​The Great Bardini: Celebrating the influence of the late Allan Bard

The late, great Allan Bard heads down Pine Creek Canyon in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains after placing a cache in Granite Park prior to guiding a Sierra Crest tour. [Photo] John Moynier

What did Allan Bard give us? What was Allan’s gift? Did he, The Great Bardini, change our lives?

Everyone Allan Bard skied with heard the siren’s call of the hills and wrestled with those alluring sounds that swept us toward where and what we all share—a deep love of nature and mountains and everything that comes with them. Allan, my longtime friend and colleague in guiding California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, left us knowing we had made the right choices.

Looking at the “opportunities,” Yosemite legend Chuck Pratt reportedly cried out, “I could have had a corner office, with a window and a…secretary! But no! I, like Christian Bonington, chose to climb!” Like Pratt, Allan committed to the other side, the Backside of Beyond.

Allan Bard was raised in Alameda, aka “The Isle of Style,” in California’s Bay Area, and after high school in 1970, he seriously considered attending seminary school to become a preacher before discovering the mountains. The middle of brothers Gary and Dale, Allan had become a true local at Berkeley’s Indian Rock by his early teens. It wasn’t long before junkets to Yosemite lead by his eldest brother, Gary, developed into full-time residency in the famed Camp 4. 

Allan went on to become a widely recognized guide, highly regarded for his easy-going and impeccable delivery of all things involving snow, rock, the High Sierra and the dirtbag lifestyle. A master of his crafts, Allan gregariously told stories that put everyone at ease. His laughter invited you into his world where he shared his secret spots and lit your way to enlightenment.

Allan and many others would follow Ned Gillette, who had been the director of Nordic skiing in Yosemite, to Stowe, Vt.’s Trapp Family Lodge for a number of seasons in the late ’70s. As spring would warm the rocks and the corn would ripen, a veritable cavalcade of misfits and visionaries would flee the East’s mud season to feast on the bounty of the Eastern Sierra. 

Around that time, Allan was chosen for massive, multi-week expeditions across Ellesmere Island (500 miles in 52 days), around Denali (20 days beneath a 90-pound pack) and across New Zealand’s Southern Alps (32 days) for his admirable traits. He appreciated and enjoyed those distant venues, the camaraderie of the teams, the challenges and difficulties of the travel, and he persevered through any calamity with humility and grace. 

He came back from those “firsts,” the biggest ski expeditions in our times, with a message: “I have skied the big mountains; I have labored under enormous loads; I have seen the light; I have come home to the most munificent and beautiful range in the world. We will go light, and we will go fast, and we will go have fun with a capital ‘F!’ Thou shall Redline the Fun-meter.”

Allan was a world-class zealot, an upbeat and hilarious vaudevillian cornball poet. As the gospel poured forth, any doubts, fears or failings were swept away. Allan gave everyone a chance, or two, or three. He convinced them they could change…their lives, their techniques, their minds. He knew you were making the right choice, to leave “your comfort zone” and breathe in clear, crisp, purified air, to know the jagged granite skylines, the deep shadowed couloirs, the verdant meadows and the spice-scented groves, to worship at the alter that is “the alpine,” to follow our dreams.

On July 4, 1997, just more than 20 years ago, Allan Bard took a fatal fall while guiding on Wyoming’s Grand Teton. Before his death, his writings and photography were widely published in magazine’s like Ski, Cross Country Skier, Summit, Powder and Couloir. Now, his beliefs live on through the nonprofit Bardini Foundation, which guides trips throughout the Eastern Sierra, including for inner-city children and those of less fortunate socioeconomic situations. 

Allan Bard gave us—left us—many gifts. He was humble. He had incredible strengths. He suffered fools gladly, was patient to a fault, mentally strong and physically powerful. He welcomed you in and shared his deep respect and love for the mountains. He guided you spiritually into his alpine sanctuary. Allan lifted us all.

His answer is written all over the Sierra Nevada’s “Eastside.” He knew the answer was to go light in a range at his backdoor. He went evangelical—he’d seen the light. You, Bardini, enticed us, supported us, believed in us. You showed us the way, the will to go with the glide that is our dance with nature.

As Allan would toast, “You ski, I ski…Weeeee Ski!”


  1. Charlie Tabano says:

    I never met Allan, but I think I know him now. Wonderful story Tom.

  2. Brian Parks says:

    I met Allan but once for a week in the Palisades when he guided for PSOM. That was all I needed to realize what a lucky man I was to share trail with him so briefly. He told grand stories. He listened to yours with intent focus. He knew how to teach, how to laugh, how to absorb with dignity his grand temple of the Eastern Sierra, and how to keep his white Gatsby hat absolutely spotless.

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