Dan Kneip recovered from 16 surgeries to return to Mount Hood. Photo by Zeb Yaklich.

Anyone who has regularly frequented Mt. Hood Meadows over the past several years knows the Skull & Crossbones flag which flies in the main parking lot. What many don’t know is the amazing story of Dan Kneip, the mountain pirate behind that flag.

You see the Skull and Crossbones on a vehicle that earns front-row parking over and over on huge powder days, and you realize that this dude is for real. The flag becomes a conversation piece for many, and if you are lucky you might end up becoming friends with Dan. 

Quick to share a story and a beer, Dan is the epitome of ski community hospitality. His passion for skiing goes back 46 years. He’s got tales of ski resorts from the East to the West, 12 years of National Ski Patrol experience, and a long history of making tracks from Hunter Mountain to Colorado to Tahoe. Now 58 years old, Dan has been a Mt. Hood Meadows regular since 2005.

What most of us didn’t know was that while Dan was telling us these amazing stories and lapping powder runs in Heather Canyon, he was also battling cancer and going through radiation therapy and chemotherapy.  At times, Dan would go directly from his treatment, get in his Subaru and drive straight to the mountain and raise that flag. This was especially true if it was a powder day. Once the powder was ripped up, you could always find Dan at the Mazot, making more mountain friends.

The mountain means a lot to all of us, but it means even more to Dan. For seven years Dan Kneip has used skiing as his motivation and method for battling and rebounding from cancer. He was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer after a routine colonoscopy in October 2006. He has been through 26 sessions of radiation therapy, 20 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, 16 surgeries (10 of them major), a permanent colostomy and more CT scans than he cares to recall.

Through it all he kept coming back to Mount Hood. He climbed to the Hogsback, competed in the Avy Dog Race at Meadows every year, and chalked up 65 days on the slopes in 2010/11.

When his lead surgeon, Dr. Ron Wolf of the Oregon Clinic, cleared Dan for skiing after one of his surgeries, Dan's response was, "Good, because I was up there last weekend."

Dr. Wolf, who is an expert skier in his own right, got a kick out of that response. "He loves that story," says Dan. "And I love that Doc Wolf. He saved my life."

Dan sent a post-surgery powder photo to his docs and they printed it out and put it on the wall to inspire other patients with their recoveries.

Dan also gives huge credit to his employer, Providence Health, which kept him on even when he exceeded his Family and Medical Leave Entitlement twice, and provided him with a specialized workspace to accommodate for his health issues.

Even when he got too sick to ski, Dan kept driving up to Mount Hood with his pirate flag, just to be on the mountain and see his friends. He says skiing is in his blood. His dad worked as a patroller for years, and both his brothers patrol at Stratton Mountain in Vermont.

2013 started off as an especially tough year for Dan. He was hospitalized for the entire month of January after two major surgeries and nine operating room procedures involving the experimental use of

">wound vac therapy.

These setbacks didn’t hold Dan’s spirit down. His positive outlook on life and incredible determination to get back skiing helped bring him through one of the most trying periods of his life. On April 13th, 2013 Dan realized his goal of getting back on skis.

His first day back on Mount Hood was an absolutely magical late April storm that brought a solid 5-inch powder day. It couldn’t have been planned any better for the return of a skier who loves powder. The following weekend, April 20th, Dan was once again able to celebrate Mazotfest by participating in a ski race to support the avalanche dogs. And on April 27th he attended his favorite spectator event at Mt Hood Meadows: the Pond Skim.

He kept his recovery going over the summer by completing his first duathlon on a 90-degree summer day in Bend.

Now that the winter of 2013-14 is starting up with some fresh snow, Dan is back on the mountain again, living his mantra of “all you have to do is get up and get moving.” He hopes to get in 45-50 days on the slopes in 2013-14.

Dan has never complained to his mountain friends through his life-threatening battle with cancer. Many of us never even knew he was sick. Instead he approached his battle as if it were another steep, gnarly run to navigate. He picked his line and adjusted to the fall line, changing conditions and obstacles. He has inspired many of us to live more, worry less, and most of all he’s taught us all that through passion you can overcome anything.

Dan's flag flying in the parking lot is no longer just a symbol of a fun-loving skier. It is a true symbol of perseverance, hope, and passion for life.

Check out the photos and footage below of Dan on Mount Hood, and feel free to share your favorite Pirate Dan stories in the comments section.

Here is a slideshow of Dan Kneip's Mount Hood therapy:


Dan gets a hug from his mountain pal Shannon after recovering from one of his many surgeries.

Here is a video shot by Dan's buddy Sean Jacks:

Zeb Yaklich has been producing online content for over 14 years. He is an avid skier and the President of Off The Wall Media. His experience in the ski industry comes from his century-old family ties to Crested Butte, Colorado and his work with Crested Butte Mountain Resort. 

When not at work, you can find Zeb at Mt Hood Meadows huck'n in the POW, blasting in the park with his oldest son, ripping with boarders, talking skiing with locals and most importantly, on the magic carpet teaching his two youngest kids what shredding is all about.