Women of Winter: Claire Smallwood

Snow Sports

Courtesy of Re Wikstrom

Claire and I met at my first big-mountain skiing competition in Taos, New Mexico. There is a fire radiating from her eyes that changes the energy all around this skier/writer/intellectual and native New Mexican who counts as one of the most gregarious people I have encountered in the ski industry. We’ve kept in touch through her time at Portland, Oregon’s Lewis and Clark University; her winters at Mt. Hood Meadows; her teaching stints at a French school in Portland; and two trips to Senegal where she studied modernization’s effects on oral history. In 2006, she spent the winter in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, where she’s spent every ski season since, working as a sous-chef at Alta and more recently as the executive director of the non-profit, SheJumps, that we covered in our winter issue. While “work” keeps her busy, Claire still skis over 200 days a year, a result of a phenomenon she calls “FOMO,” or fear of missing out. “It is a common disorder among outdoor enthusiasts,” she claims.

If fear of missing out can inspire Claire’s to-dos, then sign me up. At the end of last season, Claire skied powder as the target for outdoor photographers before a 20-day rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, climbing in New Mexico, cooking and catering for an outfit in the Columbia River Gorge, and finally as a ski guide in South America—all while strategizing and organizing for SheJumps. When asked what keeps her spontaneous and undeniably chaotic schedule possible, Claire points to her constant exposure to inspiring people, from British Columbia all the way to Tierra del Fuego. And her penchant for multi-tasking. “It’s not that it’s impossible for me to slow down, but once you get used to operating at a certain frequency, it becomes a norm,” she says. “I just really like to have full days—days where I can see tangible progress towards a goal or days where I know that as soon as my head hits the pillow I’m going to have a solid night’s sleep (or at least a few hours).”

That schedule of full days helped Claire stay busy between work and play last summer: summiting a handful of Pacific Northwest volcanoes and checking up on new regional chapters of SheJumps in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and California which the organization is planning to expand with spring and summer programs next year. Encouraging other females to get outside and play is just as important to Claire as her own time in the mountains. “I believe when you show someone they can do something they thought was impossible, it is bound to bring about some tangible change within them. My intention for SheJumps is to create experiences that get women thinking along the lines of: What’s Next?

Driving a beat-up Subaru, living out of storage spaces, and sleeping on friends’ couches has also, in some circles, earned Claire the classic title of “ski bum.” But juxtaposed to her skills as a skier, chef, inspirer, world-traveler, linguist, and organizer, Claire doesn’t find the label fitting. “Maybe if you think about it as, if I don’t ski, them I am bummed,” she says, “but even that is a stretch. I live, eat, and breathe skiing,” admits Claire, “For all of my other jobs, I just hold different office hours.”

Courtesy of Re Wikstrom

Visit Claire’s personal website or check out what she has going on at SheJumps.

Photographer Re Wikstrom provided images of Claire, to see more of her photos, follow her on Twitter or become her Facebook Fan.


When she’s not contributing to Women’s Adventure‘s blog series, Women of Winter, writer and professional skier Molly Baker is likely shredding snowy wonderlands in the Pacific Northwest and posing for some of the industry’s best action photographers. She also contributes to ESPN Freeskiing, The Ski Journal, and Skiing Magazine.

Last modified: June 25, 2013

One Response to :
Women of Winter: Claire Smallwood

  1. amerikanka says:

    You have a very nice blog! It was very interesting to read this exciting story! I think that the mountain skiing is the best way to spend holidays.

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