No Stranger to the Mountains

Written by Emma Renly


Coalition Snow Ambassador Sally Henkel has a passion for not only the mountains, but also understanding her privilege to even be in the mountains. Learn more about her here. 


Name: Sally Henkel 

Home Mountain Range: Bitterroot Mountain Range, MT + ID 

Coalition Gear: La Nieve Backcountry Ski 

Instagram: @h_henkel

The mountains are calling and - oh look, Sally Henkel is already getting turns down them. In the winter Sally is most commonly found bypassing resort lines and in the vast mountain ranges of the Montana backcountry. When she’s not skiing down powder, Sally splits her time in Flagstaff where she works remotely for a nonprofit organization that focuses on social justice for women in the tech industry. Outside of work, she’s still passionate about self-educating herself and others to understand their own privilege in the world.


Do you ski in Montana mostly or the Arizona Snowbowl?

The ski mountain here...well, it’s kind of a bummer. The Peaks are sacred peaks for the Navajo and Hopi so there’s a huge land dispute that has been going on forever. The Peaks are a central part of their culture and Snowbowl being situated on these Peaks is a big deal. Snowbowl also continues to expand its operation and use reclaimed water to make snow in spite of it. It makes you wonder about other ski resorts and the oppression of Native groups across the country.


I would love to support that local piece of economy, but out of solidarity for the tribes I don’t want to give them business. I definitely leave the state to get my ski fix.


Is Snowbowl on First Nationals land?

It belongs to the local tribes here. The land here backs right up to the reservation….even though all of this is really their land. Not a lot of people who live and ski there all the time have no idea about this issue. Unless you’re in a conversation or involved in some of these issues people have no clue. [More articles: AZCentral // Tucson // Court of Appeals Info ]


How did you get into backcountry skiing?

It was the middle of winter and on my way to Montana I took an Avy 1 course in Jackson. At at the time I had been struggling with an eating disorder and battling some depression from a sexual assault incident the previous summer working in Wyoming. I think I was really craving a challenge, to feel empowered, to find feel and see beauty in being strong, and to experience what it feels like to really build myself back up. Backcountry skiing gave me reconnection to myself to get stronger and gave me this space to build confidence. Any chance I have to pay that forward for other women who are wanting to get into the sport feels really important and valuable to me!


How has your involvement been with Coalition Snow?

These last four years with our current political climate, I’ve felt this really intense desire to empower women and empower my female friends - not just cisgender women but all women if you identify as one. Empowerment in the outdoors, empowerment into doing whatever the hell makes you feel good.


I saw that Coalition Snow is doing badass stuff and doing all the things that I feel really drawn to. I saw that they had an ambassador program and it was kinda my saving grace with all the stress from our world right now. I have my job, grind away, pay the pills. On the side, I have this which really gives me energy and purpose. I don’t know a lot of the women personally, but it’s such an active and great community full of people who identify as a woman and are creating change.  


Are there any other social justice issues near and dear to your heart?

Where do you even start on the laundry list? I think what’s really important right now is….how do I want to say this… Creating dialogue for white people to understand privilege because you shouldn’t be relying on marginalized groups to educate you on that. I’m no expert by any means but I feel like I can also offer resources for others to read and learn. Change is a slow, uphill battle and lifelong journey but it’s important to learn if you want to be an ally, be supportive and engage in really inclusive ways.

Sally’s List of Recommended Resources: