Freeskier recently ran a contest in conjunction with Gore-Tex to find a candidate worthy of attending a ski mountaineering camp in La Grave, France. Part of the Gore-Tex Experience Tour, the camp will be run by professional guides and athletes who will teach attendees the finer points of skiing in the high alpine. As you might imagine, a prize of that magnitude garnered quite a few entries for us to sift through. It wasn’t an easy job, but we narrowed down the top contenders and sent their submissions to the guides. In the end, an entry from a motivated young lady named Sarah, caught our eye and landed her the trip of a lifetime.
A native of Colorado, Sarah Wilson is currently enrolled at the University of Denver where she arranges her schedule to allow for maximum ski days. She has been a competitive freeskier for a number of years and one of her life goals is to ski on all seven continents. So far, Wilson has checked three (North America, South America and Europe) off the list but says she lacks the funding and technical mountaineering skills to complete her goal. Although she won’t be checking a new continent off the list on this trip, the training should enable her to conquer the mountains of the remaining four.
“I’m really excited that at only 22, I can learn a foundation of skills that I can use for the rest of my life,” says Wilson. “I’m excited for the adventures in store in La Grave, but I’m also excited for the adventures I’ll be able to have this spring and next season and the rest of my life because of this trip.”
Congrats to Sarah and stay tuned to hear about her trip. Also, thanks to all who entered the contest. Unfortunately, there can be only one winner but there are still five days left to win a day of cat skiing with Keystone Adventure Tours while testing out next year’s best powder skis.
Sarah’s contest submission:
It started when I was seven. It came on suddenly, without much warning. Until the fateful night my mom took me to my first Warren Miller film, I’d wanted to be a “rock climber” when I grew up, because being a geologist like my parents was too long a word to be fun. But in the last shot of Freeriders, everything changed. I stared, mesmerized, and all of a sudden I knew: screw rock climbing; I’m living this life to do something epic on skis. It didn’t take long before the idea of ‘doing something epic’ became the concrete goal of skiing on all seven continents before I got ‘old.’ Fifteen years later, I’ve checked three continents off my bucket list, but I lack the technical mountaineering skills (and funds) to complete the project.
I don’t know when I’ll be ‘old,’ but I do know that “if I don’t do it this year, I’ll be one year older when I do.” There are two ways to ski the entire world: there’s the expensive way, and there’s the hard way. Easy-to-access ski resorts abound in North and South America, Europe, New Zealand, and Asia, but skiing in Africa and Antarctica are a lot more complicated, and a LOT more expensive… Ski instructing and outdoor retail earn me just enough money to cover my living expenses while I finish college, but unfortunately there’s nowhere near enough left over to book a berth on a luxury ski cruise on the Antarctic peninsula. This means I’m left to complete my project the hard way, the awesome way, the commit-your-soul-and-work-your-ass-off way.
The sponsored expeditions, endorsements, fundraising, and film crews all seem inevitable when it comes to making this massive goal a reality. As intimidating as it seems to plan a self-supported trip to remote mountains of Antarctica, that’s not where my fear kicks in. I look at my bucket list and I think ‘AWESOME!!! I cannot freaking wait until I have strong enough mountaineering skills to do this!” I guess I need to be a climber, after all. Skiing is freedom, but it is also growth. I ski to push past my comfort zone. I’m at a point now where I feel more comfortable confronting a future of massive ski-mountaineering expeditions than I did at my first freeride competition at Crested Butte. I know a three day mountaineering camp cannot make up for a lifetime of experience when it comes to extreme expeditions in high altitude and polar conditions, but it is a starting point. I am young and I have to learn somewhere!
The mountaineering skills I’d develop in La Grave would be a stepping stone to bigger things. While skiing is all about the fun you have along the way, the skills you acquire are the ones that let you achieve those massive dreams. I am not just just applying to this for a few fun days of free vacation. For me, this is about something BIG. The kind of BIG that makes your stomach drop out when you watch your friends drop a huge cliff, knowing that you get to send it next.The kind of BIG when another competitor skis your line and the pressure’s on to send it bigger. The kind of BIG that keeps you up at night, dreaming, because your real-life dreams are cooler than the ones you have in your sleep. La Grave is the kind of BIG that living is all about.