Wild Woman: Artist and Skier Larissa DeHaas
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
I have never known anyone who eats, sleeps, and breathes skiing as much as Larissa DeHaas. Her Instastories in the summer often lament the end of skiing and counting the days until the snow comes while every workout, meal, equipment purchased, and friend in her life somehow adds to her skiing experience. The 30-year-old who rides for Elevated Locals works on the park crew at Dollar Mountain in the winter, garnering her an enviable free ski pass to Sun Valley Resort. Throughout the winter, especially after the Resort closes, she heads into the backcountry with anyone who’s willing. But it hasn’t been easy for her to come back from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2016 that completely upended her life, including her ability to ski. It was while recovering from this and other injuries that Larissa really started to get into her art, a collection of tiny dots that depict mountains and other scenery.
What got you into your dot art?
Larissa: I guess getting injured from skiing. I’d already done some art; like, one piece I started back in college but it only had about ten dots on it and an outline. After I blew out my knee two springs ago, I just had to sit still and do nothing. And my brain was still recovering from a brain injury which it still is now. The dot art was definitely therapeutic and I guess I had the time to sit still and start doing big 18”x24” pieces. Before that, I just had sketchbook pieces that were the same kind of idea.
Tell me about your TBI?
Larissa: My life went from interviewing for new jobs to crying for four to five hours a day. I got t-boned on the highway by an electric truck while coming back from an interview for a new job. I wanted to be able to ski more in the winter and my current job wasn’t cutting it. I mean, I was skiing about four days a week, but not enough. It just turned my world upside down. I ended up getting fired from my job that year. I was planning to be a freestyle coach with the free ski team that winter but my doctor couldn’t clear me for that work. When he finally cleared me in February of that winter, I still wasn’t better and I got fired from ski school due to “medical termination.” It was just a fuckshow. My grandpa had just died and my family didn’t really know what was going on. I was just so fucked up. I had to go to PT all that fall and also got kicked out of my condo. My sister had just started working from home that year and was very much in her own little world. It took her until about January for her to realize how fucked up I was and that I wasn’t even able to work fully. I was kind of working but only about 20 hours a week. But it was hell. I’d stare at a computer screen and see dots everywhere. I had to go to stroke patient physical therapy that fall and make my eyes relearn how to follow because they weren’t tracking right.
Did it affect your coordination and mobility?
Larissa: Yeah, finally this last spring I was able to spin on my skis again without getting too dizzy. And I was able to spot with my eyes. But it’s still kind of funky to spin in a circle. It happened in 2016 which was a huge snow year for us and I was just crying while skiing which is horrible. On amazing pow days! And not being able to wake up to ski amazing pow is just not me. Sleeping in until noon on a pow day. And you can’t advocate for yourself when you’re that fucked up. But then my family finally caught on and helped out and advocated for me.
Have you always done art?
Larissa: Since I started going to Riverstone in 7th grade where I learned art. I tried to study more art in college but all the classes were full and I was a science major so they said I couldn’t get an art minor since I didn’t have enough room in my schedule. I really wanted to take more and learn how to mix colors, especially in painting.
How do you start a piece and what materials do you use? How long does it take?
Larissa: Markers. It takes about 70-100 hours to complete a piece. I just have ideas and write them down in a sketchbook and they start to come together and I pull out a big piece.
Are your pieces of specific mountains and scenery or just generic?
Larissa: Oh yeah. I have a piece of the Boy Scout Couloir, I’ve started a piece on the McGowan Couloir; they’re couloirs I basically want to go ski and the mountains around them. I want to do a set of every mountain range around Ketchum, like the overall outline of them. Maybe make them more illustrative-like.
Do you have an Etsy shop or sell your pieces anywhere?
Larissa: I’m trying to decide between Square and Etsy for a website, I finally got photos of all my art onto my iPad. Ideally, I just really want to sell with a gallery. There’s some artists out there that make all these things and selling their art and selling art seems to be more full-time than making art and I just really want to make art. I really want to get into 3D metal sculptures, acrylic and encaustic, and welding; it’s definitely the 10-year plan.
Did you grow up being active in the outdoors?
Larissa: I’m from Idaho (5th generation Idahoan on both sides!) and for all of our family things we would head to the outdoors. Every summer we’d come up and camp. My grandma had a cabin at Fisher Creek when I was young. We’d go to Redfish Lake all the time. I went backpacking a few times when I was little where I was like, ‘Is this fun? I don’t know yet, but maybe!’ I did a lot of sports but wasn’t really in the outdoors that much, I didn’t know you could hike and ski when I was in high school in Boise. I grew up skiing at Bogus every winter but I never came to Sun Valley until my mid-20s. I think my real tie to the outdoors is skiing, but I love camping and being outside.
How long have you been in Sun Valley?
Larissa: Almost a decade. A couple of those years I was just nannying here every summer and winter throughout college because my sister Amanda lived here.
What’s your favorite backcountry snack? Larissa: Beer. No, you have to eat. PB&Js that have been squished in your pack and you have to make at least two and bring two Golden Goldies. And backup Shot Bloks.
To buy Larissa's art, visit www.lolodotdot.com.