Keeping up with Kim: Kim Havell talks Otterbody, Blizzard and women’s ski movies

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Written by Betsy Manero   

Last month, Kim Havell found herself alongside Pete Gaston and Brian Warren atop the Otterbody, a steep, exposed route on the east side of Wyoming’s Grand Teton. The Otterbody was first skied by Coombs and Mark Newcomb in ’96, and this was Havell’s third try this the season. Secret’s out—she skied it. And her descent, the first female descent of the 2,500-foot route, capped off an impressive season of bagging peaks and classic routes in the Tetons.

We caught up with Havell to talk about the Otterbody, Blizzard of Ahhhs, and all-female ski movies.

Backcountry: How did you get into skiing?

Kim Havell: I started skiing when I was about two. I grew up in a lot of city areas when I was younger, but my dad was really into skiing, so when he had time off we spent a fair amount of time going skiing. Then in high school and college I ski raced back East. I moved out to Telluride, Colorado right after college.

After getting turned around on the primary objective, Kim Havell boots up the West Hour Glass Couloir on Nez Perce. Tetons, Wyoming. [Photo] Fredrik Marmsater

BCM: What brought you out to Telluride?

KH: Telluride was sort of a long process of elimination. Blizzard of Ahhhs was part of it, because I love that segment. I had some friends who lived out here before or had visited.

BCM: After alpine racing for years how did the transition to backcountry happen?

KH: Telluride really caters to backcountry. There are so many incredible peaks in the San Juans…. I saw all the mountains and all the beautiful, aesthetic ski lines around and so I just kind of developed a passion for it.

BCM: You’ve got a pretty impressive tick list. What’s been the driving force behind all these descents?

KH: It was a merging of a lot of great things. I met some really great ski partners, then obviously conditions and the weather. There’s so much here in a mountain town that you want to pursuit and, if things line up in the right way, then why wouldn’t you try and ski all your dream lines?

BCM: How did it feel to get the first female descent of the Otterbody?

KH: It’s a great feeling. I think the credit belongs to the pioneers. All of the mountain people who, years ago, established a lot of these lines were the ones who took the risks and the ones that really plunged into the unknown.

The first female descent is a rewarding feeling. I think it helps open doors. It opens up opportunity, and anytime people go out and do things and it’s recognized, then it just further encourages others to see what’s possible.

Kim Havell dropping into the top of the Nugget. Tetons, Wyoming. [Photo] Fredrik Marmsater

BCM: What was it like skiing something as exposed and committing as the Otterbody?

KH: The ski was great. We’d been looking at the line all season. I think you only take something on when you feel like you’ve got your ducks in a row, and we had our ducks in a row. Our teamwork went really well and everything went as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Any of the challenges that were involved with it, we were able to work through. It just felt like we had to keep moving. You don’t want to be out there hanging out for too long.

BCM: Both you and Lyndsey Dyer both released teasers for all female ski movies this winter (Hecuba and Pretty Faces, respectively). How does it feel to play such an important role in advancing women with in the ski industry?

KH: I think we are just trying to pursue our passions, and hopefully, by pursuing our passions and putting out our work and accomplishing our goals, we will open more doors for more people and in particular [give] more women the opportunity to be supported in pursuing their physical challenges. The more of us who are able to succeed in certain accomplishments, the more chances there are for more women in every sport…. I think it just opens peoples’ eyes more when they see what can be achieved ultimately.

BCM: How do you see this changing now and into the future? Just more female involvement in the ski industry?

KH: Yes. I hope so and I think so. Lyndsey’s film is just taking off. There’s so many good women skiers right now that her film is going to showcase, and I think that will change things for sure. More companies will give more money to women. Female athletes will get to pursue their dreams at an even higher level.

BCM: So now that you’ve conquered the Otterbody, what’s next?

KH: There are so many more lines in the Tetons I want to ski. I’ve also got a long list of international things that I’d like to do. The coolest thing is that you can find challenge in your own backyard and you can also go abroad and do it. For me, it’s ever growing. It’s been a wonderful experience with a great team on a great day, but there’s so much more to do and get excited about and see what’s possible.

BCM: Anything else to add?

KH: As women, we have a little ways to go to help promote our gender and opportunities where we can, but I think the ultimate goal is just to be, this is going to sound so clichéd, but, just to be people outside together, you know?

For more from Kim's adventures, check out HavellTravels.com. And for more photos by Fredrik Marmsater, visit FredrikMarmsater.com.

 
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