The abundance of storm systems this past season provided powder chasers across North America with quality snow, deep into spring and summer. One such powder chaser, and professional skier, Amie Engerbretson took advantage of the incredible storm cycles and had her fair share of travel. We caught up with Amie to get the download on her season and see what she has in store for the summer.
Spyder: How was your season overall? What did you enjoy about this season?
Amie: Anytime I get to the end of the ski season healthy and uninjured with a bunch of great ski days, I call it a success. I have an insatiable attitude towards skiing and when I get to the end of the year, I always wish that the season was longer and I was able to do more. But overall, I had a really busy winter bouncing around from trip to trip. I got to go to Europe twice, I skied in British Columbia a few times and I also got to ski a few great storms at my home in Tahoe as well as my home in Utah. I also bought my first snowmobile this year!
Learning how to snowmobile this year was definitely a big learning curve for me. The few days that I got out on my sled were the best days of my winter. One of the days I went out sledding was in Wyoming with a few close friends who have a lot of experience. We were not focusing on filming, just on learning and having a good time. We ended up skiing some amazing pow that day, some of the best runs I have ever had in my life! Even better than a lot of cat skiing I have done! Despite the incredible conditions, it was still sort of a chaotic day. I got stuck a bunch, rolled my sled a few times and even ended up running into a tree at one point. Despite all of this, it was still an absolutely incredible experience and I cannot wait to get more sled days in.
S: What goals do you have with your snowmobile?
A: My goal with purchasing my sled was to access more ski terrain for filming and getting into zones that are otherwise too difficult to access. I love the pace of regular backcountry touring, but when it comes down to getting a lot of content, having a sled is much more practical. When I am touring without a sled, I can only get a few runs in before I run out of time or get too tired. With my sled, I am able to get a bunch of runs which makes getting a lot of content and practicing skiing backcountry terrain much easier. Having a sled also allows me to be more self-sufficient because I don’t need to depend on cats or helicopters for backcountry skiing. Even though I didn't get to do a ton of sled accessed filming and skiing this year, I did gain a lot of good experience backcountry sledding which I will be able to carry into next season.
S: What other goals did you accomplish this year?
A: Another goal I continually strive for is overall progress in some way. Every year, this goal looks a bit different and really depends on how busy I am. I got to film in Bella Coola with Warren Miller this year and on this trip, I was able to make a lot of mental progress. Bella Coola is known for having extreme Alaskan style terrain. During this trip, conditions were far less than ideal. Snow levels were much lower than average and there was also a lot of open exposed glacier. During filming trips in which I am expected to push myself extra hard, I am usually so nervous that I can’t eat breakfast. Filming in these extreme conditions is already stressful, but on top of that, I have had multiple experiences and accidents involving avalanches which have had a huge impact on my confidence. However, on this trip, my biggest film trip of the year, I was able to feel more at ease and I was even able to eat breakfast every morning. I know this sounds silly, but it was actually a huge accomplishment for me! Being able to gain back some control of my fears and anxiety in these big situations felt awesome. The thing is, ever since my first bad avalanche experience five years ago, I never stopped pushing myself to ski big lines. I just enjoyed them a lot less and suffered more than I needed to. Looking back on the Warren Miller film trip and other big lines I skied this year, I am able to feel really happy about my mental evolution this season.
S: From your avalanche experiences, what steps did you take to get back in a more level state before going out and skiing?
A: Mentally coming to terms with my avalanche experiences has been a long and difficult journey. Something that helped me after my first bad avalanche experience was seeking trauma specific counseling. Overall, regaining confidence is a slow process that requires a lot of patience and there is no shame in taking it step by step and being open about how you are feeling. I also ease my mind by doing an avalanche refresher class every year and frequently practice using my beacon. In addition, I read the avalanche report for every place that is within driving distance. Since many of my adventures are spontaneous, I continually study the avalanche forecast for everywhere I might go during the entire year so I know how the snowpack has been forming. This helps me calculate risk and make smart decisions as opposed to just chasing the biggest storms and hoping for the best.
(If you are interested in studying avalanche reports, we recommend this site https://avalanche.org/ which will take you to the best state specific avalanche tracking reports.)
S: Where was your favorite place to ski this season?
A: One of my favorite places to ski this season was in Austria. We skied a place called Zillertal Valley which is basically a massive skier’s playground. The valley consists of eight ski resorts, each about the size of Whistler Blackcomb, and you can ski between almost all of them. Before going to Zillertal Valley, I had never heard of it, so I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up being completely blown away. The scenery was beautiful, and the freeriding was really fun and unique. It was almost like a whole new type of skiing that I had never done before.
S: Any summer plans?
A: This summer, I am planning on taking a trip out to Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in Alaska where I will be heli skiing and shredding beautiful Alaskan faces that are blanketed in awesome corn snow. When you get on a perfect corn face, it basically skis just like powder! I am also planning on doing a trip to Portillo Chile in August which I’m really excited for! In terms of smaller trips, I plan on skiing a lot in the Eastern Sierras and I also want to ski Mount Shasta and maybe even Mount Lassen. Squaw Valley will be open through July which is fantastic because it means I can do summer activities but also rip around on my skis whenever I want to. Aside from skiing, I am planning on relaxing a bit and brainstorming my goals and plans for the next ski season.
Be sure to follow Amie Engerbretson on instagram @aengerbretson to keep up with her skiing adventures!