Sure, Jackson kids can ski, but lessons learned on the mountain transcend any sport
All Photos courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
“I like to go fast and jump off things and I like bumpy runs,” says 11-year-old Kensie Morris about what she likes to ski at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Kensie is one of five local girls who are in JHMR’s Mountain Sports School’s Saturday Ski Program with Augustus (Gus) Friendsmith. Kensie and one other group member—the group calls themselves Gus’ Gorgeous Gurlz, aka GGG—have skied with Gus almost every Saturday during the ski season since they were 3. Other girls have come and gone over the years. As the group stands today, “We’re all so close, we don’t just see each other during the ski season. We see each other all year,” Kensie says. The other members of GGG are Lucy Waldrop, Marisa Corbett-Simpson, Rose Jaquith, and Pearl Olson.
Kensie’s mom, architectural designer KJ Morris, says, “I feel like we got some sort of golden ticket with the Saturday Ski Program and with Gus. The girls have a very special bond with each other and with Gus, who encourages leadership in the girls.” “We’ve been skiing [Rendezvous] Bowl for a while,” says Kensie, as nonchalantly as if she was talking about what she had for lunch. Then she continues, just as nonchalantly, to describe something that few 11-year-old skiers outside of a place like Jackson Hole would ever say: “Last year we hiked the Headwall for the first time and skied the Cirque.” Kensie’s goal for this winter? “I want to ski Corbet’s,” she says. “A couple of my friends have done it and they said it was fun and a challenge.”
For Kensie, and pretty much all of the local kids in the JHMR’s MSS Saturday Ski Program, ski talk like this is usual. But they’re not just about skiing. When GGGs aren’t skiing, they get together to celebrate each other’s birthdays, have sleepovers, and take summer camping trips. Last year they walked together as a group during the Women’s March.
Martha Olson, a 15-year-old sophomore at Jackson Hole High School and the older sister of one of Kensie’s fellow GGGs (Pearl Olson), graduated out of the MSS’s Saturday Ski Program last winter. But her MSS group, which Martha estimates has skied together for “about 10 or 11 years,” still gathered to ski together on their own many Saturdays. “It was never a question if we’d still ski together without Natalie [their instructor for their last two years in the program],” Martha says. “We had become friends outside of the lessons, and we really have fun skiing together, so we wanted to keep that going.”
Martha says she and her friends “don’t have a specific run that we like to do. We all definitely love skiing the whole mountain.” Martha says all of her friends have different skiing styles. “I personally like stuff in the park and on the half pipe and more daunting jumps and stuff. Tilli [Rosetti] is better on the mogul scene and Charlotte [Lee] is a little more wild and unpredictable. And then there’s Skye [Eddy]; she’s the one who straightlines everything and goes super fast and we all try to keep up with her. But we’re all equally good.”
Off the mountain, Martha says her group doesn’t have that many classes at school together, but “We make sure to meet up and hang out a lot.” In November, several of the young women got together, along with the MSS instructor who was their coach their last two years, Natalie Bates, for breakfast and to catch up at Picnic.
“Having a solid groups of girls who I can always depend on and who I know always have my back has made me a more confident person—not just a more confident skier,” Martha says. “And Natalie is such a role model to us because she’s this hard core skier and she’s super nice. She’s helped shape us into who we’ve become the last several years. She’s helped with our maturity.” Who wouldn’t want to grow up in a place like Jackson Hole?