RECAP: DC Adventure Film Festival

Article by Sarah Boisen, Southeast Ambassador

SheJumps had a fantastic weekend partnering with the DC Adventure Film Festival in Washington, D.C. where Girafficorns passed along tips and tricks for making the most of time spent on the trail.

We covered female-specific Leave No Trace principals, and discussed best practices for reducing one’s impact when adventuring in the great outdoors. Participants had the opportunity to dig into conversation about what makes the trail experience unique for females.

Southeast Ambassador Boisen shared plenty of SheJumps stoke (and stickers)!

Southeast Ambassador Boisen shared plenty of SheJumps stoke (and stickers)!

Ladies were able to casually discuss the dreaded question, “how the heck do I pee/poop in the woods!?”—a concern that can often deter females from getting out on the trail. We built upon the topic of basic bodily functions by tying in the importance of female hygiene in the backcountry. Participants were introduced to products like the Diva Cup and GoGirl and were informed on ways to dispose of feminine waste products in an environmentally friendly manner.

Sarah discussed Leave No Trace principles with participants to reduce backcountry impact!

Sarah discussed Leave No Trace principles with participants to reduce backcountry impact!

Technical topics such as pack fitting/weighting and body mechanics were also covered with REI Inspired Guides on hand to assist in helping gals find the perfect gear for their next adventure. Participants were stoked to receive trail tools and essentials to add to their packs generously donated by SheJumps partners Eco Lips, Treeline Coffee Roasters, Mountain Hub, COOLA, Big Agnes, Essential Wipes and Misadventures female adventure magazine.

SheJumps is also a recent recipient of REI’s Force of Nature Fund aimed at creating more outdoor opportunities for women and girls, so we had a blast sharing with participants what this investment means for females searching for empowerment, education and community through outdoor initiatives.

Girafficorns Ana Ceci and Sarah passed along tips, tricks and of course, plenty of free goodies!

Girafficorns Ana Ceci and Sarah passed along tips, tricks and of course, plenty of free goodies!

A huge thanks to the DC Adventure Film Festival and REI Washington D.C. for involving SheJumps in an epic, empowering and informative weekend!

Turning your passion into your profession

Fall is a great time of year to reflect on your career goals. Camber Outdoors recently launched their new career site which connects women to careers in the outdoor industry. It’s exciting to see so many companies taking their CEO pledge to help expand women’s opportunities both in the backcountry and the boardroom. We took some time to chat with a few ladies on our SheJumps team of volunteers who also work in the outdoor industry to share more on their career paths. Looking for a new job? Check out Camber’s new platform.

Megan Davin. Salt Lake City. Utah Ambassador.


How long you’ve been part of SheJumps? Currently, I am a Utah Ambassador, but I began with SheJumps back in 2012, and have done a little bit of everything. I began as an online-volunteer for SheJumps writing countless blogs. And I created and attended many events while serving as the Northeast Regional Coordinator. I love every aspect and am a huge supporter!

How did you first get into the outdoors? I grew up at the ocean and playing in the woods, but would have never considered myself as outdoorsy. That transitioned to going to college in Vermont where I first went camping and really got into hiking, sea kayaking, skiing, and eventually mountain biking. College was the crucial point for me that snowballed into not only a lifelong passion, but also my career.

What is your outdoor passion? My passions are mountain biking, alpine skiing, ski touring, and hiking. I’ve dabbled in a little bit of everything but my current seasonal cycles are mountain bike – hike – camp – ski all winter long! I can’t get enough of everything, so I will keep it up until I get bored, or try something new.

What is your current role and company? I am a Customer Account Manager at Backcountry, also known as an Expert Gearhead. I work with and manage a book of around 2,500 people, assisting with everything from gear advice to sales and customer service.

How did you turn your passion into your profession? Persistence. Every time someone has told me I can’t do something, it lights an extra fire under me to keep going and never give up or give in. Rather, it just gives me inspiration to get creative.

What advice do you have for other women who want to get into the Outdoor Industry? Don’t give up. Find like-minded friends, or a mentor, and have someone to talk with who understands you and wants to genuinely see you succeed.

Shari Karber. Bellingham. Washington Ambassador.


How long you’ve been part of SheJumps? I’ve been a SheJumps Pacific Coast Ambassador in Bellingham, WA for 4 months and a SheJumps follower / attendee for 3 years.

How did you first get into the outdoors? I grew up in the country and loved getting outside, but it wasn’t until college when I stopped staring at the mountains and bought gear to start backpacking.

What is your outdoor passion? In the summer, I love backpacking and spending multiple days up in the high country. In the winter I love snowshoeing – both blend into Spring / Fall activities too!

What is your current role and company? I am a Sales Coordinator for Superfeet Worldwide, a 100% employee owned premium insole company that is best known for putting shape under your feet for every adventure through over the counter insoles and footwear. My focus is in Internet Sales and International Sales, I do everything from managing our brand image on Amazon to processing orders from all over the world. I love the variety and there is never a dull moment!

How did you turn your passion into your profession? I started wearing Superfeet insoles about 7 years ago while working in the hospitality industry; Superfeet was actually a client of mine. I knew a lot about the company, the products, the culture, the values, and eventually through the relationships I had built, along with great timing – I joined the Superfeet team!

What advice do you have for other women who want to get into the Outdoor Industry? If you want to get in the outdoor industry, my advice is to build genuine relationships, find a company that’s values reflect your own, and simply GO FOR IT! If you’re a good fit and you live and breathe the company’s core values, you will get the job in a heartbeat!

Steph Bennett. Winthrop. Washington Ambassador.


How long have you been part of SheJumps? I’ve been a Pacific Northwest Ambassador for 2 months, and have been a SheJumps advocate for 4+ years.

How did you first get into the outdoors? I totally lucked out growing up. We have a family cabin in the Adirondacks, where we were always out canoeing, hiking, swimming, fishing, building trails, and exploring.

What is your outdoor passion? Winters are spent splitboarding, and all other moments are spent either trail running or plotting my next adventure.

What is your current role and company? My current role is working for a small apparel/outerwear start-up called MtnLogic, which requires wearing multiple hats. My technical title is Supply Chain & Planning Director, but one day I may be working as a sales manager and the next climbing Rainier for a marketing shoot.

How did you turn your passion into your profession? I remember sitting in class during college and writing a list of all of the companies I wanted to work for when I graduated. I would go online every day and scour the job pages at Burton, K2, Kelty, Columbia, Patagonia, The North Face, etc. I realized early on that it was incredibly important for me to work for a company that made products that I use to get outside, explore and make me smile. Right after graduating, I took an unpaid internship with Burton Snowboards, and the rest is history.

What advice do you have for other women who want to get into the Outdoor Industry? Network, network, network. If there is a company you want to work for, reach out to their HR department and see if you can talk to someone about what it’s like to work there. Then, if you happen to see a job posted at that company in the future, you already have a connection when you submit your resume.

Mallory Ottariano. Missoula. Montana Regional Coordinator.


How long have you been part of SheJumps? I’ve been the Montana Regional Coordinator for just over a year and first got  involved with SheJumps when I attended Alpine Finishing School in 2015.

How did you first get into the outdoors? I grew up in New England, which is so rich with wonderful places to recreate, and my family is really active in the outdoors. Being outside has been a part of my my identity since before I can remember, and my best memories of childhood have to do with the incredible outdoor activities my family exposed me to.

What is your outdoor passion? Anything that gets me outside and moving my body! I love ski touring, mountain biking, and hiking, but this year I took up some new activities too – trail running and skate skiing. Even a gentle walk with my dog after work is at the top of my list.

What is your current role and company? In 2015 I founded Kind Apparel, a women’s adventure clothing company. It’s a small operation and I’m responsible for a lot of tasks. We do all our designing and production in our studio in Montana, so a lot of my time is spent behind a sewing machine. But product testing is always a good time. We make all sorts of apparel for active women: skorts, swimwear, dresses, and ski headwear; and all our fabrics are made from recycled materials. I create all the graphics for our fabric, so we’re kind to the planet, and one-of-a-kind.

How did you turn your passion into your profession? I studied design in college and have been a lifelong artist, so when I graduated I started selling some of my work on Etsy. After a few years of growing online, I branded my work a bit differently and started making things that really complimented my active, outdoor lifestyle.

What advice do you have for other women who want to get into the Outdoor Industry? First of all, I think this is an amazing time for women to get involved in the outdoor industry. We’re getting more representation than ever and it’s leading to big changes. However, authenticity is key. With so many people trying to be seen and heard in this industry, it’s important that your voice shines through unmasked. Pursue endeavors that you truly identify with and your passion will be channeled into success.

2017 Boise Wild Skills – Recap

Written by Kim Holloway and Stacey Hopstad

Seventy two girls flocked to the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center on a hot August day for the second annual Boise Wild Skills.
We were excited to welcome back some of our favorite community partners; Outdoor Exchange, Air St. Luke’s, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue, and Albertsons. New to Wild Skills Boise this year, was the addition of a mountain biking station. We were thrilled to include Boise Bicycle Project to round our group of awesome community organizations who support our event as station leaders.
The girls started off the day meeting girls their own age in their color coded teams. Boise Ambassador, Nicole Jorgenson, then lead them through 15 minutes of yoga to get them warmed up and mentally focused for the big day ahead.
With the wealth of trails in the Boise area it only made sense to add Mountain biking instruction to Boise Wild Skills and it proved to be both challenging and exciting. The Boise Bicycle Project volunteers were fun, energetic, knowledgeable and made sure each girl had an awesome day. BBP also generously donated 7 bikes, helmets, bike locks and bike lights to our participants who didn’t have the proper gear. After learning about trail etiquette and pre-ride safety checks all 72 girls took to the trails (some for the first time ever) to explore some of the beautiful terrain Boise has to offer. We had a few tears, a few band aids, but all in all, we had A TON of smiles. THANK YOU, BBP!!!!
ws2In addition to mountain biking, the girls went through stations filled with valuable education on Shelter Building, Navigation, 10 Essentials & Leave No Trace, and First Aid. In Shelter Building, a group of volunteers from Outdoor Exchange taught the girls what to pack for shelter, but also how to make a shelter using items found from their surroundings if they were ever stranded. The girls saw this as a fun opportunity to build with tarps, emergency blankets, and even garbage bags.

ws8Navigation was lead by the experts from Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue. They taught the girls the basics of how to read a topographic map and of course to Never Eat Soggy Waffles. The girls even used real compasses to put “Red in the Shed to find true North.
ws9Next up was 10 Essentials & Leave No Trace. SheJumps own Executive Director, Claire Smallwood, took the lead to teach the girls how to pack and prepare for an adventure as well as how to protect the beautiful places they visit. The girls took turns telling stories about a time when they were disappointed to find garbage or other ways humans had disturbed the animals or plants around them. They all left inspired to be advocates and experts at Leave No Trace.
ws5The last, and possibly most busy station, was First Aid. The girls were able to learn the process of what to do in case of an injury when they are out in the wild; Stay Calm, Get Help, and how to use their packed First Aid items. During the class the girls drew fake injuries with markers ranging from scrapes and broken bones to more elaborate/creative cougar attacks. They then treated these injuries with the help of the Air St. Luke’s experts. They also were able to watch the experts in action on real scrapes and bruises that came in from the mountain Biking station.

ws4Wild Skills Boise was made possible by a our special group of volunteers who gave their time to help make this an event the participants will never forget. Delicious volunteer lunches and snacks were donated by the ever generous Albertsons food store. Thank you all to helped make this such a special event for these young ladies.

To learn more about our community partners, visit them at:
Boise Bicycle Project:
Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue:
Outdoor Exchange:
St. Luke’s:
We look forward to Wild Skills 2018!



Mom with a Mission

SheJumps Co-Founder Vanessa Pierce takes on the Snowbird Hill Climb

Written by: Vanessa Pierce

I love being active. I’m your average weekend warrior, casual evening worker outer and lover of all types of outdoor adventures. I do enjoy a good pain cave in athletics — sometimes — but mostly I’ve retired from being “hard core.” My enthusiasm for pinning my heartrate at 500 bpm started to wane after I graduated from college. I figured as a D-1 soccer player, I ran almost 500 miles in one season. That’s 1,200 miles in four years of college soccer (not including off-season training). That seemed like enough running in a lifetime, so since then I’ve mellowed out.

Six months ago, I had my first baby. I got more mellow and squishy like a marshmallow. It was alarming how my relative active lifestyle took a turn for the soft core. After months of occasionally working out with no clear goal in mind other than to shed my belly roll, I decided enough was enough and I needed to get in shape. I declared: “I will become a road cyclist.”

Training with Everett in the Burley.

Training with Everett in the Burley.

If you know me, you know I don’t shy from a physical challenge and when I commit, it’s balls to the wall. My dear friend and SJ Executive Director Claire Smallwood calls it Vanessa’s “horse mode,” you know foaming-at-the-mouth-don’t-stop-until-you-win horse mode. I’ve been known to be “obsessed” with learning and can frequently turn the switch to horse mode. I learned how to ride a motorcycle, learned how to fly planes, how to box (fist fight), to fly fish, to climb, to mountain bike, to be a journalist, to be a career marketer. I’m a professional jack of all trades.

Though suspected, I didn’t have a personal experience with how hard core “roadies” really are — so diving into this sport as a marshmallow was nerve-racking. However, I was up for the challenge. I asked my co-worker Carly, who had her first baby two months before me, to join me in the get-fit challenge. Unlike me, though, she is a cyclist and knows how to navigate the pain cave. I decided to sign up for one of Salt Lake’s toughest races — the Snowbird Hill Climb — which is 10 miles, 3,500 vertical and a 12 percent grade. I did it to motivate me to actually work out on a schedule, which is nearly impossible with an infant.

Carly, Layla (her 9 month old), Everett and me.

Carly, Layla (her 9 month old), Everett and me.

I had six weeks to get there. I mostly rode every day to work, then did a lunch- or after-work spin. If I didn’t have much time, I would put my little boy in his Burley, and do hill intervals. I could feel myself getting leaner and stronger. Finally, a week before the race, I rode up one of the most challenging canyons in the valley, Mill Creek — 9 miles, 2,700 vertical, 7 percent grade — and did it without stopping. Never ever did I want to do that again. But I had to.

Support team.

Support team.

When race day finally came, I thought, “I got in shape and that was the goal, why do I have to ride up this canyon?” Four friends decided to do it with me — all of them actual cyclists and more in shape that me — and they were awesome motivators. When the mass start began, everyone pretty much took off. Myself, not really knowing how to race, slowly meandered along. I continued to meander along through the end. It was brutal with about one 25-yard flat-ish spot where I was able to rest my legs. Halfway up I decided I wasn’t going to stop and turned on horse mode. I didn’t stop. It took me 1:45, the winner did it in 55 min. I finished dead last.

Getting close to the finish on race day.

Getting close to the finish on race day.

As much as I love to win, I’m happy. Whenever you can set your mind to something and make it happen — whatever it may be — that should be celebrated. Claire, Lynsey Dyer and I started SheJumps almost 10 years ago to build a community of women that support each other and inspire each other to learn new things and motivate others. I’m so proud to see that happening all over the country. The Girafficorn Nation is real and amazing. To all those who want to learn something new, we’re there to help. Just do it. Join a SheJumps event, create your own challenge, bring your friends, go into horse mode. We challenge you. You will be proud of yourself for trying whether win or lose.

Oct 14 Sunrise Hike at Mt Monadanok

Join SheJumps for a sunrise hike up beautiful Mount Monadnock via the Dublin Trail. We will meet at 4:30 a.m. for registration, hike will begin promptly at 5 a.m. to catch the 7 a.m. sunrise at the summit. Please bring extra layers, water, a snack, poles if you use them, a headlamp, and a handheld flashlight. Coffee and tea will be provided in the trailhead parking lot post descent.

Sat, October 14, 2017

4:30 AM – 9:00 AM EDT


Dublin Trail Trailhead

Dublin Trail Parking Road, Dublin, NH

for more info contact

Buy ticket below:

Sept 30 Bradley’s Pro Shop Mt Equinox Hike and Yoga, Manchester ,VT

Mountain hike and summit yoga on Mt Equinox. 4th annual favorite fall hike! Its under 2  hours on a gravel wooded trail hike to the summit, the last 45 minutes are challenging. Paula Pelkey of Mountain Community Yoga will lead a rejuvenating yoga practice and stretch at the top after a lunch over Panoramic mountain views of 4 states!


Where: Meet at Bradley’s Pro Shop ; 2012 Depot St Manchester Center, VT

When :10 am  carpool to trailhead from the shop

What to bring: Good hiking shoes., change of clothes and extra layers for the summit, poles if desired, lots of water, a snack and lunch. YOGA MAT!

Apres:: return by carpool to Bradley’s for some refreshments, cheeses, peruse the clothes and gear, and win raffle prizes !

Cost: Click here to buy your ticket on eventbrite:

For more info, click


Outessa Kirkwood: Inspiring and thought-provoking

Outessa is an inspiring and thought-provoking gathering of women who love the outdoors. Here’s what our executive director and co-founder, Claire Smallwood, had to say about the event.


My journey to Outessa began when I received an invitation from the event organizers to speak on the Force of Nature panel. My heart skipped a beat when I read the email—it was an offering of recognition for our work with SheJumps and the opportunity to participate in a larger conversation about women in the outdoors.

Outessa proved itself to be a gathering that was truly for ALL women. I met women from all over the country at the event, and from many backgrounds and places all over the world. It was a homecoming for many in a lot of ways that only the outdoor community can provide.

First off, the MC, Steph Jagger might have accidentally stole the show. She didn’t mean to, but her energizing—yet calm—rhythm of banter and guidance through the event made you not want to miss even the most mundane announcements about lost phones or parking. Jagger is the author of a book called “Unbound” about her quest to break the record for skiing the most vertical feet in a year. It’s a fabulous read that reminds us life is not about achieving so much as being, and Outessa could not have been a better landing place for that theme to flourish.

Steph Jagger leads her "Great Big Journey" workshop at Outessa Kirkwood.

Steph Jagger leads her “Great Big Journey” workshop at Outessa Kirkwood.

Jagger even hosted her own event at Outessa, called “The Great Big Journey.” It’s a goal-setting session with Jagger and fellow Outessians designed to be a tidbit of her life-coaching business where you can experience the 100+ page journaling exercise designed to open up completely new avenues of “hell yes” mantras in your life. In short, it was a must-do at the event. (Stay tuned for an exclusive Q and A with Jagger here at soon).

Outessa is set up in time blocks so you can choose different activities each day but hopefully still accomplish it all in a single weekend. From rock climbing (intro and intermediate) to mountain biking, trail running, backpacking, navigation, SUP, kayak, and even a gourmet camp cooking demo—there was literally something for everyone. Set over the course of three days, you could find yourself as busy or as “not busy” as you’d like. Every vendor in the Outessa village also offered an activity. From making tie-dye t-shirts to flower crowns and learning how to hula dance, you day was easily booked.

Making tie-dye shirts with Keen.

Making tie-dye shirts with Keen.

Navigation basics with Lindsay MacIntosh-Tolle from REI in Portland.

Navigation basics with Lindsay MacIntosh-Tolle from REI in Portland.

Wilderness Survival with Raquel from REI.

Wilderness Survival with Raquel from REI.

There was also a staggeringly amazing amount of positive support for one another. It was not uncommon to hear the following exchange on regular basis:

Person A: “I just found out that they have another spot in the rock climbing. Do you think I should do it?”
Person B [who just met Person A moments before]: “Yeah! Go for it. You’re gonna do so great. It was so much fun!”
Person A: “Ok, I’m going to go for it!”

Rinse. Repeat. (Did I mention there were hot showers there for the campers, too?)

Workshops for mountain biking from IMBA certified mountain bike coaches.

Workshops for mountain biking from IMBA certified mountain bike coaches.

It seemed that the only prerequisite for coming to the Outessa weekend was that you need to be ok with strangers talking to you. All. The. Time.

That’s where I’d come in. I have this thing I do when I’m in a new place, especially one relating to the outdoor communities: I say hi to everyone. I intentionally sit with strangers. I want high fives. I want to meet people.

My new friend Margery. We met at the airport and were buddies all weekend!

My new friend Margery. We met at the airport and were buddies all weekend!

And, I had Girafficorn stickers.

The Girafficorn stickers were fantastic conversation starters and it gave me the opportunity to tell attendees about our nonprofit, and about the wonderful community—just like Outessa—that we have been building for nearly 10 years. It was a great privilege to be able to connect with people one on one about just that thing—community—and learn that regardless of rock climbing routes, backpacking adventures achieved, or how many flower crowns they made, the ultimate reason for attending was, above all else, community. In a world full of accomplishing and then instantly sharing via social media, I felt much more grounded with the group as we simply enjoyed real, non-digitized, life.

Wilderness Survival Class.

Wilderness Survival Class.

The Force of Nature panel I had the honor of participating in was a powerful extension of the experience for myself and (I’d hope) the other attendees as well. On the panel was alpine climbing guru and co-owner of Chicks Climbing & Skiing, Kitty Calhoun; CEO & Founder of Altitude Seven, Georgina Miranda; myself; and executive director of Camber Outdoors, Deanne Buck.

Force of Nature Panelists (from left): Deanne Buck, Steph Jagger (moderator), Georgina Miranda, Kitty Calhoun, Claire Smallwood.

Force of Nature Panelists (from left): Deanne Buck, Steph Jagger (moderator), Georgina Miranda, Kitty Calhoun, Claire Smallwood.

To be included in a line up with these women was a fabulous feeling of accomplishment, but also of relevance. It reminded me that all women have a role to play in societal leadership; the context of outdoor involvement being a convenient (and in my opinion, heightened) way to experience the momentum of success via risk taking and adventure.

Women are thought leaders. Women are powerful. Women are ambitious. Women are nurturing. I saw all of these things manifest clearly during my weekend in Kirkwood, and was thankful to be able to speak about it during the panel on Friday afternoon. In hopes to instill a bit of perspective for the power women have, our panel focused on the ideas of (professionally/personally) what we need to connect to, let go of, or seek out in order to embody a “Force of Nature.”

Beautiful dinner on our last evening.

Beautiful dinner on our last evening.

The sunset matched the mood: fired up!

The sunset matched the mood: fired up!

Needless to say, 30 minutes was not enough time for the panel to scratch the surface, but we were able to invoke some thoughtful head bobs and dozens upon dozens of conversations after the panel had ended. All in all, I felt the goal had been achieved to provide a touch of “context” to this group of women—many of whom had never even slept in a tent prior to the weekend—about the state of the outdoors, why it’s important for us to provide access, and how we as women can change the world simply by connecting to nature.

Photo by Meghan Young (founder of PNW Outdoor Women).

Photo by Meghan Young (founder of PNW Outdoor Women).

I packed up my DIY tent (graciously provided by our partner Big Agnes) and started to make the rounds to say goodbye to new friends. I felt energized about, well, everything…but especially SheJumps. Our vision is to provide these same types of experiences to women and girls of all ages and backgrounds. It was energizing to see those women of all backgrounds at Outessa, pushing themselves and making a personal commitment to get outside. It made me realize the future is bright, and while we have a lot of work to do, we’re on the right path when companies like REI decide to support our true force of nature.


Interested in checking out Outessa? You can still sign up for Outessa in Waterville, New Hampshire: September 22-24

Huge thank you to Saveria Tilden and Rachael Minucciani!

Jump Camp at Olympic Park

Written by: Jen Fredsall, SheJumps Ambassador

It’s that time of year again! No sadly not the beginning of ski season. But we did get to put on skis at the Utah Olympic Park and jump into the pools!

But first, we needed to practice on the trampolines where everyone progressed to trying front flips!


Then it was off to the ramps where new friends were made and fears were conquered!

jump-camp-2 jump-camp-3 jump-camp-4

Thank you to our wonderful partners for helping us make this happen!

Treeline Coffee
Essential Wipes

Featured image courtesy of Juliette Grunendahl.

The Bird

Written by: Laraine Martin

Nearly a decade ago, I trudged up the saddle of Mt. Massive on an early August morning. I ascended alongside the rest of my trail crew, climbing toward our daily work of rearranging rocks into steps and cairns, confining hiker passage to this well-defined corridor and reducing degradation to the fragile alpine tundra. We began our commute well before sunrise, leaving base camp below the trees with our headlamps glowing and oatmeal churning in our bellies. When the sun finally crested the horizon, it stopped our boots in their tracks. A pink cloud layer sat below us. We were airborne. Free. I was at a place in my life where I hadn’t felt much pain, not in any deep sense. I had recently broken up with a boyfriend and felt a very superficial kind of discomfort – more an annoyance than anything. I was drifting, ambivalent. The wilderness was a place where my emptiness was filled by dirt and rain and stars.

Photo: David Martin

Photo: David Martin

Mt. Massive is a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado’s Sawatch Range, and during the summer months in which we performed our upkeep of the trails, workers and hikers alike must often stage a hasty retreat to avoid the lightning of fierce and frequent afternoon rainstorms. Many of these afternoons saw us hastily securing dirty tools as the first big drops of water began to fall, reaching us easily in the dry exposure of the alpine. While the wind blew more steadily at our backs and faces, we’d descend rapidly, quietly, listening to approaching rumbles and smelling ozone. Hairs pricked up from exposed skin. Most times this would result from the sudden chill, but imagination could just as easily attribute it to the looming electrical violence.


I know primal fear when I feel it. A fear that stems from eons of evolution induces cold sweat, dilates my pupils, injects adrenaline. The type of fear we feel deep in the wilderness, lost or pursued by a wild animal. Cold, edgy fear with sharp corners and shallow breath. I have rarely felt it, but can mark the moment when it arrives. Visceral fear in the mountains has a certain clarity to it. It slumbers in the vast tracts of unpopulated, rolling land and is tied to the trails we’ve tread upon, the stories we have collected, the perceived limits of our physical strength. Here in Colorado, and in the peaks and valleys of the Rocky Mountains, I have confronted fears dark and light, shallow and bottomless.

Photo: Peter Jensen

Photo: Peter Jensen

Up near the summit of Mt. Massive, our August day had crawled by with calm skies before chaos tore our relative peace apart. I heard the thwap-thwap-thwap of helicopter blades buzzing overhead long before the crash. The aircraft circled at great length, and dipped, and disappeared over the ridge line. Everyone on board was tossed against the huge talus field below. I remember the scene in smoke and smells, tart and pungent aromas of fuel and fire. Shouts that were muffled to the point of extinction as I stumbled over rocks and my own feet in a fervor. There was a man, a soldier, whose final breaths were exhaled while holding my hand. He had seen active war zones overseas and was back home on a routine training mission here in the airspace above us, and he died that day, along with all his compatriots in flight. When the Search and Rescue helicopter had departed, 6 hours later, there was blood dried on the talus field and in the lap of my work overalls. Night fell on the crew as we trudged off the mountain, numb, as the area was evacuated for cleanup.

Photo: Peter Jensen

Photo: Peter Jensen

For the next handful of years, this experience sat in a lidded jar. I didn’t share it with many, and told only the most curt and objective version to those who asked. Eventually, it felt textbook, like it was a story I’d read and could dutifully recite if needed, but was best committed to a distant recess of my mind. Every now and then, out in a thickly treed forest somewhere in Colorado, I would hear a passing helicopter thwap-thwap-thwap in the sky above, and my pulse would quicken. Sometimes I would watch to make sure it cleared the horizon before returning to whatever task was at hand. I remember hearing someone refer to a helicopter as “the bird” once, and I shook my head at the disturbing image of a bird pulverized on talus. I decided I’d never set foot in one, fragile and unpredictable as they were.


I took a NOLS wilderness medical certification course recently, and part of the week-long course involved participating in scenarios that seemed real – stabilizing broken limbs, stopping a bleed, giving CPR. I took notes, raised my hand, and got great quiz scores. I drove home one night to a borrowed home in Gunnison, offered up by a sweet friend of a friend who was out of town. I filled her bathtub with scalding hot water, stepped in gingerly, and sat down to wrap my arms around my knees. I cried for so long, and so hard, that my face felt swollen and I was completely exhausted. I had the soldier’s hand in my mind, the one that held mine as he slipped out of consciousness. Into the great deep black scary endless void. I let the memory of it fill me. I let myself turn and look back through a crack in the door that I’d always wanted to kick shut. An experience that makes us sad and afraid can be so layered that it tumbles apart when something happens to lift it high up in the open. Fears and guilt and regret and that ultimate glimpse of the finality of death, all falling in piles around us.


But there’s another kind of fear that haunts me, a more diffuse fear that stems not from threat to life but from threat to limitations. We all build up a chain-link fence around ourselves based on concepts of what we can and can’t handle. The thought of incarceration in such a place terrifies me much more than each of the fear-built bricks laid in its construction. I find myself constantly seeking experiences to move that perimeter of my comfort zone so mortar can’t dry within its fear-laden walls.

Photo: Claire Smallwood

Photo: Claire Smallwood

This year I found myself on a helipad in British Columbia, in the lush green of a Canadian forest in spring. I had signed up to take a backcountry skiing course near Revelstoke with SheJumps, a non-profit dedicated to increasing female presence and participation in the world of outdoor adventures. A helicopter would take us to the backcountry lodge where we’d spike out on trips to practice rope work and rescue techniques. As we received the helicopter safety briefing, my mouth went dry and my heart pounded in my chest. I closed my eyes, seat belt buckled. We lifted off the pad and dust swirled around us, and then my heart did not just pound, it made leaps and bounds. We were absolutely and positively flying. And not in the way of an airplane. We were flying as a bird does, nimble, athletic, and playful. We made that noise thwap-thwap-thwap up the dense forested canyon, and then across an expanse of beautiful snowy white so vast it makes your eyes water if you look long enough. I’m deep inside my mind in this helicopter but now it’s not scary, it’s bringing me towards great wide adventures in these mountains. I feel vibrant and alive.


I stood on a ridgeline atop the Sawatch Range this fourth of July, looking across a royal blue sky at Mt. Massive opposite me. There have been many other fears to confront since that day. The helicopter crash and its aftermath was one chapter of a life that I am destined to live, one that takes place in the deep woods, far from the comforts of modern society. Mountain wilderness areas, in their thin air and diffuse beauty, are the ground on which our caged fears are ultimately set free. We confront them at great proximity and lose them in feats of strength and endurance. The resilience of the human spirit is brought into relief, mirroring the horizon we pursue. I had always thought I may have left a piece of my soul on Mt. Massive, but now I know better. Nothing was left behind, it is all right here with me.

Featured Photo: Ashley Ellis

SheJumps Downhill Day at Massanutten Bike Park

Come join us for the first SheJumps Downhill Day at the Massanutten Bike Park. Massanutten’s new Mountain Bike Park features beginner-friendly terrain, perfect for an introduction to downhill mountain biking, while also offering an exciting experience for veteran riders. This will be an awesome way to try out downhilling, obtain valuable instruction, and hit the trails with new friends. The day will start with a 75 minute lesson on the lower trails with professional instruction by the bike school, followed by a free-ride session. After lunch there will be a guided group ride on the advanced upper trails (based on ability), or more free riding down low for those who would like more practice. When our lift tickets expire at 2pm, we’ll gather at Base Camp on the lodge deck to enjoy some food and fellowship while rehydrating. There will also be a raffle of women’s specific mountain bike clothing and outdoor gear to support future SheJumps programming!

If you’re interested in trying a new sport, or elevating your riding skills to the next level, sign up today! Whether you are an aspiring rider or a downhill nut, Massanutten’s Bike Park is the place for you! Bikes will rent out very quickly, there is a limited number … reserve your space on Eventbrite today via button below!

Participants must be 15 years old or older.


9:00am to 9:30am – Check-in, get tickets and rentals

9:45am to 11:00am – Lesson on lower trails

11am to 12:15pm – Free ride and lunch break

12:30pm – 1:45pm – Guided group ride on advanced upper trails (based on ability) and/or free ride on lower trails

2:00pm – Lift tickets expire/Return rental equipment

2:15pm – 4:00pm – Social and bike/outdoor gear raffle at Base Camp on the lodge deck

WHAT TO WEAR: Wear comfortable clothes suitable for exercising. This includes athletic shoes and socks but no open toe shoes. We require approved bike full-face helmets. Additionally, we recommend that you have protective body armor that includes, leg protection and elbow pads. This protective equipment can be rented through the rental shop via the event online registration. Gloves and goggles are also recommended. Gloves can be your best friend if you happen to take a spill out on the trails. There’s nothing fun about having a patroller pick little bits of gravel out of your palms. It may rain or drizzle, so be prepared to bring a rain jacket. It’s best to be prepared for any possible weather conditions, this includes cool & windy, hot & humid, wet or dry. Remember to bring water or sports drink/hydration pack for when riding.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Massanutten Mountain Bike Park is a gravity-fed park. You take the lift up and ride down the mountain. This style of riding is best suited for very specific bicycles and gear. We highly recommend a minimum wheel diameter of at least 26″, protective body armor, a minimum of 4″ of shock travel, and we also recommend that all seats be set at a lower position. Riding a real downhill or enduro mountain bike with lots of plush suspension and big brakes will give you a more enjoyable riding experience. Full suspension bikes are available for rent via the event online registration.

Like any sport or outdoor activity, Downhill Mountain Biking has certain risks. However, these risks can be minimized and you can have a safe, enjoyable and injury free experience by being personally responsible for your own physical wellbeing, making good decisions. Massanutten’s Park features a lower lift that will provide access to Beginner and Intermediate trails for newcomers while also offering advanced jump and singletrack trails accessible from an upper lift that are sure to thrill any enthusiast.

ABILITY LEVELS: Participants must be able to ride a bicycle with hand brakes and gears. Previous mountain bike experience is helpful, but not required. Only riders of advanced ability level will be taken to the upper level trails. Trails at the Bike Park are rated green circle (beginner), blue square (intermediate), blue/black square/diamond (advanced), blue/black square/orange oval (advanced with jump skills required), and black diamond (expert).


Minimum Equipment Requirements

  • - Bike designed for mountain biking. No hybrids, bmx, or road bikes
  • - 24″ wheel or bigger
  • - Front suspension fork
  • - Front and rear disc brakes – Rim brakes are not allowed.
  • - No tires wider than 3.5″

Minimum Gear Requirements

  • - A Full-face helmet certified for downhill biking – Rentals available
  • - Elbow and knee pads – Rentals available
  • - Sturdy, fully enclosed shoes


Recommended Equipment

  • - 5″ or more travel full suspension mountain bike
  • - Hydraulic disc brakes

Recommended Gear

  • - Mountain bike goggles or athletic style glasses.
  • - Mountain biking specific shoes or light hiking shoes/boots (no sandals).
  • - Gloves

Do you want to rent or bring your own bike? You can bring your own bike, however, only Mountain Bikes are allowed. We do not allow Road Bikes, BMX Bikes, Hybrid Bikes, Cyclocross Bikes or Beach Cruisers. All bikes must have front and rear disc brakes in proper working condition. No coaster brakes or V-Style are allowed. Bikes must have at least front suspension and it is highly recommended they are full suspension. It’s always a good idea to have your bike inspected by a qualified mechanic if you’re unsure of its condition. Massanutten’s fleet of Trek Remedy and Sessions bikes are available for rent at the rental shop. You may reserve one via the online event registration.

It is also highly recommended that all riders drop their seat posts. When in doubt, drop your seat posts! This will give you the range of motion necessary for a safe neutral riding position when negotiating bumpy, undulating terrain. While you may feel as though the seat post height on your current XC set up is proper, a lower seat height is strongly recommended.


$35 – (includes lift ticket, 75 minute lesson)

$53 – (includes lift ticket, 75 minute lesson, full face helmet rental)

$60 – (includes lift ticket, 75 minute lesson, rentals of full face helmet, elbow and knee pads)

$80 – (includes lift ticket, 75 minute lesson, rentals of full suspension bike, full face helmet, elbow and knee pads)

Eventbrite - SheJumps Downhill Day at Massanutten Bike Park

Contact: Kelly Drewnowski –

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