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We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024 W2W Hilaree Nelson Scholarship Program. In its’ 4th year, we are seeing more and more women aspiring to leadership roles with the goal to create space and bring other women along into the sport of skiing. We are excited to help them in their pursuits and for them to carry Hilaree’s torch for future generations of women.

“It’s much easier to be something when you see a path put down by women before you.”

Hilaree Nelson


Sofia Muigg

COURSE: Mountain Guide Training

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Skiing has always been an essential part of my life. When you grow up in Tyrol, skiing is simply part of it. Later on, skiing helped me to earn a living. Without this opportunity, I probably wouldn't have been able to study and without my love of skiing, I wouldn't be the freedom-loving, nature-loving person that I am.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

I am currently in a training program (mountain guide) that is very male dominated, where women are almost non-existent. I would like to see better female empowerment, there is still a lot to do! By being more present and taking on leadership roles in the field, things can change. But we need more programs to promote women and more media coverage to positively reinforce more women.



Laura Knon

COURSE: Sporting Women Camp

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Being in male dominated peer groups among instructors I took this circumstance as an opportunity. The result came along and a lot of new and wonderful friendships arose. Among these great people, which a lot of them I call my friends now, I also met my boyfriend! ;-)

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

As a ski instructor it’s my job but at the same time my passion to teach others new skills. Therefore this education will surely reinforce my goal to inspire and motivate other women in the skiing sports to believe in themselves and improve their skills/abilities.


Coline Girod

Mont Blanc massif / Ecrins

COURSE: Mountain Guide Training

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

I am preparing for my mountain guide training exam. I’d say my approach to the mountains came naturally as I grew up between Grenoble and a refuge nestled at the foot of the Grande Casse. Becoming a guide was first and foremost a childhood dream that became a professional goal as I grew up. I began practicing mountain sports through skiing. After a few years in competition, I decided to turn to ski mountaineering, in search of steep lines at altitude. I love climbing as much as skiing and I strive to be a complete athlete.

I’ve just returned from an expedition to Nepal last spring during which I climbed Ama Dablam. It was my first experience at altitude, and I think it will give rise to many other projects. I’d like to continue trying to approach the mountains in a more eco-responsible way. The adventure is even more beautiful when it starts from home.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

This year I’m concentrating hard on the GHM probationary exam and the DE Alpin technical tests, as its important for me to find a balance between my personal and passionate achievements and my professional projects. At the same time, I’m doing a lot of training and concentrating on projects in the Alps, between the Mont Blanc massif and the Ecrins, my favorite playground! If I can become a young guide, I could show and encourage other women to train, give themselves in the mountains and set out towards their goals without mental barriers.



Charisse (Char) Surio

Mt. Hood, Mt. Hood Meadows, OR

COURSE: AMGA Alpine Skills 5 Day Course

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Financial access and proximity to an environment for skiing have been a constant barrier as a person of color. I first stepped into skis in my late twenties and am only now learning/refining my skiing skills to be proficient enough to tackle ski mountaineering objectives in the future. A constant feeling of otherness in the Snowsports industry has been a difficult experience to navigate, as both a brown individual and a woman in a hyper white and male dominated environment. It is incredibly difficult to see any BIPOC mirrors in this landscape.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

My goal is to increase accessibility and racial and gender equity in mountaineering and snow sports to help alleviate the feeling of otherness and create communities of empowerment and support. I hope to elevate my current Snowsports teaching certification by formal mountaineering guide training and certification in the future, with the core intent to lower the cost barrier to guided instruction through free/reduced cost courses and workshops specifically for BIPOC folks. My participation in such racially homogenous and male dominated sports as a BIPOC woman makes me feel like I am a prime example of a dichotomy. I’ve often taken pride in the juxtaposition of these qualities, however the more time I spend reflecting on the industry barriers and experiences that perpetuate this rare narrative of being a melanated woman in Snowsports and mountaineering, the more I try to shift my pride into proactive actions to dismantle this dichotomy. With the support of this scholarship, I hope to lead by example and dismantle the dichotomy of femininity and athletic intensity/capacity in the backcountry.


Christy Lohof

Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area

COURSE: NSP Powderfall

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

One of the greatest obstacles in skiing is the cost. I have worked in the ski industry most of my life doing the on-snow, physically and mentally demanding work of patrolling and instructing, while being paid relatively unskilled labor wages without insurance or other benefits. At the same time, the cost of skiing, from lift tickets, membership dues, clinic fees, hotel rooms, housing, and fuel have skyrocketed. While my commitment to skiing is strong, I have found it increasingly difficult to attend continuing education classes.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

This Women2Women scholarship enables me to attend the 2024 National Ski Patrol’s biennial Powderfall, an event I have wanted to attend for years. I will take part in rope rescue, aerial evacuation, four handle tobogganing, and certified patroller courses that are not available anywhere else. As Patrol Director at our non-profit Antelope Butte ski area, I can then return to our mountain and implement all that I learn at Powderfall. Personally, this scholarship means a great deal to me because I know how important it is for women to work with other women in Snowsports and patrolling. There is a snowball effect once a few women step into leadership roles. One of our patrol candidates, a retired woman who first joined our Snowsports School as an instructor and is now working on completing her patrolling toboggan training, recently thanked me for being a mentor to her. I hope I can continue to grow and learn in the ski world so that I can mentor many more snow riders of all ages and perhaps see a larger percentage of women rising through the snow riding ranks.

Emily Cavanagh

NOLS, Ascend Athletics

COURSE: American Avalanche Association Pro 1

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

I feel most at home in snow covered mountains and glaciated landscapes. I find that the environment demands my full attention, in locomotion, in evaluation, in effort, in awe. While I grew up skiing in the front country, the biggest challenge for me has been finding accessible training and mentorship to recreate in the less accessible places that truly feed my soul.

This past Spring I lost two dear friends to an avalanche in Alaska on Moose’s Tooth. I channeled my grief into avalanche focused education of my participants, which helped me feel like I was able to regain some sense of agency in the face of a threat that we all know is more powerful than any of us.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

Because of the lack of training and mentorship I have felt, I invest my life in providing mentorship to people (women and girls in particular) in outdoor spaces, so that they too can experience the power of the competence, grit and resilience required on expeditions.

I have worked for the past 2 years as a NOLS Instructor in the backcountry ski and mountaineering programs, as a mountain Guide with the American Alpine Institute and, most recently, as the Master Trainer for Ascend Athletics Pakistan, where I mentor female Pakistani Instructor Trainees in climbing, mountaineering and leadership education. This education I receive, I have a direct pathway to continue to educate female Pakistani Instructor Trainees about snow science and avalanche assessment, in a region where this type of training is not available. I can mentor folks who will go on to share the training with other women in the region thereafter.


Emma Johnson

Telluride, CO

COURSE: RMT Entrance Exam

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had many mentors and peers supporting me through my certification process and professional development. That being said, there have also been challenges along the way. As a woman of color in a predominately white male dominated space, I’ve experienced situations in which I was not recognized for my full abilities and dedication, including being pigeonholed with lesson assignments and not being welcomed into certain spaces because of my age and/or gender. Additionally, I haven’t had many female role models to look up to and learn from. Those who have been mentors for me have been extraordinary, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them, but they are often stretched thin and tokenized. I hope to be part of creating a larger, stronger community of female role models for all of those hoping to make their way through this industry.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

I am extremely grateful for this scholarship as recognition of my role in my community. I am excited to continue to focus not only on my own growth but also to be able to support other women in their professional development. This scholarship will help me direct more of my energy towards training other instructors and supporting them in their pathway, as so many colleagues and mentors have done for me over the years. I am honored to participate in a scholarship that bears the name of an incredible, inspiring, and influential woman who shared her talents not only with the skiing community but also with my home community of Telluride.


Jennifer Mans

Backcountry Ranger with the NPS

COURSE: AIARE2 + Avalanche Rescue Combined Course

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Community is foundational to learning & growing in the outdoors. Skiing, in particular, has a high barrier to entry and cobbling together gear & gas has often prevented me from showing up to backcountry spaces. As I transitioned from growing up East Coast resort skiing to backcountry skiing out West, some of the first tours I ever went on were in borrowed skis & boots. Finding consistent touring partners & mentors as I enter this new space has been a challenge, and I am so grateful to women's and affinity spaces for welcoming me and equipping me with the education I need to be a safe & engaged backcountry partner, and now a mentor to others.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

I have benefited in innumerable ways from those in my life who mentored me or welcomed me into spaces I wasn't otherwise invited into. I remain committed to the belief that we are never done growing into who we are, and I hope to make a long & storied career out of working & recreating in the backcountry, showing others by example that this is a viable & rewarding life choice despite financial barriers. I work as an NPS Backcountry Ranger doing high altitude Search & Rescue in the Rockies & Cascades, and I hope to continue to step into leadership roles where I can shape the kinds of teams that I want to be a part of. Furthering my Avalanche Education allows me to mentor & champion other women who might not otherwise see themselves pursuing these leadership roles. Receiving this scholarship helps to strengthen my belief that there is value in "non-traditional leadership \' \- leadership is not always the loudest person in the room, but rather the person who can best commit a team to a shared goal. "Soft skills" - communication & compassion - have just as much of a place in the backcountry as the other kinds of leaders we typically see.


Kylee Cosse

Purgatory: Durango, CO

COURSE: Recreational Level 1 Avalanche Course

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

As a proud Texan and member of the Navajo Nation, my journey into the snow-covered world of the San Juan mountains has been nothing short of transformative. What started as a distant curiosity has evolved into a deep connection with the breathtaking beauty of the outdoors. From navigating the slopes as a ski instructor to safeguarding them as a current ski patroller, I've embraced the challenges and countless bruises that come with Snowsports, all while having the privilege of learning, skiing, and helping others every day.

In a predominantly male-dominated ski industry, I've come to recognize the power of representation and the importance of diverse role models. I hope that in receiving this scholarship I can work to break barriers and serve as a source of inspiration, particularly for my local indigenous community and fellow women aspiring to explore the thrill of the outdoors.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

Receiving this scholarship would not only further my education in Snowsports and mountain safety but will also empower me to share the wonders of the outdoors responsibly. With my Avy 1 education, I am absolutely stoked to embark on a long journey of adventure right in my beautiful backyard. I desire to use this knowledge in my role as a ski patroller, ensuring safety, and contributing to the vibrant outdoor community. I hope that I can be a source of encouragement, proving that the mountains are not just for a select few but for anyone with the desire to learn, explore, and connect with the magic that Mother Earth offers.

Leilani Bruntz

Crested Butte, CO

COURSE: AMGA Ski Guide Exam

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

A lack of female role models and mentors in the ski guide and avalanche forecasting field as well as my own self-limiting beliefs, initially hindered my belief in pursuing this profession. Most recently, a broken leg has created financial hardships by stripping away my livelihood as a mountain guide, and my passions I have defaulted to for years to bring me joy -- time moving through the mountains. Additionally, I've dealt with significant loss and grief that in many ways has reshaped the lens through which I view the mountains and my career. Losing my partner to an avalanche created a force pause, re-evaluation and a constant reminder of the risks we embark on as passionate mountain explorers. All of this said, I have been incredibly fortunate to be a part of a tight-knit community that has shown up for me in ways I didn't know could be possible, and I am committed to remaining a proactive member of my local community in Crested Butte and the extensive community beyond my hometown.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

As a guide, I most enjoy seeing other people experience the "ah ha" moments when something clicks for them. I know just how empowering these moments can be and strive to facilitate them by meeting guests and peers where they are at and building from there. Continued education will help me hone my craft and build out my toolbox to better facilitate transformational experiences for others. I strongly believe that in creating a more inclusive and diverse culture, more people can see themselves succeeding in roles once held by a limited demographic.


Lyra Pierotti

Stevens Pass, WA

COURSE: AMGA Ski Guide Exam

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

For most of my youth, mountain sports were a distant dream. I grew up in the Bay Area, the daughter of a single mother, a musician. She taught me to follow my passions. I loved sports, but I craved more complexity and exploration. In college, I was finally able to explore, and found a match for my athletic and adventurous nature: climbing and skiing. At university in the French Alps, mountain access was both logistically easy and affordable–unlike in the U.S. I have been grateful to live a life dedicated to the mountain disciplines and have also felt the financial strain and exclusivity of it all my life.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

This May I plan to take the AMGA Ski Guide Exam. This is the last of all three disciplines for me, and if I pass, will be the final qualifying exam for the IFMGA/UIAGM international guiding certification. This year will also be my last year of service on the AMGA’s Board of Directors where I have co-chaired the DEI committee and strived to elevate the voices of students and members. As these chapters come to a close, I am looking forward to the next one, and have started exploring what this will look like. I grew up in a diverse community and want to see that same diversity around me in my work and recreation in the mountains. I am excited to re-route some of my volunteerism and training hours into my local community.

This scholarship is a huge help as I prepare for my final exam. It will allow me to take some extra time out of my busy work schedule to train with mentors and coaches to ensure I arrive at my exam as ready as I can be.


Mackenzie Connor

Mount Washington, NH


What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Being a female starting this sport in my early 20s brought many challenges. I was putting myself through college, I was battling mental health challenges, I didn’t have reliable transportation to get to the mountain 2 hours away every weekend, and being a woman in the outdoor industry is a challenge in itself. While many of these challenges still exist, at that time I dug my heels in, worked many hours during the school week on top of having a nearly perfect GPA, reached out to other women, and started forming a positive female-oriented ski carpool to the mountain on the weekends. Currently, the most persistent barrier that stands in my way of skiing is gender and finances.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

In my first year of undergrad, I joined my school’s outdoor education program, where I slowly realized there is limited access for females, especially lower-income women to grow in the outdoor world. Using my privilege and passion, I worked my way up the ladder, receiving my AMGA SPI certification, Registered Maine Guide License, Mental Health First Aid training, Paradox Sports, Adaptive Climbing Initiative Course, and my AIARE I. From getting these certifications, I further realized the lack of a strong women's presence, diversity, and community especially on the East Coast, and developed a passion for starting to change that. I began to volunteer with the adaptive climbing, and skiing outdoor education center, while volunteering with a program called Inclusive Ski Touring. This winter I will be working for this organization every Saturday, with a large handful of these days a women and non-binary-only intro to backcountry skiing program. I will use my education from this to teach and inform female and nonbinary people about ski touring in the backcountry, while simultaneously fostering a community where non-male-identifying individuals can grow, heal, and understand their full potential. In addition, I believe real growth can happen in public school education where students do not need to pay for outdoor education programs. As an aspiring teacher, it is my goal to use this avalanche knowledge to implement female-oriented ski touring programs throughout the school system in which I teach. Ultimately trying to lessen the gap that Hilaree left with her passing, by helping establish more female leaders in the outdoor space. To me, this scholarship is an incredible way to honor such a consistent pioneer for women in the outdoor world.

Theresa Gerdin

Big Sky, MT

COURSE: PSIA National Team Tryouts

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

As I have moved up through certifications and into leadership roles, I often find myself fiercely outnumbered by my male peers. This has resulted in a long struggle in self-doubt and dealing with imposter syndrome that I shouldn’t occupy the same space. Even though I have worked hard to be in those areas, I constantly have to remind myself of that: I am qualified to do this job, I deserve to be here.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

Trying out for the PSIA/AASI National Team will take me to ski schools and areas around the country to be an educational resource for others. Whether someone is entering a career in Snowsports, looking to move into a different area of the industry or just wondering what the next step might be - I can be that cheerleader and coach. I have been lucky to have many mentors and I am now at the point of my career to be that for others. I will continue my involvement with the PSIA/AASI Women of Winter program leading events for underrepresented populations to get their start in Snowsports, hopefully increasing my involvement. I will also continue to develop and lead opportunities for those at my home resort in Big Sky who want to be ski guides in a supportive environment to challenge themselves to take their skiing to the next level.



Amy McCarthy

Whistler Blackcomb


What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Recent challenges have been taking unpaid time off for courses, cancelled courses and a career change due the recent covid-19 pandemic, and injury. Another more ingrained challenge has been what I now know is imposter syndrome - I came to skiing as an adult and started my ski career path somewhat late in life. I had success quickly and have stagnated at attaining the Level 4 certification - feeling that I would never be good enough.

I then had an interesting experience that shifted my perspective. Growing up, I had strong supportive male mentors in my life particularly when it came to sports. One day, I was approached by a female colleague who asked me for help to improve her skiing ahead of her level 3 exams - I was surprised - why wouldn’t she ask the men we skied with as they were stronger bumps skiers than I? She told me she had looked up to me as a woman who had achieved the goal, she herself was after. It was then that I realized the power I unknowingly had due to simply being a woman with a higher certification in a male dominated industry. It made me a role model to female colleagues and to female students, whether I was aware of it or not. That perspective shift was powerful and has left a lasting memory - I realized I was worthy, I too can be a mentor, and that I can raise other women in skiing up. I no longer feel like an imposter in the world of skiing - I belong.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

I have been volunteering as a Director with the CSIA BC Region over recent years, and have helped create bursaries and scholarships, including a specific bursary for women in skiing. It has given me a lot of joy to be able to award financial support to women in skiing across BC. I will continue to do so over the next 3 years. I will also give much more encouragement to any women I know to apply for any and all scholarships & bursaries.

As for this scholarship - it was such a surprise and pleasure to be on the receiving end for once. The psychological impact of being awarded such an amazing scholarship is more powerful than the actual funds - it has reinforced that I do belong in the sport I love and has reignited my motivation and drive. The education that I can gain through this scholarship will go straight back to the women around me and across BC. I now truly understand the power of a scholarship beyond just financial support.

Aroha Taiatini-Senechal

Whitewater Resort, BC

COURSE: CAA- Avalanche Operations Level 1

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

As simple as it is, not feeling educated enough has been a challenge to feel confident as a backcountry user as well as in my workplace at a backcountry cat ski lodge. I have a strong desire to learn more in order to feel comfortable with my level of education and assessing new terrain. Education is power, especially for women and I would like to feel confident in the way I move myself and how I move others through the mountains.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

My mother is a huge inspiration for me moving safely through the backcountry and it felt normal to be led by females in my life. When I was thirteen years old, she said that I needed to be capable of making my own decisions as a solo female in a ski group of teenage boys. She started taking me backcountry, digging pits, assessing avalanche terrain, and signing me up for my AST1. I want to be a role model for other young girls in the backcountry just like my mother was to me and I want to educate young women to be strong leaders and show them the skills to travel the backcountry safely. I also hope representation as a Maori woman will inspire other indigenous women to be leaders in their community.


Evian Rowlands

Purden Mountain (Prince George, BC)

COURSE: ACMG Apprentice Ski Guide Program

What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Skiing is overall a pretty expensive sport to get into. My parents owned a small local business and had lots of moral support but not much financial. Therefore, I started planting trees at the young age of 16. Now, I have been planting trees for 10 years to fund my ski guiding exams and all the expeditions I needed to be accepted into the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides ski program. Finances are a tangible obstacle that was required to overcome, to move forward with this career. However, I would say, the main obstacle is just having belief in myself that I am capable enough to be a woman in the ski guiding industry.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

Being able to work on my skis is an amazing, privileged life. I want to empower other people with the knowledge and know-how to travel as safely as they can in the mountains. When I pass my ski guiding exam, I would like to run my own intro to ski traversing courses and advanced ski traverses. Another girlfriend and I would love to start off with doing women's ski traverse camps and see where it goes from there. I have a big heart for women in the ski industry, and I hope to be an open gateway for other women to pursue guiding and avalanche safety. I learned incredible lessons from traversing mountain ranges. However, I have made my own mistakes and close calls, which has fed my desire to teach and mentor others, so they don't have to learn from those experiences.


Miranda Tsuyuki

Whistler Blackcomb


What obstacles have stood in your way to getting where you want to be in skiing?

Born and raised in Beautiful British Columbia, skiing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, from racing in high school to my current role as a volunteer ski patroller on Whistler Mountain for three seasons and counting. As a licensed emergency medical responder and aspiring physician, patrolling blended my passion for skiing and medicine. However, there are few women, few racialized folks, and even fewer racialized women in this field. As a young biracial woman, it is intimidating to know that I do not fit the stereotypical mold of a ski professional.

How will you use this education to impact others in your community?

Beyond gaining practical skills to navigate avalanche terrain and marveling at the natural world, this scholarship is a catalyst for growing my confidence as a ski professional and serving more patients in the alpine. Inspired by the mentors on Whistler Ski Patrol who have guided me, I will try my very best to pay it forward and encourage other women to aim high in skiing.


Leslie Baker-Brown
Global Blizzard Tecnica W2W Program Leader
On September 26, 2022, at 10:42 a.m., Hilaree, with her partner Jim Morrison, reached the summit of Manaslu, the 8th highest peak in the world. They proceeded to gear up and ski down when, after the first few turns, Hilaree was swept off her feet by a small avalanche and carried 5’000 feet down a steep slope. Her body was recovered 2 days later.

Hilaree was a pioneer. An inspiration and a leader for women in the outdoor world. Just a few of her many accomplishments include:
  • 2020: First ski descent of the Lhotse Couloir (4th highest peak at 27,940 ft)
  • 2012: The first women to climb Lhotse & Everest (29,032 ft) in 24 hours
  • 2017: First ski descent of Papsura (21,165 ft), India

But Hilaree was not just about her epic feats. She did not want to be put on a pedestal, revered and out of touch. She was down on the ground, leading us each step of the way. She was a force that showed us what we, as women, can do.

“Women need to stop underselling themselves. Stop acquiescing and know that if you’re out there, pushing the limits, then you’re worth it.”

Hilaree Nelson

With this Scholarship program in her name, we hope to carry her torch for future generations of women.