Wild Women of the Wasatch is back! This is Ski Utah guest blogger, Amy David, and I’m continually inspired by the abundance of mountain women I interact with in the Wasatch Range who are talented, knowledgeable, and many who clock into work while slope side. This episode features gals who have developed their careers in the mountains; those who have the will to do and the soul to dare.
There is a multitude of careers people can chase to spend the majority of their time in the outdoors.
In the Wasatch Range, there is a strong female representation in a variety of “steep jobs.” I’ve spoken to helicopter nurses, ski patrol, backcountry forecasters, snow scientists, ski instructors, snowcat drivers, search and rescue, adventure photographers/videographers, professional athletes, ski resort lifties, mountain guides, and many more.
There are three women in particular I got to spend some one-on-one time with to learn more about their work life in the mountains. I find them very inspiring and think you will, too!
Meet Evelyn Lees. She’s been a backcountry forecaster for the Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center for 25 years. Her job entails both field and office work. During field days, Evelyn is touring the backcountry to investigate the status of the snowpack. She’s digging snow pits at various elevations to analyze the layering of the snow, jumping on test slopes, looking at recent avalanches, and collecting data to bring back to the office. Then, Evelyn and her team determine an avalanche advisory published for anyone going into the Utah backcountry. Check the advisory at utahavalanchecenter.org.
“I’ve never gotten bored once. The snowpack and the weather are different every single winter. You’ve got to be on your toes and you’re constantly looking at something new in the snowpack.”
Evelyn is very active in the education realm of her avalanche work. She has taught many avalanche courses and is a well known face in women’s specific snow events. In addition to her days spent in the snowy Wasatch as a backcountry forecaster, Evelyn is an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certified alpine guide and is an accomplished climber and mountaineer across the world. She has completed expeditions on Mt. McKinley, the North Face of Mt. Everest, and in Peru, Pakistan, New Zealand, Europe and many more. When I asked her if she could work outside of the mountains, she gave me a funny look and alluded that a life in the mountains is simply part of her existence. She couldn’t imagine it any other way.
“For women wanting to get outdoors, the best advice I could give them is choose your own adventure. Take control of your own trips, and say this is what I want to do and where I want to do it, and start exactly where you want.”—Evelyn Lees
Another Steep Job which connects to utilizing the avalanche forecast is ski photographers traveling through the backcountry for work where deep fresh powder is ideal for a solid photo. One gal who has been drawn to the Wasatch and is aspiring to spend more time learning to utilize backcountry skiing in her work is Kylie Fly.
Kylie is an adventure photographer who has traveled the world taking photos and writing stories about incredible places and people. As a globetrotter with camera in hand, she now calls Salt Lake City home base, and Brighton Resort is her regular office. By office I mean, the mountain she gets to ski almost daily to take ski photos around the resort.
“I wanted to live in a place that had the mountain access super close, so that’s what brought me here. It has definitely paid off because I spend every day in the mountains.”
Kylie’s personality is very sweet and friendly. She describes the mountains as being a place of peace for her. Growing up in Idaho, her childhood is deeply rooted in nature spending family time camping and exploring outside. Her natural tendency of philanthropy is seen through the early years of her photography where she spent time volunteering to create humanitarian documentaries about communities in Haiti, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Peru, Ecuador, and Guatemala.
“Photography is my tool and writing is my voice. I am committed to exploring cultures and the vast spaces of the world. My photography focuses heavily on this exact mission - to examine the intimacy of relationships between both people and places that we come to know and love.”—Kylie
One of the most interesting ladies you may find skiing around the Ogden side of the Wasatch is Amanda King. This chick is tough. She’s also funny, kind, and compassionate. Amanda is a ski patroller at Powder Mountain (her childhood dream job), and she’s in the final stages of completing paramedic school.
Before becoming a ski patroller, Amanda joined the army with initial motivations for the free education going into college. Years later, she served in Italy and Afghanistan. Her major role in Afghanistan was in relation to the cultural differences in gender relations. She would speak with the Afghan women and children as the western female while the men on her team would speak with the Afghan men during the missions.
Her army experience is what drove her to get into the medical field upon return to Utah. In particular, one of her close friends in the CST program with her was a nurse and unfortunately was killed down range. Amanda says, “She’s really the reason I got into the medical field after that to carry on her legacy. She’s a big driving force still in my life.”
Amanda describes how paramedic school has given her the tools to fully understand the next level of care for people to follow up the work as a first responder on the mountain. The day to day grind as of now is keeping the skiers and boarders safe and the mountain operations up and running while skiing laps at Powder Mountain on patrol.
Thank you to everyone who enjoys meeting the Wild Women of the Wasatch! Stay tuned for the next episode featuring women who were pioneers in the local ski community. Thank you to Ski Utah for sharing the stories of gals getting after it and to @croshanemedia for joining the adventure to film/edit! Until next time, keep up with my adventures on Instagram @AmyJaneDavid.
Did you miss the other Wild Women of the Wasatch series?
Watch Ep01 Adaptive Sports
Watch Ep02 Chicks Who Rip
Watch Ep03 Dawn Till Dark
Watch Ep04 Escape the Heat
Watch Ep05 Mountain Canine Companions
Watch Ep07 Local Pioneers
Watch Ep08 Boarder Babes
Watch Ep09 Spring Fling
Watch Ep10 Who are the Wild Women of the Wasatch?
Watch Ep11 Gnarly Nurses