small woods behind his home and exploring the nature preserves and marshlands that dotted his hometown. When Ryan was 11, he convinced his parents to send him on a three-week backpacking trip to Colorado, where he fell in love with the mountains and vowed to return. And that he did, attending Colorado College, then the University of Colorado in Boulder. After graduating with a degree in Biology, he moved to Denver, where he worked as a field biologist for an environmental consulting firm. He truly felt he had landed his dream job, happily spending hours in the wilderness tracking the habitats of burrowing owls or recording the nesting activities of hawks. During his years living on the Front Range, Ryan made the mountains his playground and enjoyed every outdoor activity Colorado had to offer – backcountry skiing, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking — with a gusto, skill, and stamina that was both impressive and hard to keep up with.
Happiest in the mountains, he decided he needed to be even closer to them, and, in 2011, he moved to Steamboat Springs, where he worked as a ski instructor before joining ACZ Laboratories, an environmental testing firm, as an analytical chemist.
Ryan embraced the mountain town lifestyle and enjoyed the camaraderie that comes from living in a community that values the outdoor experience. He would routinely ski before work, opting to hike up the mountain before dawn rather than wait for the chair lifts to open. He became a skilled and passionate backcountry skier; many of his winter weekends were spent camping at the base of a mountain, where he would sleep a few hours before starting the arduous upward trek in order to reach the summit at daybreak.
An avid mountaineer, one of Ryan’s lifetime goals was to climb all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers (mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet). He came close to reaching that goal, summiting 46 of them.
He is survived by his parents, Karen and Jim Van Garsse of Leawood, Kansas, and his sister, Jessica Van Garsse of Oakland, Calif., as well as a large extended family and an even larger family of friends who treasured knowing him.
A celebration of his life with be held in Kansas City, Missouri, (www.mcgilleystatelinechapel.com) on February 1, followed by another one in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in July.
Donations in Ryan Van Garsse’s memory may be made to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (www.14ers.org).