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Return to Nature | Icelantic Women Athlete Summit

Return to Nature | Icelantic Women Athlete Summit

Photos and words by: Amy David

During March, a group of the Icelantic Skis women athlete team and crew spent several days in the mountains of Idaho backcountry skiing and brainstorming.

After five years of organizing and leading women’s wilderness backpacking retreats, it’s been a dream of mine to lead a backcountry skiing retreat. This dream started to come to fruition last winter when I teamed up with Icelantic, And She’s Dope Too, and Sawtooth Mountain Guides to host two retreats with women from across the country signed up to partake. As we all know, global public health changed the ability to travel and gather, so we postponed the guided retreats to March 2022. With an opportunistic mindset, we decided to bring a group of the Icelantic Skis women together at the Williams Peak Yurt this winter for our first all-women athlete summit. This team has some big ideas forming to share soon! For now, here’s a recap of our weekend in the Sawtooths.

"This trip was such an incredible experience! To be surrounded by beautiful souls and jagged mountains is a feeling that is hard to beat. We shared laughs, stories and amazing food! I feel incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by women that truly inspire me. Icelantic assembled such a dream team of lady athletes and I am honored to have been a part of it!” - Icelantic Athlete, Kianna Willette-Stadler

Day 1 | Gathering

Trip Participants:

We gathered at my home near Stanley, Idaho for the first night, organized gear, and ate a hearty healthy meal. After dinner we sat in the nearby hot spring staring at the stars and catching up on life. Annelise invited each of us to share our expectations and intentions for the rest of the trip. In Katrina DeVore style, she got us to howl as a group between each person sharing. During this process, I noticed a dark figure wisp across the meadow behind the springs and it sparked my memory of the local wolf pack. The final group howl happened, and the dark figure returned several hundred feet away. It was large, wolf shaped, and just as we all quietly stared, it stared directly back before galloping away.

Wolf is a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty, and spirit. Wolves have the ability to make quick and firm emotional attachments, and need to trust their own instincts. Thus they teach us to do the same, to trust our hearts and minds, and have control over our own lives.

Talk about setting the tone!

Day 2 | Immersion

We started the morning with coffee and a group discussion about the current weather and snow conditions, avalanche hazard, and began establishing a simple process for effective group communication. As a team that assembles in various locations across the country and world several times per year, we decided to establish a group dynamic for safe travel and communication in the backcountry. This requires everyone getting on board to research, discuss, and understand the current state of the local snowpack, to set a tone of consensus and open dialogue throughout each day, and aim for safe shredding over simply “sending it to get the shot.” My vision is for our team to be quality backcountry partners for years to come.

A spring snowstorm began as we prepared for the five mile hike into the yurt. I must note that Lara Antenello - one of the hut keepers for Sawtooth Mountain Guides - hiked in early that morning before us IN THE RAIN to prep the yurt between the last group. She is an absolute boss! The temperatures dropped by the time the rest of us drove 15 miles to the trailhead and began hiking, resulting in a magical snowy approach.

Upon arriving at the yurt, the storm began to taper off and the surrounding peaks slowly emerged from behind the wall of clouds. Half of the group hiked up for a micro lap with the recently revealed views in the backdrop. As we began skiing down, two large ravens circled above creating an ominous and mystical feel to the evening.

The vibe really set in when we opened the door to the yurt to find Lara clad in a red sequin dress holding bags of sparkles to share. All women’s trip? Sparkles? She’s going to fit in just fine! Soon the fire was crackling, dinner brewing, and laughter erupting.

With wellness as a theme, Anna Tedesco prepared the group meals with plant nutrition and delicious yurt dessert! For recipe ideas, check her out @vannaspice.

Day 3 | High Alpine

Coffee, burritos, transceiver check, and we’re out the door. After a snow conditions assessment and avalanche hazard conversation, we decided to split the group in half to ski in the two neighboring basins for a day of high alpine objectives. Due to high wind and six inches of new heavy snow on an older slick crust, we reeled back the steepness of our terrain objectives and focused on traveling through the mountains safely. The views did not disappoint! I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

“We just made it to the summit! I am just in awe of all these mountains - how powerful they are and now I feel almost just as powerful making it up here with all these badass ladies. I couldn’t be happier.” - Icelantic Athlete, Leah Woods

For the final lap of the day, our entire group met up on the ridge between the two basins. It began to snow again just as Ruby and Lara pulled out the sequin sparkle dresses again as a surprise to wear on the final lap. Half laughing, half shivering, we fully committed to rocking the dresses in the snowstorm all the way back to the yurt. I kept thinking to myself, yes, these are my people!

Balancing out the sequins and silliness, that evening after dinner we sat in a circle, and I suggested each of us share our top glory moment and learning moment of the trip. As each person opened up about their experience so far, the common thread appeared to go beyond the act of skiing and deeper into the intrinsic element of our relationship with skiing and the dynamic of an all-women trip.

One of the glory moments that struck me the deepest was from Leah. She described how powerful it was when I invited her to go first leading us into the upper basin surrounded by the towering jagged peaks. “No one has ever asked me to lead before, and I had both tears and laughter hiking first into the biggest peaks I’ve ever seen up close. This trip has been life changing,” Leah expressed. I felt a powerful wave of emotion realizing how impactful a simple nudge can be encouraging someone to take the lead or inviting them to be equal parts of the group decision-making.

Being a good leader isn’t always about being in the front, making the calls, and speaking up the most. Being an impactful leader can be much more subtle and may often go unnoticed by the masses. Creating space for others to flourish and grow is part of being a forward-thinking leader, too.

Day 4 | Seeds

Spring equinox, one of the two moments in the year when the sun is exactly above the equator and day and night are equal in length. It’s the start of spring - new life and growth.

This was the first @icelantic_skis all women athlete summit and it has planted the seeds for much more to grow. When we create more space for collaboration and camaraderie instead of competition, we all flourish more. There is space for all of us & each brings something unique and special to the group (even if you don’t realize it!)

Our final morning started with a sunrise tour to celebrate the first day of spring.

“I have never regretted getting out of my warm sleeping bag and on the skin track in the dark and cold. It’s always worth it! Never forget that, next time you’re struggling to get out of bed. It’s always worth it.” - Icelantic Athlete, Anna Tedesco

Before skiing down, Erin led us in a grounding meditation forging a connection to nature and these mountains.

“I just get so much peace, quiet, and stillness. We move too fast in the day to day, so I come here to find some quiet.” - Icelantic Athlete, Erin Young

“I am here with some of the most rad chicks ever, and we have spent the last few days practicing our badass lady mountain skills and traveling through amazing terrain together. I just feel super grateful and happy to be here. How could you not?!” - Lara Antenello

Top it all off with sunny corn skiing all the way back to the trailhead!

Icelantic is a community motivated company. It’s about skiing, the people, and returning to nature with both. The new women’s ski, the Nia, was named after a sacred principle with the meaning “to bring the community back to its traditional greatness.” This backcountry ski trip was in line with the Nia. Our goal is to provide a space for connecting with each other, nature, and self while shredding in big mountains.

Words by Icelantic Athlete @AmyJaneDavid

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