Postcards from the edge
Exploration – and radness – awaits at Women Outside Adventure Forum

Postcards from the edge

Telluride-based mountaineer and skier par excellence Hilaree Nelson during what was the first ski descent of Lhotse last year. Nelson will speak Wed., March 20, as part of the Women Outside Adventure Forum.

Joy Martin - 03/07/2019

With a solid season of powder-slaying behind us (or is it?) and a mighty river runoff just around the bend, 2019 is shaping up to be one for the books. Whether you’re a backcountry ninja drooling over couloir expeditions or are lost in desert daydreams, the fourth annual Women Outside Adventure Forum by Backcountry Experience on March 19-21 guarantees to kick up the wanderlust dust and get the wheels spinning for what’s possible in the wide, wonderful world we call our back yard.

“Everyone experiences and is affected by outdoor adventure differently,” event organizer Margaret Hedderman says. This year’s theme, “Explorations” delves into the play between outdoor adventure and internal landscapes, she said.

Hedderman has sculpted three action-packed evenings featuring runners, SUPpers, experts in the vertical, and walkers with a cause. These women coalesce to share their tales and insight into how, where and why they explore.

The event kicks off at the Powerhouse on Tues., March 19, with ultrarunner Kelly Halpin and award-winning journalist Morgan Tilton. Day Two, expect palms to sweat and jaws to drop as climber Madaleine Sorkin and ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson take us into the vertical. On Thurs., March 21, Tenny Ostrem and Claire Wernstedt-Lynch share their film, “Hike the Line,” which explores the positive and peaceful human stories they encountered on a 2,000-mile walk along the U.S./Mexico border.

Like you, a couple of these gals call themselves daughters of the San Juans. Tilton was raised in Telluride, whereas Nelson has lived there since 2001.

“The more I’ve gotten into my career, the more I find the San Juans to be an amazing, inspiring place to train,” Nelson says. “The access to really difficult and engaging ski descents is world-class, and I’m always finding new things. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box, but in a good way.”

With a slew of first ascents and first descents under her belt, Nelson is a National Geographic Adventurer and one of the world’s top ski mountaineers. In October 2018, she and ski partner, Jim Morrison, became the first people ever to ski Lhotse, the fourth highest peak in the world and part of the Everest massif. When she’s not climbing, schussing or linking up 8,000-meter peaks, she’s home in Telluride chasing her 9- and 11- year-old boys around the mountain.

“I’m supposed to be this world-class skier, and they’re making fun of me that I can’t even keep up with them,” she laughs.

While the boys often join Nelson on her forays to Nepal, Chamonix, Kilimanjaro and beyond, Nelson leans into her community back in Telluride to help while she’s out on adult-only missions. So how does a globetrotting professional athlete navigate “mom  guilt,” you wonder?

“It’s hard to envision raising kids outside of the way you were raised, but however you raise your kids will be normal to them. I’m living proof of that,” she says. “If I tell them I’m going to ski Lhotse, they’re, like, ‘sweet.’ You can show your kids a lot of love and have a passion, too. It’s not always perfect, but then it never is. You have to go easy on yourself.”

It’s bits of wisdom like this that percolate to the surface of the Women Outside Adventure Forum, wisdom that also resonates with dads, brothers and boyfriends of gnar chicks as well as dudes who are curious where all the hotties are hanging out during spring break.

Regardless of your motivation for checking out the forum, join others in full confidence that all proceeds from WOAF benefit Durango-based nonprofit San Juan Citizens Alliance, which advocates for clean energy, wilderness designation and conservation in the mountains that have delivered so much goodness to us so far this year. Because without the San Juans, your internal landscape would be a desert. Not that that’s a bad thing; just a thought worth exploring... .

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