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AFS 2014: Friendships Built, Memories Made

Written by: Cristy Watson

We’ve previously shared stories about what is learned at the annual ski mountaineering course. You can check out the 2014 course recap here, and read several great write-ups by Stephanie Nitsch at backcountry.com on what it means to ski like a girl and how to pack for the trip. Beyond the experience of learning about glacier travel, tour planning, navigation, and just getting out there together, there was the downtime. As a participant of the course, you spend a solid week with like-minded women doing something you all love – and in the process friendships are built, plans made for future trips, and many memories created.

These are the ladies of the 2014 class of Alpine Finishing School:

Abby Cooper


The photographer who knows how to get the shot. Even though Abby was sick for most of the trip, she kept the mood light with her bright laughter, love of dancing, and ever present kindness. And, as one of the few splitboarders on the trip, she showed us all how graceful and aggressive one can be on a single plank. There’s one thing that’s certain about this girl – Abby’s always ready to go “out for a rip!”

Amy Robinson


The master of zen. Amy had the worst blisters I think any of us had seen in a long time, or maybe ever. She got them early in the trip, and they lasted until the final day. But, that didn’t stand in her way from going hard each day. She had a positive attitude that couldn’t be beat – and it rubbed off on others. She also helped to bring her calming attitude to the lodge by providing yoga instruction in the evenings.

Christine Feleki


The steady and calm. Christine, one of our guides, provided balance and a calming presence for many of us during the trip. She has a way of taking fear out of a situation & allowing everyone to feel ok in their own skin, all while providing instruction that is helpful and sticks – not an easy feat. Christine was also the only guide on a splitboard, so she was able to provide a unique perspective for the splitboarding crew!

Claire Smallwood


Chef Extraordinaire and band leader. Not only is Claire the co-founder of SheJumps, and the driving force behind all of our programming, she is a professional chef and a darn good guitarist. While the rest of us where lounging around after each day’s tour/training, Claire was in the kitchen making us the most amazing meals. And then she’d follow it up with some evening guitar sessions. What can’t this woman do!?

Cristy Watson


The newcomer. Being the only participant who had never spent a day (or even a second) ski touring before, I was stepping into a new world. I came in with skiing experience and some mountaineering experience, and was ready to learn. I was very touched with the love and support the other women showed me during the entire course, and came out the other side with some hefty ski touring days under my belt!

Diny Harrison


The woman, the myth, the legend. Diny was the first Canadian woman to become an IFMGA/ACMG Mountain Guide, and we all could see why. She is an expert, she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and above all, she is a kind-hearted person who touched each and every one of us. And, Diny knows how to dance! She busted out her playlist on many occasions to get the mountain party started!

Joanne Turner


The most graceful. Joanne came up with the idea of a daily award to reflect on the biggest achievements and funniest moments related to gracefulness (or lack thereof). Her creativity started something all the ladies quickly jumped behind and looked forward to each day. This thoughtfulness reflects on Joanne as a person – she made sure to keep it all inclusive and in the spirit of fun and The Daily Grace.

Kate Devine


Our fearless leader. Not only does Kate’s family own the Selkirk Lodge, but she was one of our guides. She lead with a quiet confidence, that exuded knowledge and experience. And at the same time, she encouraged questions and discussed her decision making process with us. The most impressive feat of the trip was when Kate lead us down Justice Glacier for her first time as the lead guide on that route – she didn’t miss a beat!

Louise Lintilhac


“So, I have this friend…” Louise kept things interesting with the endless stories of her friends and their adventures & mis-adventures. I think we’re all a bit worried we’d end up being the focus of one of her future stories! (Just kidding Louise!) But beyond that, Louise was there to learn – asking questions to get as much as she could out of each day in the classroom and in the mountains. And she just plain rips!

McKenzie Temple


High and tight. McKenzie was all about harness safety awareness – I don’t think there was anyone who left the course without the proper technique burned into their brain! She kept the group laughing in the evenings with her wry sense of humor, and maybe even more so during the days with her “cowboy ski rides.” But this girl is all business when it came time to learn and travel on the glaciers!

Meaghan McKasy


Meeeeeeaghan – the girl with the contagious smile. It was impossible to not have a giant grin on your face when you were talking to, or just in the vicinity of, Meaghan! She has an upbeat attitude that really kept the group moving, and excited about the day ahead. And not only is Meaghan an amazing skier, but she became a quick yoga learner, spending evenings perfecting some difficult moves with Amy!

Michelle Brazier


Tots. Michelle kept us all smiling with the usage of her many abbreviated words. She sprinkled them in perfectly into every conversation so by the end others were starting to speak “Michelle.” She came in to the trip with loads of backcountry experience and often was up front, picking Kate’s brain, while touring. Keen on picking up as much as she could while she was there, she made sure to absorb information like a sponge.

Sierra Anderson


Queen of the downhill pizza to “get the shot.” This girl impressed everyone with her extremely controlled, yet fast, downhill pizza technique that allowed for the great footage she got for SheJumps and Pretty Faces. Her downhill racing experience certainly lended itself well in the speed department! Beyond her skiing and filming talents, she is a commercial fisherman (now a captain!)…and this girl has a huge heart!

Stephanie Nitsch


The writer. As a writer, Stephanie took part in the trip for the same reason as the rest of us, but also took on the responsibility of documenting it. The honesty in her pieces reflect on her power as a storyteller, but more importantly as a person. She is compassionate and caring – and helped, beyond what she knows, in her small gestures to cheer me and others on. She also now has a splitboard company of her own!

Grania Devine & Reinet Shaw


The Fembots. The queens of the castle! These two women run the operation. And when they weren’t making the the lodge a lovely and inviting place for us to come home to, or giving us instructions on proper water collection protocol, they were out on the glaciers showing us all up! We recently featured Grania in a write-up so you can read more about the woman who brought the Selkirk Lodge from dream to reality! Photo credit: Abby Cooper

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