5 Things She Learned From Backcountry Skiing

March 30 2018 BY Keely

We asked five of our campers and coaches about their main takeaways from backcountry skiing. Here is what they told us!

Iceland ski and sail pagePhoto Credit – Crystal Sagan

  1. LINDSAY ON RISK ASSESSMENT  –  “Assessing risk in the backcountry is always challenging and a skill that I am always continuing to develop as a mountain guide and backcountry traveler. I started guiding roughly 10 years ago and spending time in the backcountry before that. In guiding, assessing risk has been a major focal point in all of my training. It is something that I’ve learned about in courses, whether they are avalanche courses, guide courses or guide training. It is also something that when Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 3.31.34 PMI go out with fellow guides we are always discussing. Throughout the years, I have learned to trust my instinct and to constantly observe my surroundings and the group of people that I am with. Daily debriefs of ski tours in the backcountry with friends or guides, allows me to continue my growth and learning in this area. There are some great resources and mnemonics that I use as guidelines, but really having a plan before I go, and making that plan when I am well fed, hydrated and warm, and open communication with my travel partners are some of the most helpful skills I’ve found to assess risk.” – Lindsay Mann, Montana Backcountry Camp and Iceland Ski & Sail Camp Lead Guide
  2. HEIDI ON LEADERSHIP  –  “An important part of being a good leader is being able to follow your own intuition and voice your ideas and concerns.  The opposite of leading is following and backcountry skiing teaches you to advocate for yourself and others.This means being aware of all the conditions, risks and group input, which helps determine whether you will endure the next trek or not.  Backcountry skiing has given me the confidence to self-advocate, listen to others and develop as a strong, female leader.” – Heidi Wills, Montana Backcountry Camp and Iceland Ski & Sail Camper

  3. HELGA ON TEAMWORK  –  “The Iceland Ski & Sail trip helped me become a better teammate. It was a new place and new experience for all of us staying on a boat and skinning and skiing to places we had never been. We had to help each other a lot with things like putting skins on our skis and sharing water or snacks. It was important to keep each others spirits up with words of affirmation because you always feel better knowing you’re doing a good job! Being a part of a team full of supportive people who shared this experience with me taught me what it is to be a good teammate.” – Helga Björnsdóttir, Iceland Ski & Sail Camper and Mt. Hood Race Camp Intern
    iceland ski camp on homepage

    Photo Credit – Crystal Sagan

  4. ELLIE ON PERSPECTIVE  –  “My entire life has revolved around ski racing. Red / blue, red / blue, red / blue over and over, the same thing, until just a few years ago when I was a part of the very first Keely’s
    IMG_8241Backcountry Camp in the Tobacco Root Mountains in Montana. It turns out life can be more than getting down the fastest. My first run in the backcountry, I crashed at least three times because I was not used to the soft touring boots, but I did so with the largest grin on my face. In racing, I am restricted by the gates, but in the backcountry,  I am free to pick my own line. In racing, my goal is to get down the mountain the fastest, while in the backcountry I can enjoy the ride. Every day I smile right before I go out of the gate, in training and in racing. Smiling reminds me of that first time I made creamy turns down a perfect corridor of trees. The backcountry camp taught me to slow down and look around, to enjoy the ride, because the up is just as fun as the down.” Ellie Nichols, Mt. Hood Race Camp, Montana Backcountry Camp, and Iceland Ski & Sail Camper
  5. KEELY ON SYSTEMS  –  “I haven’t always been the most organized person. I wasn’t the kid with a well organized backpack at a ski race and I was known to forget things.  Throughout my life I’d like to say I was a creative mess, but I think my family might tell you it was just another “Keely explosion.” I’ve had to really work at staying organized, especially because I am now a role model for the girls who attend my backcountry skiing camps. Backcountry skiing has been one of the avenues in my life that has taught me the importance of being reliable and organized. Because if you are not organized in the backcountry you ultimately are putting yourself and your ski partners at risk. And that just isn’t cool! I’ve found a few things that really help my backcountry systems stay organized are: strategically packing my bag the night before a big day, bringing enough snacks and water for myself and extras for my friends, always carrying a medical kit in case someone gets injured, doing my very best to make sure my friends do not have to wait for me because my backpack has exploded on the skin track, and making a plan with my adventure partner(s) the night before that we feel comfortable with.” Keely Kelleher, Founder and Director of Keely’s Camp
    Ellie Nichols putting her skins on at the Bell Lake Yurt.

    Photo Credit – Kt Miller