Facing Fear and Moving Mountains: Ambassador Kenzie Morris Gives us the Scoop
Kenzie Morris is based in Lake Tahoe, CA. She has been an athlete on the FWQ tour since 2013 and recently became a judge for the International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association (IFSA) junior events and Tahoe Junior Freeride Series (TJFS) tours. When she is not busy competing and traveling around the US, Canada, and New Zealand with her husband (and Snowledge Ambassador) Riley Bathurst, she spends her time riding Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. She has been a freeride coach the past four seasons at Squaw Valley and loves teaching kids how to ski big mountain lines. You can often spot her riding with a pack of friends and her long blond hair hanging out the side. “It’s always snowing somewhere” is her motto, and when you read about her enthusiasm for all things snow and ski related, you will understand why. Read our exclusive interview and more about how she, and other women athletes, continue to help shape and shift the sport by giving back and clearing the path forward.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to fill us in on all things Kenzie. Give us a snapshot into what you’ve been up to the last five seasons.
A: Last few seasons I have competed on the FWQ (Freeride World Qualifier) 4-Star series and started working as a judge for the TJFS and Junior IFSA big mountain competitions. I’ve also coached the Squaw Valley Ski Team for the past five years.
Q: When and where did you first start skiing?
A: I was only a few months old when my dad placed me in a chest carrier and took me to Alpine Meadows. It wasn’t too long after that experience that my parents got me a plastic ski set. I spent time skiing in my hallway at eighteen months and was on real snow by age two. Needless to say, being born to ski advocates a.k.a ski bums, skiing was certainly in my blood. I grew up on the race team at Alpine Meadows, and then spent a few years in Colorado, Utah, and New Zealand. I returned home and now call Alpine Meadows my home resort once again.
Q: Where’s your official home base?
A: Tahoe City, CA, when I’m not traveling
Q: How would you describe your ski style?
A: I definitely have that racer style, but after years spent skiing big mountain it has become more relaxed.
Q: What is your favorite mountain to ski at?
A: Some of my favorite places to ski beyond my home resorts are up in Canada. Back in 2008, my friend had a small map on his wall that said Mt. Mackenzie on it. I asked where it was and he said Canada. Knowing I was named after a mountain and river in Canada I was determined to go. As luck would have it, that next year I was skiing Mt. Mackenzie (better known now as Revelstoke). I have returned to Canada five more times since then, exploring the Powder Highway and finding gems like Castle Mountain and Fernie. Quite a few places up there have an old nostalgic vibe to them with amazing backcountry and closed terrain that only friends know about. I have been lucky enough to have accompanied them to their secret mountain areas. I love exploring new places and the adventure that comes with it.
Q: You recently attended the first Summer Shredfest (video recap below), held at Beartooth Basin, and competed in the IFSA Freeride World Qualifier comp. What was that inaugural ski festival like, and how is the Mountain Rider’s Alliance making waves in the community?
A: The Summer Shredfest was a great event. It was a super relaxed atmosphere and the mountain had some really cool terrain. With the competition being held during the summer, it also meant that we could camp. This made the night before jitters not seem as stressful as we enjoyed a campfire and some chocolate. On the Friday leading up to the competition, the generator couldn’t quite get running for our inspection day, so a group of about 10 of us did a couple road laps on some of the backcountry terrain adjacent to the ski area. Given the large winter and the cold temps, we were skiing in a snow/rain mix, but it was still really fun. On the day of the competition, the generator had a new part and the staff was able to get the pulleys running with zero issues.. As the ice softened, it turned into a perfect spring conditions kind of day (my favorite). I ended up sixth overall, right next to my friend Veronica, who placed fifth. I met Veronica through competing over the years and she also happens to be from Squaw.
I truly loved the atmosphere and vibe this small summer ski area had. The Mountain Rider’s Alliance has helped places like this survive against the mega ski giants. Yes, it is smaller and much more humble, but I completely enjoyed that aspect of Beartooth Basin. The MRA is an organization that is helping to preserve places like Beartooth in small communities. More people throughout the US find their love for skiing at places like this, and as the larger ski areas dominate the industry, these places begin to disappear and get bought out. This makes it harder for small local communities to be introduced or included in the snow sport scene. The MRA is working to change that and preserve the legacy of these local gems, as well as combating climate change.
Q: Who or what has influenced your style?
A: I tend to be influenced the most by those around me. Through the years, it was my coaches—now it is my peers—who push me to ski stronger and hit larger cliffs.
Q: Who’s your favorite skier to watch?
A: Candide Thovex
Q: Do you have any four-legged family members? If so, does your dog like the snow?
A: His name is Blue, and he is a herding dog. And yes he loves the snow, but mostly springtime snow as it is not too cold on his paws.
Q: Care to share about your most epic fail, most memorable ski experience, or both?
A: As the story goes everyone will have their top 10 days; I believe I’m still working on that list, but one of those most memorable days happened when I was lucky enough to get the jump seat on a heli trip above Wanaka, in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and that was fairly epic.
Q: What would we find in your gear closet? Are there any must-haves that you won’t go skiing without?
A: Yes: Merino Base/ Mid layers. It is the best material in the world and all-natural, enough said. Oh and skis, lots of skis…I have at least 5 pairs.
Q: Which artists are we likely to see on your music playlist while you ski?
A: Cut Copy
Q: What are some of your other passions besides skiing?
A: I like to play Disc golf, volleyball, and hike, and I recently started fly fishing.
Q: How do you feel like the sport differs for women versus men?
A: Physically I often do not feel strong enough to hit some of the same lines as my male friends. Fear is also a large part that keeps me a step behind, but skiing with male athletes who push me has also made me a better skier. It’s exciting to see female skiers pushing the limits as much as they do today, and especially some of the juniors growing up. I am watching the gap between women and men become smaller and smaller, which is inspiring.
I have always been outnumbered as a girl and especially trying to ski at the level I wanted to. I often don’t find many other girls who enjoy pushing themselves the way my male friends do. It wasn’t until I started competing in Big Mountain when I met lots of other girls just like me from all over the world. That was when I saw these girls competing at a higher level, which in turn has made me work harder to aspire to catch up.
Q: Tell us more about SheShreds.co, their mission, and your role as an ambassador for them, too.
A: SheShreds is a company bringing together female action sports athletes from all different levels to encourage one another in sports that are male dominated. I’m often the only girl amongst my male friends and it’s great to meet other girls like me. It’s a platform to show the younger girls (and those just getting involved in action sports) what is possible.
Q: What are your favorite features in the Snowledge app?
A: I like the tracking the best. Seeing how many vertical feet and where I went on a map is fun to look back on. We also compete together in groups to see who gets the top speed for the day.
A: Völkl, Marker, Dalbello, Sheshreds Co., and CEP Compression
Q: What are you most looking forward to next season?
A: Every year I make it a point to ski at least one new ski resort. A few weeks ago Snowledge founder Eric Lee O’Brien and I challenged each other to see who could ski the most (if not all) of the ski areas in the United States. I am excited to start this challenge next season and for the next few years. Stay tuned!
Q: For girls and women who are trying out and coming up in the sport, what would you say they should keep in mind?
A: In skiing especially, progression and skills come slowly. It takes a lifetime for someone to get to a high level in skiing. If you are just starting out have reasonable expectations. Also, being afraid is completely natural and healthy. I am often very nervous and my palms sweat before dropping into lines or comp venues, but it is this fear that allows me to make rational decisions. Because of the consequences skiers face if something were to go wrong, it‘s smart to always ski within your means. If fear helps you ski within your means, then there is nothing wrong with listening to that fear. My ultimate goal as a skier is to ski when I am old. To get there, I need to listen to myself and know when to not ski a line.
Q: Finally, if our readers want to check out your latest adventures, where’s the best place to send them?