Snow crunches underfoot as she takes one step, then another, climbing higher and higher. The goal: the summit in front of her and the preservation of that snowcapped peak for generations to come.
“As a child, I dreamed of being a skier and mountaineer,” says Caroline Gleich, who grew up in Minnesota and moved to Utah with her family at age 15. After graduating from high school, she did everything she could to make her dream reality. “I was scrappy. I’d go to the resorts and meet pro skiers and just try to keep up,” she says. “I worked as a ski nanny and in a gear store and saved enough money to buy gear and take avalanche safety classes.”
Caroline quickly outpaced the competition. Since then, she’s been on the cover of every major ski magazine, featured in award-winning films, and summited some of the highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest and Cho Oyu, the sixth-highest peak in the world. She’s also the first woman to have skied all the lines in The Chuting Gallery, a guidebook to steep skiing in the Wasatch. Pretty impressive.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Activism plays a big role in her life, and she has testified before the Senate and Congress on behalf of the environment and the planet. “The climate crisis is here. Being an advocate for people and the planet has always been important to what I do with my sports,” she says. “More than any mountain that I climb, I make sure I give back. At the end of the day, it’s important to leave the planet in a better place than we found it. If we don’t take action to protect our water and air, what kind of future are we leaving for our children and their children?”
Clean water and air and open space are vital to our physical and mental well-being, and Park City offers it all.
“Corridors of movement help me maintain consistent training as an athlete,” she says. “There are preserved easements for access to trails. Park City has set a model of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.”
To help promote her vision of a better world, Caroline hosts her own podcast, “The Caroline Gleich Show,” and invites thought leaders, athletes, and activists from across the country to speak on her show.
“It’s a way to explore how sports can change the world,” she says. “I enjoy talking to diverse voices, deepening my knowledge, and learning from people I admire.”
And she’s just getting started.
“I’m 35 and plan to do this until I am 80 or 100. It will be a lot of work to challenge ageism in sports,” she says. “As a mountaineer, your experience, knowledge, and skill get better with age. Society expects women to disappear, so I will fight for women’s representation in sports in old age.”
Oh, and she’s also planning to summit the highest peak in Antarctica, Mount Vinson, with her partner, Rob Lee, this winter.