Arcade: Hey Michelle can you introduce yourself?
Michelle: Hi, I’m Michelle Parker. Often people say that I am smaller than they thought I would be in real life. I’ve been a professional skier for 15 years now, nearly half of my life. I’ve dabbled in quite a few different genres of skiing throughout my career from racing to competing in slopestyle and halfpipe competitions, to big mountain skiing, and now ski mountaineering. While skiing is by far my biggest passion in life, I find myself easily interested in other things. Some of those other things include biking (road, gravel, and mountain), climbing, photography, ukulele, cooking, and being outside.
Arcade: You have had what most people in the industry would call a long, diverse and successful career. What are some of the factors that are now leading you to explore ski mountaineering?
Michelle: Falling in love with climbing has broadened my interest in approaching mountains with a different eye. I absolutely love all human powered adventures as I feel like it adds a character-building opportunity, it’s physically and mentally more challenging, and it certainly takes more experience… I also feel it is a more complex process and that is what I love about it. The journey up the mountain is often times more rewarding than the line down. Getting to spend that much quality time with the individuals you are on a trip with or in the mountains with has created some of the deepest friendships that I have. The people can make the journey and when you are trusting your life with them and vice versa, that relationship automatically becomes extremely meaningful. I’d say that plays a huge role in why I have been led to a different approach to the mountains.
Arcade: You recently climbed Denali, when did that objective come into play for you and why climb Denali in the first place?
Michelle: I was on a trip to Alaska with Chris Davenport to the Kichatna Range. We flew past Denali a number of times and curiosity got the best of me. I asked him a million questions as he had a lot of experience on that mountain. By the time the trip was coming to an end, I remember mentioning to him that one day I was going to climb and ski Denali. We were hot off that trip. Like literally had just landed at the airport in Talkeetna, when I turned my phone on for the first time in a while and saw a tweet from Cody Townsend that he was going to Denali. I pretty well called him immediately and asked him about the trip. It was open-ended with no real expectations or goal other than to get to the top and ski down. No photographers, no filmers, just friends going on a trip. He put me in touch with the rest of the team which was Johnny Collinson, Ian McIntosh, and Shane Treat. They were all down for me to join and I ended up sneaking in a last-minute permit to climb the mountain. I came back to Tahoe after that Kichatna trip not knowing if I would actually get the permit. I was in full decompression mode after spending many days in the exposed terrain of the Kichatnas. I wasn’t quite ready for another adventure like that one and I got the phone call to let me know that the permit had been processed and that I would be going to Denali. At that point in time, I was stoked, but honestly, I was kind of nervous to be going back.
Denali ended up being more mellow as far as the exposure went than the Kichatnas and I felt overall much more comfortable with the terrain we were on. I find that for me, I don’t need to be in wild terrain, exposed, pushing mental and physical boundaries, all of the time. I like the balance. Denali was a nice balance to the Kichatnas trip. The trade route up Denali, in the conditions that we had, was really mellow. The trip was all about having fun. We used the hashtag #DenaliSummerVacation and it pretty well felt like a vacation.
Arcade: We know you spend a lot of quality time with some well-known athletes, but who are some of your favorite partners in the mountains?
Michelle: Hard to say specifically as I have many many good mountain partners. I love being out there with my girlfriends. I always come back from adventures with them feeling empowered and more confident in myself. It’s pretty special to experience that with other women.
I have a group of really strong mentors in Tahoe with whom I absolutely love being out with. This group primarily consists of men and a couple of women over the age of 45 who have had years and years of journeying through our backyard. These guys have taught me a lot by just following them. They also inspire me to walk fast and be fit. This group includes Jim Zellers, Jim Morrison, Glen Poulsen, Dave Nettle, Bonnie Zellers, and other local Tahoe legends.
I also really enjoy being in the mountains with my boyfriend Aaron Blatt. He’s all about the good times. Cooking backcountry pancakes, learning new things, and creating art in the mountains. I really appreciate his approach as it is different than mine, yet both approaches elevate the experience of being out there.
Then, of course, all of the people who I have the pleasure of traveling the world with; Eric Hjorleifson, Mark Abma, Chris Rubens, James Heim, Cody Townsend, Elyse Saugstad, Emily Harrington, Kimmy Fasani, Chris Benchetler….they all make for world-class mountain partners.
Arcade: So what is next for Michelle Parker?
Michelle: This year I am working on a series with Reel Water Production and Red Bull. We will produce up to 6 different episodes with a heavy focus on storyline. I’ve never personally taken this approach to skiing, but am really excited to see how it turns out. It’s a lot more involvement in the process and really a lot to get done in a year, but I feel pretty laid back about it all at the moment. It’s been a fun process. I’ll also be filming with Matchstick Productions… always fun and always high action.
Take a trip with Michelle to Denali