Author Archives: Kim Kircher

About Kim Kircher

I'm a ski patroller and author, finding a new balance between my adventurous outdoor life and my writerly indoor one.

Things That Remind Me of My Dad

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My dad made me feel like a million dollars. When I was a girl, he convinced me that my presence in his life–and by extension in the world–was essential. If I ceased to exist, I came to assume, the world would stop spinning.

At least that’s how Dad made me feel.

Today is Father’s Day–the second one since my father passed away. The pain and loss hasn’t gotten any easier. I miss him more now than ever. But now the memories of him bring up fewer painful barbs and more mirthful chuckles. Everyday objects, words that blurt out of my mouth, snippets of songs, and adventurous activities conjure his larger than life presence.

Here are a few of those things that remind me of my dad:

Cherry Chapstick: At 6’6″ tall, Dad didn’t worry about looking like a sissy. My high school boyfriends referred to him as Conan the Barbarian. But the man loved him some chapstick–the Suzy Chaffee kind–and only cherry flavor would do. Never mind that Cherry Chapstick will leave a pinkish residue on your lips, and perhaps the skin around your lips if you aren’t careful. Dad didn’t care. To this day I have at least ten tubes of Cherry Chapstick lying around the house.

Skiing: Dad taught me to ski. His motto was, “if it’s green golf it. If it’s white ski it. We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time.” Every time I ski, and that’s pretty much every day in the winter, I chant that mantra in my head. Every great turn reminds me of him.

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Mom, Dad, me and my brother JD in Sun Valley circa 1983

Fishing: Dad was a third generation Washingtonian. He loved to fish. He also taught me to love it. I must have been about eight years old when we went out in the Sound to fish for salmon. He would wait until he had a fish on the line and say, “Kimmy Kim! I don’t seem to be having any luck. Let’s trade poles and see if have any better luck than this one.” Sure enough, I’d grab that pole and feel that fish on the line. He convinced me that I had the golden touch. I remember coming back that day with a bunch of fish that “I’d caught” with dad smiling broadly.

Hey Ho: I’m not sure where he got it, but dad used to always chant this little cheer. I think it came from back when my brother played high school basketball. For years dad would just blurt it out at the most random times, “Hey hey! Ho ho! Let’s get that ball and really go!” Funny thing is that the other day I was getting something out of the fridge and found myself chanting the same little cheer. It made me smile.

I heard once that we don’t really die until the last person who remembers us dies too. If that’s true, my dad is still alive and kicking because even Cherry Chapstick is keeping his memory alive.

 

Thanks She Jumps

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sj-logoI’m honored today to be she a SheJumps jumper. Thanks SheJumps for for publishing my profile and including me in such great company.

SheJumps aims to get more women in outdoor activities.They accomplish this by creating high-visibility “Get the Girls Out!” events, Outdoor Education, Youth Initiatives and grassroots recreational gatherings. Kim-Kircher-222x300The SheJumps community consists of females of all backgrounds and ages who help one another reach their highest potential through outdoor adventures and education.

Jumping into adventure and not turning away from risk teaches us to be resilient.

SheJumps embodies this same ethos. When we push ourselves to take risks, we are actually doing more than just that activity. Skiing a hard line is more than just friction and gravity and cold snow. It’s a lesson in the value of pushing ourselves. It’s a little nugget that we can hold onto later when life’s vagaries—large or small—threaten to topple us.

I owe all of my strength to the mountains.

This is Great Storytelling: Dorais by Fitz Cahall

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It is true that we become our truest selves when things go awry. The way we respond to the tumult that often passes for real life speaks volumes about who we are. But it is also true that our character is not fixed. Even if we break from the pressure today, that doesn’t mean we can’t hold ourselves together tomorrow. We can always strive to be better. Dorais, a video by Fitz Cahall and produced by Duct Tape Then Beer, tells the story of the Dorais family. The two Dorais brothers, Andy and Jason, both ER docs and mountaineers, are skimo champions. They are strong, they are fast and they are badass. This is not a story about them. It is a story about Jason’s wife Amanda. She has stage 4 cancer. I understand what it means to stand by a loved one while battling cancer. I know, too, that the lessons wrought from the experience almost make it worth. Almost, but not quite. This is a beautiful story. Please watch.

What Does it Mean to be a Woman in the Outdoor Industry?

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When SheJumps asked me to be a part of the defineFEMININE event this week at the Seattle Artcteryx store, I wasn’t quite sure what I had to bring to the table. Sure, I’m a woman in a pretty testosterone-heavy industry. Only 20-30% of ski patrollers are women. But I’ve never really thought of myself as all that unique.

I just finished my 26th season as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain. That’s more than half my life (just barely, but who’s counting, right?). While considering what wisdom I might have to add to a group of amazing ladies offering support through participation in outdoor adventures, I realized that my attitude toward myself and my job have changed over the years. I never used to think about what it meant to be a female patroller.

The women of Crystal.

The women of Crystal.

I just put my head down and acted like one of the guys.

In fact, I probably pushed the testosterone level up a notch. If a group of us were headed into Southback for avalanche control, I’d be at the head of the pack, breaking trail in waist-deep snow. If another patroller laid down an auger challenge*, I’d be the first one out the door with my skis on. Race to the top of the Queen via hiking up from Powder Pass? I’d push myself until my lungs burned. The stairs to the Summit House were buried in two feet of snow drift? I’d be out there with a shovel and Pulaski until ever speck of ice was gone.

I didn’t want to be known as a good female patroller. I wanted to be known as a good patroller, period.

And I still do.

The climate for women in the outdoor industry is changing. Through groups like SheJumps and with the examples of badass professionals like Lynsey Dyer, Lel Tone and Elyse Saugstad, women are banning together to create a sisterhood.

Today’s sisterhood is supportive and inclusive. The rules of engagement haven’t changed. Professional outdoor women still have to be twice as strong as the guys, and we can never blame our PMS. At least not in front of the guys. Instead, we can rely on the burgeoning sisterhood of others like us–those that have forged the way and those that are just dipping their toes in for the first time.

At the defineFEMININE event Thursday night, I shared the stage with some amazing women. Diane Hoff paved the way for female climbers in the Northwest and served as the first female president of the Mountaineers. Kristina Ciari found her outdoor passion in backcountry skiing and is going on 43 consecutive months of turns all year, all while wearing a pink tutu. Jenny Abegg is coming off a year of van life, chasing the climbing dream across the globe. One of my favorite moments of the evening was Jenny’s description of some of the setbacks she had on her trip. She said, “the way I react to this matters.” And she’s right. We make our reality moment to moment. Claire Smallwood, co-founder of SheJumps shared her journey of shifting self-perceptions. Sometimes we never truly see our best self until we risk jumping in. Claire did that with SheJumps and a sisterhood was born.

I was honored to share my story with this amazing sisterhood. My hope is that more women can find their true strength by jumping into adventure.

*The auger is a designation held by the patroller who most recently fell while skiing in uniform. If one holds the auger (or actually is wearing the wooden auger bit around his or her neck), he or she can challenge other patrollers for a run. If the other patrollers refuse to join the challenge, the auger holder can simply pass it over to the refusee.

El Avalanchisto: The Dirtbag Diaries

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I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to assume that you, dear reader, are familiar with The Dirtbag Diaries. If not, then click on the link and go check it out for yourself. Created by Fitz Cahall and–as the legend goes–recorded in a closet in Seattle, The Dirtbag Diaries is a podcast for adventurers. Fitz covers the kinds of stories you’d want to hear over a campfire, the kinds of tales you hope to hear on a long road trip. He gathers up adventure into a 30-minute podcast, cinches it tight and delivers it to you in your ear. No campfire or road trip necessary.

I just came back from a long boat trip and I finally had a chance to catch up on podcasts. While motoring up the BC coast, my husband and I binge-listened to our favorites. El Avalanchisto, a recent episode from The Dirtbag Diaries, was played not once but three times. Just for good measure.

It’s a compelling story, and one that resonated with me for obvious reasons. Matt McKee decides to take a job forecasting avalanches for Minera Pimenton, a gold mine in the Chilean Andes. He thought it would be his dream job. Instead it turned into a nightmare: a den of avalanche paths, a mine full of workers who didn’t believe in avalanches and a country that looked for someone to blame if things went wrong.

What made me want to listen to this one over and over again was not the human nightmare, but the natural one. The tale was a familiar one to me. Avalanche paths going bigger that ever seen before, snow falling nonstop and filling in the previous slides, and the feeling that the world above you just wants to bury you–I know what that feels like.

Have a listen and see what you think. Click below to be taken to the podcast. Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.16.28 PM

Great Hockey Hair

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We’re deep into the NHL Season now with the Stanley Cup just around the corner. I think it’s time to return to what’s most important in hockey–great flow. And by flow, of course, I mean salad. And by that I mean hair. Here’s a video of some of the best hair in hockey. Enjoy.

What a Year of “Meh” Taught Me

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Last weekend, Crystal Mountain closed for the season. While its always a little sad to see it all end, this season my heart wasn’t nearly as heavy as usual. This time it was almost a relief.

Bill Steel Cartoon

Dreaming of Snow. Cartoon by Bill Steel

In a word, this season was “weird.”

But it wasn’t just the snow–or lack thereof–that was weird for me. On a personal level, it’s been a difficult year and a half. After my father passed away last year, fate or circumstance or maybe just my own personal luck went rogue. In the past several months, my husband’s mother passed away, our house was broken into (and the few remaining physical memories of my father were taken), and our best friends got a divorce.

Not one to shy away from adversity, I’ve tried taking these challenges head on. But really, it’s been an exercise in letting go. Just let go. That’s such a cliche though, right? Anyone who’s been through a string of hard times knows what I’m talking about. When the chips are down, the last thing you want to do is relinquish the emotional baggage that you’re clinging to for dear life.

That’s the beauty of getting older, I suppose. Experience (and when I say experience, what I’m really saying is loss) teaches us what truly matters. My father’s stolen watch, or the heart-shaped necklace that he gave me on my 30th birthday, will not bring him back. Nor will my husband’s grandfather’s antique fly reels bring him closer to his ancestor. Our memories and our experiences are what cleave us to one another. Objects are just things–just mementos imbued with meaning. Emotions can be glued to any old object.

Same for our hopes. We can pin them on snowfall or weather or that elusive powder run we dream about all summer and chase all winter. They can be dashed against the gravel on a season like this when the lower half of the mountain was so bare that grass starting sprouting in March.

Sometimes you just want to bury your head in your hands

Sometimes you just want to bury your head in your hands

Or we can connect to the chances we are given. A stingy snow season taught me to enjoy even the runs I would have considered merely “meh” a few years ago. Since so much of who we are depends on the stories we tell ourselves, I’m choosing to rewrite history. Instead of the past year and a half being the worst ever, I’ve chosen to see it as an opportunity. Thanks to that home invasion, I have fewer possessions weighing me down. With fewer snow storms, I never took a single turn for granted. Now that I’ve experienced the fragility of life and relationships, I’m living my own life with more purpose and attention.

Many readers have asked why I haven’t been posting as much. In part, it might be that I’ve been preoccupied with these life lessons. Mostly however, I’m working on another book, which is hoarding much of my writing mojo. The novel about a ski area will soon be with my agent, and I’ll keep y’all posted on its progress.