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All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien


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Climbers

May 10, 2018

Courtney Sanders: The Bigger Issue

Following recent events, Courtney Sanders reflects upon wider issues in the outdoor industry.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

To keep following this, and all other Outdoor Journal stories, make sure you sign up to our newsletter and follow us across all social platforms – www.outdoorjournal.com/signup. If you missed our initial coverage of the incident, you can find it here, and read about the response from the industry here.

TOJ: Have you ever experienced or been aware of any level of harassment from within the outdoor adventure industry?

CS: Like any other industry, the outdoor adventure industry is not immune to harassment. I have personally been a victim of bullying on several occasions, and by more than one person (many more) in this industry. Social media in particular, provides an environment that enables bullying and harassment. For example, having a public profile allows for anyone, including many people whom I don’t know, to comment or send derogatory and demeaning messages. In addition, there are several public “comedy” accounts made with the purpose of mocking, teasing, or slandering public figures. Aside from the public realm of social media, private accounts may be made with the same purpose, and give a false sense of security that the negative content won’t be exposed. This leads to situations like the one our community is currently witnessing online.

TOJ: What is your assessment as to how all parties have behaved over the course of the last few days?

CS: I think that it is important to first and foremost say that any form of bullying or harassment is unacceptable. This particular incident involved a very sensitive topic in the outdoor industry and amongst top-level athletes, body image. Body shaming has very dangerous repercussions, including lasting issues like body image dysmorphia and eating disorders. This is totally unacceptable behavior, and shocking that a professional athlete would be the instigator in this type of bullying.

The initial reactions in this situation were very emotional and stemmed from previous insecurities and frustrations. Because social media was the main method of communication as this unfolded, it’s important to recognize the pressures that professional athletes experience when under the scrutiny of thousands of viewers. Any online content is subject to criticism, both personally and professionally.

Joe posted hurtful and inflammatory content on a private Instagram account, which assumingly, he never thought would reach the subjects of his posts. I don’t think Joe was acting maliciously, but his humor crossed a line into an unacceptable and offensive place which he admitted in his public apology. Simply, he was being disrespectful and unprofessional. This was not a singular offense, and after a long-term accumulation, Sasha, myself, and others decided that it was time to speak out.

I believe that major industry companies such as Black Diamond and La Sportiva acted in their own best interests, which likely includes preserving company image and morality, when deciding to end relations with Joe. Personally, I think that there is room for improvement on all sides, and the potential for those companies to address bullying and harassment with the help of Joe could have been a huge learning experience. Perhaps a larger and more constructive conversation could be started by working together, rather than terminating the athlete and ending the dialogue.

TOJ: Are these events an indication of a wider problem within the outdoor industry? Do we need to have an open and serious conversation?

CS: Events like this definitely indicate that there is much to be improved upon in the outdoor industry, but I don’t believe that this industry is isolated in that respect. Currently in the U.S., there is societal unrest and intolerance concerning harassment and discrimination. Making the world a better place for everyone to live in is not an easy task, and when leveling the playing field, those who are used to advantage will not all quietly back down.

It is a tumultuous time to live in this country, and also fantastic to see such social progression. The outdoor industry is of course profit-driven, and this makes it harder for companies to take political or social stances on topics due to fear of public backlash or loss of sales. While this is understandable to an extent, we need leaders and major influencers to open the conversation and stand up between right and wrong, including talking about bullying and harassment. This is a large problem even outside of the social media and athlete realm, it reaches into the workplace and into the heart of our community- the outdoors.

This industry could set the example by being an accepting and welcoming community which benefits all members. Our greatest resource is access to the outdoors, why not use this to inspire and include everyone?

TOJ: Can you also address the overall lack of diversity in outdoors, and the gender gap in the US as above, vs rest of the world? Keeping in mind that US media, culture and conversation often drives what happens elsewhere in the world too.

CS: In many ways, the outdoor industry is taking steps to address the lack of diversity within its communities. One of my favorite resources is Diversify Outdoors, which is a coalition of influencers aimed at promoting diversity within this industry (https://www.diversifyoutdoors.com).

While progress is being made, it is very important to recognize that there is so much more to be done. One of the building blocks in contributing to this movement is education. Many people are not aware of the extent of issues such as lack of diversity or the gender gap within this industry. By educating members of our communities on ways to raise awareness and address these problems, we are already taking the first steps in creating a better environment.

I can’t speak for other outdoor communities across the world, but I recognize that the U.S. in many ways sets an international precedent. I believe that addressing these issues starts with us, and I am working on ways to use my platform and my voice to make the outdoors and our communities a better place for everyone.

Featured Image Credit: Alex Kahn

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Travel

Jan 15, 2019

Not Your Father’s Ski Trip: Jackson Hole, WY

Inspired by images of her dad’s Jackson Hole college ski trip, the author heads north to tour the Tetons and tack a few pictures to the family scrapbook.

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WRITTEN BY

Kela Fetters

The author’s father launching a cliff at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort cerca 1987

This film shot of my father going big on a set of ridiculously thin, twin-tipped K2s cerca 1987 instilled in me a deep gratitude for today’s fat freeride sticks and a sense of duty to keep the family’s cliff-hucking legacy alive. Scrapbook open on his lap, my dad extolled the terrain of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which he visited “back in the good ol’ days” at Colorado State University. He described a steep wonderland besotted with cliffs that beg for reckoning. After the past several seasons of wimpy Colorado snow totals whilst Jackson churned out foot-deep day after foot-deep day, I was enthused by the resort’s inclusion on my 2018-2019 Ikon Pass. With my own graduation looming in May, I figured the time was right for some Teton escapades. Like father, like daughter.

Car outfitted with a socioeconomically oxymoronic stash of ramen and expensive ski gear, I punched seven hours northward and arrived the night after a vicious storm cycle spat 20 inches of fresh flakes onto the mountains. The next day popped bluebird and my posse navigated the foreign slopes via trial, error, and the inexhaustible freneticism of college kids on vacation. We nabbed fresh tracks on Headwall and Casper Bowl, giggled down pillows on the Crags, and pinballed around the Hobacks. A ride up in the iconic Jackson Hole tram revealed a closed Corbet’s Couloir, ostensibly requiring another wave of coverage before its seasonal unveiling. I was forced to settle for a waffle at Corbet’s Cabin instead of matching my dad’s drop into the legendary chute. With the blood of my father and powder-fueled adrenaline surging through my veins, I willed myself over the most tantalizing cliffs on offer in Rendezvous Bowl.

The iconic Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tram, cerca 1987
Corbet’s Couloir: a timeless classic
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, cerca 1987

In the words of the great Cyndi Lauper: Oh daddy dear, you know you’re still number one, but girls, they wanna have fun.

It’s part and parcel of parenthood to agitate over the safety and well-being of one’s children. I’ve subsumed backcountry skiing into my hobbiesnew territory for this family’s lineage. On my nascent out-of-bounds outings, my father, a textbook concerned parent, grumbled about avalanches, terrain traps, and my insurmountable naïvity. Several seasons of diligent education, one avy bag, and countless snow pits later, I’ve earned his reluctant acceptance, if not enthusiasm, for my backcountry pursuits.  In the words of the great Cyndi Lauper: Oh daddy dear, you know you’re still number one, but girls, they wanna have fun.

Finding deep snow on Headwall
Pillows aplenty on the Crags

After two days of charging in-bounds, my psyche longed for the solitude of the skintrack. Teton Pass, Grand Teton National Park, and the resort sidecountry make the area a veritable playground for backcountry enthusiasts. It’s a family affair in Jackson; a fraternal ethos is evident in the fact that 97% of the nearly 4 million acres of Teton County are federally owned or state managed. Locals are quick to mark their territory on Teton Pass with the exclamatory hieroglyphs of first tracks, but the terrain is ample enough to find virgin snow. After giving the snowpack several days to stabilize post-squall, we found wiggle room on north-facing aspects along the Mail Cabin Creek drainage. Our final line of Day 1 was the Do-Its, a bifurcated powder track that converges and meanders twelve hundred feet back down to the road. At the hill’s zenith, minute snowflakes collapsed into liquid and rolled from our hardshells. We stood atop a wind-plumped knoll and observed the gnarl of peaks, foregrounded by Mount Taylor and Mount Glory, tumbling into a horizon of exposed rock and liquescent white. The unperturbed flank below screamed for human contact. I was all too happy to oblige the siren’s call with a quick tuck into the void. My skis made that sanctified first contact with the snow below. A crescendo of polestrokes invoked a maelstrom of flakes to drown the world in white. Hips squiggling, mind locked to the minutia, dopamine and adrenaline flooding the nervous system, and a raven on high with a vantage point a ski cinematographer would kill for. Then I burned through the mountain’s vertical; the dance with gravity ended in an expository wave of white smoke. I looked back and the sublime evidence was a single, undulating track across the otherwise unblemished face.

Cloud inversion over the Teton Valley from the top of Mt. Glory
Top of Mt. Glory

My final day in Jackson came courtesy of Exum Mountain Guides, an 80-year-old Teton-based guiding service that offers instruction and adventure on rope and skis in North America, the Alps, Andes, and Himalayas. The service traces their lineage to local legends of the 1930s like Glenn Exum, Paul Petzoldt, and Barry Corbet. They’re the granddaddy of Jackson guiding services and the resident experts on Grand Teton National Park. Despite the government shut-down and limited National Park operations, dedicated employees were plowing the entrance road and ensuring access to some of the Tetons best snow staches. My guide for the day was Brendan O’neill, who informed me of the birth of his daughter Jessie three weeks prior as we puttered to the Taggart Lake Trailhead.

If newborn Jessie was taxing this new dad’s sleep and energy reserves, his athletic, assiduous pace on the skintrack suggested otherwise. I asked Brendan about fatherhood, hoping to glean some insight into my own dad’s relationship with raising a daughter. He hopes to have Jessie on skis the second she can walk; he would be thrilled if she took to alpine or nordic racing, but amenable if she chose not to compete; he is excited to show her the world beyond the boundaries of a ski resort. As we muscled up towards Amphitheater Lake, I mused that twenty years from now, Jessie might look at pictures of her dad guiding in far-flung locales and make plans to fill and transcend those footsteps. I wonder if Brendan knows how much she will look up to him and his accomplishments.

Exum Guide and new father Brendan O’neill

  Even the evergreens projected patriarchy: the tallest trees nucleated their sapling broods with paternal solemnity, each molecule of powder glistening in the shaggy green branches. We broke through the forest onto snow-covered Amphitheater Lake, a cirque bounded by the bald, mangled granite of Teewinot to the north and Disappointment Peak to the west. On a snack pitstop, we watched another party of skiers lay down tracks in Spoon Couloir, a steep, enticing chute on Disappointment Peak’s lower haunch. Brendan seemed to sense my desire to get after a big alpine line and suggested we bootpack the Spoon must have been his newly acquired parental mind-reading superpower. After crossing the lake, we cut a haphazard zig-zag to the top of the Spoon’s apron and transitioned to the bootpack. 500 feet of vertical boot-punching propelled us up the gut and bookended the nearly 5,000 feet of vertical notched from trailhead to objective. From our humble perch on Disappointment’s flank, an electric blue sky slumbered atop a soupy mass of clouds, hallmark of a Teton Valley temperature inversion. Backgrounded by this topsy-turvy atmosphere, I skied down the hard-packed snow of the spoon’s handle into its apron of softer powder.

The Spoon Couloir visible on looker’s left of lower Disappointment Peak (center)
Bootpacking up the Spoon

Grand Teton, senior pinnacle of its range, poised with patriarchal authority over Middle Teton, Mt. Owen, and all the rest

To redeem the remainder of our hard-earned vertical, Brendan led us through a mellow glade percolated with unrumpled pillows aplenty. Matching his cuts through the pines was reminiscent of a childhood spent following my dad around the resort as I learned to trust my edges and my body. As I ripped skins back in the parking lot, giddy with alpine energy, I turned to gaze up at the Grand Teton, senior pinnacle of its range, poised with patriarchal authority over Middle Teton, Mt. Owen, and all the rest. I owe this unforgettable trip to Jackson Hole to my father for choosing to raise and inspire (and generously fund) a skier.

Thanks to Exum Mountain Guides for making this trip possible.

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