AIARE 1 w/ Kenna

Kenna is the first ever reciepient of the Backcountry Squatters Scholarship for Outdoor Education and received her AIARE 1 in Jackson Hole, WY through an all female course.

2019 was the first year I put ski boots on. I had just turned 20 and lived in Denver. I can distinctly remember the struggle walking from the car and thinking “how the hell do people walk in these things?” At this moment, I was avidly involved in the outdoors, primarily long-distance hiking, climbing, and biking; but having grown up in coastal Northern California, skiing felt like the final frontier. I spent my entire first day on the magic carpet with my sweet friend Liza, who practiced unfathomable patience with my frustration and fear.

Since then, I have had a number of incredible friends spend their winters ripping blue groomers with me, skiing right behind me yelling at my speed, and laughing their ass*s off at me trying to hit jumps. Most of these friends have been women. My best friend Caroline was the friend that convinced me to learn to ski in the first place, and since moving to the Teton Valley together has been my primary cheerleader.

I had received Backcountry Squatter’s 2019 scholarship, but my original course (mountaineering out of Estes Park) had been canceled in the early franticness of COVID so I’d be holding onto it for another opportunity to crop up. It took about two weeks living here for everyone in my life to start pushing me to take my AVI1, and Darby was kind enough to set me up with an all-female course with about a week and a half’s notice. I am absolutely confident I, a competent but new and timid skier, would not have showed up to this course had it not been all female.

To open my season, Caroline spent an entire day on Targhee’s kiddy lift while I got my feet back underneath me. The week before my course, she skinned to our neighborhood park with me so I understood how to use my new touring set up.

Three days long (and with the most impressive COVID precautions I’ve yet to see), my AVI1 was run by two of the most badass, accomplished, enthusiastic, and patient women I’ve met in Jackson. Instead of trying to prove how hard they could ski, the women I was surrounded with were focused on learning together and supporting one another’s weaknesses in the backcountry. Sometimes that meant waiting while someone sidestepped down a pitch, sometimes that meant laughing at me accidentally launching myself off a log, and meant asking lots and lots of questions without fear of judgement.

To fold into a fairly intense, “hardo-driven”, primarily male-driven backcountry scene in the Tetons does not ever feel like a short order, and it reinforces for me the experience of so many folks who were not exposed to outdoor sports in their youth. That being said, magic happens in all female contexts. Backcountry Squatters exemplifies the environments that allow women to thrive in new outdoor activities, and I’m excited to see that opportunity provided for so many other women in so many sports. When we hold a sport dearly, we have the option to dig into it for our own gain and improvement, but we also have the opportunity to open ourselves and share it with others. I would never have agreed to learn to ski in my 20’s had Caroline not been adamant it would be worthwhile (and a great practice of humility), and I certainly would not be spending any days in the backcountry had Backcountry Squatters not provided me with the support that they always do.

-Kenna Kuhn

2019 Backcountry Squatters Non-Profit Scholarship Recipient

Kenna is a recent graduate from the University of Denver in Denver, CO. She found Squatters through school and was on the executive board at DU.

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