On authenticity, integrity, truth, passion, and bagging huge lines like nobody’s business
Kim Havell is one of the world’s great ski mountaineers. Based out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming by way of Telluride, Colorado. An elegant and strong skier, her tracks have graced the far reaches of the planet, from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to the Tetons to the Alps. Highlights include a complete ski descent from 7,400m on Shishapangma in Tibet, a ski descent of Denali, a first descent of The V Couloir on the nortoious Little Wasatch face in Telluride and the first female to ski the Otter Body line on the Grand Teton.
The diversity of her travels and objectives are a reflection of a varied and somewhat footloose upbringing. Born in Tehran, with a childhood in culturally rich Hong Kong and New York, Havell now calls Jackson Hole home. Her wanderings are also indicative of her deeper interest in experiencing the world and new places. She’s freely admitted that she doesn’t ski to get first descents (she views that as a bonus) but rather to explore, a soulful approach that has paid big dividends.
Final advice to all the girls (and boys) out there:
It is worth it to live your dreams but always make sure you have established a safety net for yourself. If it means working a few jobs for a while, so be it. Follow your passions but be thoughtful to the realities of life. Finish school, save money when you can, and go for your goals. Get creative and multi-faceted in your ambitions. And, never lose sight of family, friends, and health in the process. Anything is possible.
Best dance move?
The windmill. I used to jump into breakdance sessions at weddings and parties...if wearing appropriate attire and sometimes not.
Music. What are you listening to right now?
The sounds of nature or whatever the radio is playing when I’m driving as I haven’t had much down-time these last few weeks.
I like whiskey. Just the right stuff after long days in the hills whether skiing or climbing for a day or for a month on an expedition.
What about the future, what are you looking forward to personally and professionally?
’m looking forward to doing some more interesting expeditions and international travel pursuing aesthetic, real ski lines, and not necessarily on the biggest peaks, but in unexplored, adventure-filled areas. Funding is always the biggest hurdle. I also always love the challenge of skiing a new, technical mountain route with a beautiful ski descent as well as continuing to develop skills in writing and photography in the hopes of putting together a book someday. And, I’d love to make a film. Personally, I look forward to spending time in the Jackson community and enjoying life exploring more of the surrounding mountains across Wyoming and Idaho with my boyfriend, Pete, and our dog, Goose.
Highlights, we know some of them, but what about the projects, moments or even non-athletic highlights that maybe aren’t known? Things that you’ve experienced that haven’t been shared – assuming, of course, you’d want to share them with us!
One of the major turning points for my pursuit of professional mountain adventuring and skiing was in 2006 when I came to Jackson with a girlfriend to ski the Grand Teton. We both had full time jobs and picked a random weekend in May when we could get up to the Tetons. We arrived at 7pm on a Friday and started climbing up to the Grand on Saturday at 1am. I on-sighted and soloed the route, trailing a rope, and clipped into anchors to bring up our team. We successfully finished 16 hours later at the car. Less than 24hrs later, we climbed and skied the Skillet on Mt. Moran. And, then we headed home to Telluride. It was my first time in Jackson. I think I wrote one blog about it for my sponsor at that time, Cloudveil. This particular weekend, amongst a few other big mountain adventures, in particular when I soloed routes, gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams and take on bigger projects and routes across the globe.
Tell us about your influences and what inspires you.
I am inspired by authenticity, integrity, truth and passion - be it in music, arts, sports, literature etc. Basically, I like the real deal. That often means the folks that fly under the radar as they do what they do because they love it - not because they receive praise for it. My greatest influences are these people that have dedicated years to the mountains, and whom have logged mileage, guided, and given back to the mountain communities. When you get around them, they exude a deeper understanding of what it means to move in the mountains and as a team. Their knowledge, passion, humility, and instincts honed from years in outdoors inspire me. I admire great skill, guts, and talent but I am inspired and influenced by passion and dedication.
Give us your background, where are from and how did you get to where you are now?
I was born in Tehran, Iran, grew up on the island of Hong Kong, and moved to NYC when I was about 11 years old. Skied since I was about 2 years old on holidays but fell in love with it on a school field trip in the 6th grade to Wildcat Ski Resort in New Hampshire. I ski-raced in high-school and college on the East coast and moved to Telluride, CO, a mecca of ski-mountaineering, after graduation. Surrounded by big mountains, and some great long-time local backcountry skiers, I started to develop some mountain sense. Joining the Search & Rescue team, I also learned another aspect of being in the mountains over a twelve year period volunteering for the county rescues. With this background, I started traveling, exploring, and skiing bigger and sometimes unknown objectives and moved in to expeditions as well as guiding.
Check out Kim’s site HavellTravels.com
2009: Gasherbrum II, Pakistan: skiing high point for women (7,500m) down to Camp III
2010: Central High Atlas Mtns., Morocco: 6 summit descents, all first descents.
2010: Shishapangma, Tibet: complete ski descent from CAMP III on, climb to 7,600m.
2011: Ski descents of the French Direct route from South Summit (20,000ft), Regular route, & Pomerape Volcano descents, Bolivia.
2012: Mt. Kenya: Lenana Peak & Batian Peak, Kenya.
2013: Ski descents in the Martial Mountains, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
2013: Grand Teton, Wyoming: Otter Body route: 1st female descent.
Only woman (& one of less than 5 people) to ski all the direct couloirs of the infamous Little Wasatch Ridge, Telluride, CO, including:
Heavens Eleven: 3 descents, 1st female descent
Grandfather Direct Couloir: 2 descents, 1st female descent
Oblivion Bowl to Grandfather: 3 descents, 1st female descent
The V Couloir: 1st descent with ski partner Josh Geeter
Hairy Banana: 1 descent
The North Y Couloir: 1 descent, 1st all female team
The Why Couloir: 10 descents
The Daisy Duke: 1 descent, 1st female descent
See Kim’s complete tick list.