Kim Havell’s childhood dream was substantially different from that of the friends she made growing up in Hong Kong and then New York City, before attending Choate Rosemary Hall and then Brown University. “I wanted to star in ski films,” she says. “Drop out of helicopters and all of that.” Recently transplanted to Jackson Hole after 15 years in Telluride, Havell made that happen with appearances in 2011’s Solitaire and Breaking Trail.
But over the past several years Havell realized that her skill set is better suited to exploration than photogenic thrills. “I’m finding that I’m more excited by exploration—going places where there are no maps and I have no info,” she says. Explaining why a spring ski trip into the Wind River Mountains south of Jackson was wonderful, she says, “We didn’t see another person the whole eight or nine days.”
To tackle the remote ski lines Havell does requires not only the physical and mental strength and skill to ski 60-degree slopes where a fall means likely death, but also the ability to first get to and climb up the mountain. Havell is an athlete for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where she’s a guest instructor at the Steep & Deep and women’s camps, but half of her skiing is done miles from a lift.
Sometimes the climbing is on a rock. Other times on ice. Often a ski descent is interrupted by a rock buttress requiring a rappel down the cliff.
Havell has skied and notched first descents on all seven continents; on volcanoes in Bolivia, 26,000-foot-high peaks in the Himalaya and Pakistan’s Karakoram ranges, in Morocco’s Central High Atlas, in Greenland, in the Arctic and Antarctic, and in Alaska, Russia, and Japan, to name just a few spots. In total, she’s adventured in more than 50 countries.
“Mountaineering adds layers to an adventure,” Havell says. “And it offers the opportunity to see what I’m made of, to feel that healthy dose of respect and fear.” This winter, you can see what Havell is made of on Salomon Freeski’s YouTube channel, where you can catch the evolution of her dreams coming true.