Since the launch of Snow Bunny Magazine we have been fortunate to meet some of the most influential, strong, and all around successful women in snow sports. Ballers in life, but also on their skis and boards we are thrilled to be offering an opportunity to get to KNOW BUNNIES!
One of these amazing women is a Boise native who now resides in Victor, Idaho. A successful realtor, backcountry enthusiast, charger on skis, and did we mention 5 alarm HOTTIE, Sarah Anderson is one rad chick! While Sarah spends her weeks negotiating high-end real estate deals, her weekends are spent dropping steep and powdery lines at Grand Targhee, or navigating the endless backcountry terrain of the resort with her girlfriends, or her husband.
Skiing since she was eight years old and growing up with ski instructor parents, she and her three sisters were on the mountain every weekend during ski season. Even though she lives at the base of Targhee she still considers her home mountain Bogus Basin in Boise, ID. An accomplished skier and occasional snowboarder Sarah’s knowledge, skill, and great judgment has made her someone that I have personally looked up to since meeting her 4 years ago.
Here is more from our interview with Sarah Anderson:
SB: Your entire family is made up of experienced and skilled skiers. Tell us about your family and specifically the sisters.
Sarah: I had to wait until I was 8 to start skiing so that all of my sisters could start at the same time. Namely, the hold up was the youngest sister Jenny. She was worth the wait! Jenny had a great history in the Ski School at Bogus and has since taught at Sweitzer in North Idaho, Garmisch Germany and lastly at Jackson Hole.
Jenny now guides CAT Skiing at Targhee and is one of the strongest skiers I know. She doesn’t get flustered and she’ll send it off the steepest terrain with the same perfect turns she makes down groomers. Jenny was 4 when she started skiing.
Mary started skiing at 6, has always been a daredevil, and likes speed. She also taught in the Bogus Basin Ski School for years. It’s fun to watch Mary ski, she has those quick feet that can get across obstacles without showing how hazardous they really are, plus she’s just a blast.
My older sister Emily had to wait until she was 9. Poor Emily, all of us girls wanted to do everything she did so she always had her shadows. She gave up skiing for quite a few years but when she gets out, she proves it is just like riding a bike.
I know for all of us, skiing is something we are passionate about. It is a combination of being outdoors, the fun of sliding around on snow, the challenge of the greater turn and of course the lifestyle of living on the mountain.
SB: How did you get in to back country skiing?
Sarah: My husband moved to the Tetons first, following the snowpack and I would come out and visit him on the weekends. By the time I moved out, he and his buddies had gotten into back country skiing. Early on we would hike Teton Pass which is located between our town of Victor and Jackson. We spent a lot of time boot packing up Glory or skinning someplace else. It was awesome from the start! In the early days, we stuck to better known runs, and practiced digging pits and using our beacons. . Getting to the top is and has always been a huge part of the fun. Backcountry is a great way to combine getting a workout with stellar skiing.
You have to enjoy the entire experience.
SB: What is it that you love about being in the backcountry?
Sarah: First and foremost, skiing in the backcountry allows you to get away from the crowds, and slows the World down. I love everything about it! I love making a plan with your ski partners, assessing the conditions and picking the route. I love the tour in; not too fast and not too slow but steady. I love the continuous assessment you have to make of the route, the conditions, how everyone in the group is doing. I love the sweat and having to change into a dry layer at the top of the mountain before the descent.
These days, we access a lot of terrain with our snowmobiles which in the past I would have thought was awful. However, it is pretty awesome to get four or more runs in the same places where we use to only get one in a day.
SB: Although beautiful and serene, the backcountry can be very dangerous. Tell me about the potential dangers of backcountry skiing/boarding.
Sarah: As wonderful as it is, don’t go into the backcountry unprepared. In the backcountry you obviously have more risk of avalanches and other hazards from uncontrolled terrain. Unlike at a Ski Resort, you have to get yourself back home and there aren’t Patrollers to assist you in that.
As a woman, I think it is normal to follow the boys and let them make decisions. I’ve definitely been guilty of that, however, it’s not okay. You need to have knowledge of how to use an avalanche beacon, shovel and your probe. You should practice with this equipment before you go out. You need to know the skill level and knowledge level of the people you are with, and you need to be comfortable speaking up and voicing your concerns. I think women and men who are new to backcountry skiing don’t do this enough. At the very least, your concerns can lead to a good discussion with your group and perhaps better decisions. You also need to have a general understanding of snow conditions and avalanche awareness.
SB: What are the most common mistakes that people make when heading out of bounds?
Sarah: Skiing in the backcountry is a risk. You can minimize that risk by having your gear, knowing how to use it and having a partner. One of the biggest mistakes I see is after a period of high pressure, when you are anxious to get out and enjoy some freshies after a big dump, people lose their heads and go big. Don’t do it!
You can just about always choose to ski terrain that is safe, even when the snow conditions aren’t. Think about your terrain choice and don’t go ski avalanche prone terrain on the first day of a big dump, even with clear skies, or during extreme cold or warm temperatures. That is just asking for trouble!
SB: What are the precautions that skiers/snowboarders should take when heading out of bounds?
Sarah: Be sure and let somebody know where you are heading and what your plan is, including what time you think you’ll be out.
SB: Facing fear and epics can often combine. Tell us about your most epic day in the backcountry.
Sarah: It is hard to pick just one epic day because honestly, they are all so different. I’ve had some incredible days skiing in the Tetons accessed by snowmobile, but my most memorable out-of-bounds/scary day was skiing Python Peak with my husband, Eric Anderson and Eric Daft (aka ED).
We were heli-skiing off Thompson Pass out of Valdez, AK. The helicopter landed (kind of, as only the front skids were down), we climbed out on this sketchy little knoll, and we couldn’t see down on either side because it was so steep. When the helicopter took off, our guide DC hiked across this knife edge bridge that spanned about 20 feet with sheer walls on either side. Loosing your footing was not an option!
Ed went in front of me and Eric was right behind me. Those two are really awesome backcountry partners because not only are they skilled, but they are super aware of everyone and everything around them. Ed just looked back at me and said, “don’t look down”. Walking across that thing was so scary, so of course I looked down, and it was straight down! You couldn’t see the bottom. When we got to the other side, we grouped up having to move right, and climb out around a rock. I had a hard time getting around the rock because I was hugging the it. The sheer face was so steep it would have been impossible to self arrest if you fell. The move you had to make was to push yourself out from the rock to get around it while wearing and carrying ski gear. Man, that was scary and I wasn’t sure I could make it, but going back was not an option.
After finally getting around the rock, I had to climb straight up about 10 feet to where Ed was waiting. He was looking over the top encouraging me, and my husband Eric was behind me encouraging me as well. When I made it over the top we were standing on this steep pitch, the top of Python.
It felt like we were on top of the world and you could see for miles around. It was late in the day and the light was changing to that pre-alpenglow stage. It was a scary spot to put on our skis and I was shaking with the excitement of it all, the thrill of what I had just gone through to get to the top, and what was in front of me. The edges seemed to drop away and I couldn’t really tell what was below me as the white powder face we were on just disappeared. We were in a no-fall zone.
We all got set and Ed made the first move traversing across a little to the left, then he turned right, and then he was gone. The run just rolled away and was too steep for me to see what was right below me. Eric and I encouraged each other and then I took off. I took the same traverse across as Ed and then I dropped in right as it looked like I had no more room to traverse.
It was one of the steepest, most sustained pitches I’ve ever skied and it lasted for probably 2,000 feet before we all met up on the glacier below. After regrouping, we skied about 3,000 vertical on the glacier to the road below where a car was waiting to pick us up and take us back to camp. It is exciting to even think about that run and I’m sure I may never have the opportunity to ski anything like that again in my life. It was Awesome.
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