The Snow Report
I first heard Kim Havell’s name back in 2007. I was skiing with some locals in Telluride, Colorado, where she lived at the time. As we rode up chair nine, I asked my ski partners, “Who is the best lady skier on the mountain?” They responded in unison: “Havell.”
About that time, Havell was beginning to make a splash in the ski world. She was notching first female descents up and down Telluride’s infamous sidecountry zone Bear Creek, picking lines off Little Wasatch Ridge (the Grandfather Couloir, the Y Couloir, and Heaven Elevens). In doing so, she became one of only five people, and the only female, to ski all of the direct couloirs off Little Wasatch Ridge. Those feats in Southwest Colorado were stepping stones to a mountaineering career that’s seen her ski on all seven continents, with first descents on four, including Antarctica, where she moonlights as a guide for Doug Stoup’s Ice Axe expeditions.
She’s skied from the summit of Denali and laced turns down Aconcagua in Argentina, Tibet’s Shishapangma, and Pakistan’s Gasherbrum II, from the highest point for any female skier, after being turned around close to the summit due to dangerous avalanche conditions. With dozens of ski accomplishments spanning the globe under her belt, Havell has emerged as one of the preeminent female ski mountaineers of our time.
Unlike many of her peers, Havell didn’t grow up skiing in some snowcapped Mecca like Jackson Hole or Sun Valley. No ski patrol mom or ski coach dad. Instead, she was born in Iran and grew up in Hong Kong until she was 12, when she moved with her family to New York City. She ski raced in high school and as a student at Brown University. After college, she headed west to Telluride, where she coached ski racing, became an ambassador and ski model for the resort, and joined the San Miguel Search and Rescue. In the San Juans, her passion for the mountains flourished.
Six years ago, Salomon added Havell to their roster. Since then, she has appeared in films by Sweetgrass, Powderwhores, and Salomon Freeski TV. Shot last February in Sicily, her latest Salomon Freeski TV episode, “Etna,” debuts in 2013. After 16 years in Telluride and a brief stint in Salt Lake City, Havell moved to Jackson Hole, Wyomong, in August to continue chasing her ski mountaineering dreams.
Here, she discusses recovering from the tragedies of winter 2011-12, breaking into the backcountry, and schussing on an erupting volcano.
What do you have on tap for this winter?
I have a few film projects, but I can’t go into specifics because we’re still trying to get funding. One is a women-oriented thing, but meant for all audiences. The other is a backcountry-type endeavor.
I’m going to be over in Europe this spring for some Salomon stuff, so I might try to ski some lines I’ve been eyeing over there. I have some Himalayan hopes. Last year we had to cancel our expedition to Baffin Island because we lost two of our team members. (Editor's note: The two expedition members were Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer, who died in an avalanche in Grand Teton National park on March 7, 2012.) We may try to resurrect that or do a trip somewhere else in May or June. And a trip to Antarctica in November 2013 as a guide for Ice Axe Expeditions. That’s the big picture stuff I’m trying to put together.