Owner of Val­halla Moun­tain Tour­ing, pro climber, to­tal badass



wheel. At least that’s how she looks at it. When she’s at home at Val­halla Moun­tain Tour­ing, in Bri­tish Columbia, the Selkirk Moun­tains loom ev­ery di­rec­tion. She can ski any spoke of that wheel right out the door, and the range is vast and beau­ti­ful, but she didn’t al­ways want to be there.

Ca­ton, who is a full ACMG guide, grew up in th­ese moun­tains. In 1993, when she was a snowboarding pre­teen, her par­ents bought the land, along with the older miner’s cabin on it and built a post-and-beam back­coun­try ski lodge.

Her par­ents—Cana­di­ans who met in New Zealand—set­tled down in the Slo­can Val­ley af­ter trav­el­ing the world. They wanted to be out­side ev­ery day and be­cause there weren’t many jobs in the re­mote Selkirks, they cre­ated their own, slowly build­ing out the back­coun­try in­fra­struc­ture and hir­ing lo­cals. Guests would come in for a week, and they’d feed and guide them.

Grow­ing up in the re­mote back­coun­try was idyl­lic, but Ca­ton didn’t feel tied to the lodge or to life as a hut keeper. She didn’t nec­es­sar­ily want the iso­lated life her par­ents had cho­sen. And she didn’t want to be stuck in one place.

At 19, she moved to Squamish, B.C., and started climb­ing, where she ex­celled, tick­ing off big climbs in Green­land and Greece and putting up first as­cents in Canada. “I got my mas­ters in ge­ol­ogy, then be­came a pro­fes­sional climber,” Ca­ton says. “I also had dreams of ski guid­ing, but tak­ing over the lodge seemed huge and daunt­ing. I wanted to have ad­ven­ture.”

But some­times you don’t get to choose which ad­ven­tures you have. As she was work­ing her way though the guide pro­gram, her par­ents di­vorced, and her dad started to burn out on run­ning the lodge alone. In 2009 he told his daugh­ter she ei­ther needed to buy the lodge or he was go­ing to sell. “That was the re­al­ity, and I had to make a de­ci­sion,” she says.

So even though she was still dream­ing about desert trips, Ca­ton moved back and took over Val­halla Moun­tain Tour­ing with her hus­band at the time.

Guid­ing and showing peo­ple how to move through moun­tains came much more nat­u­rally to Ca­ton than run­ning a busi­ness or fix­ing bro­ken snow­cats and frozen gen­er­a­tors. The day-to-day man­age­ment has been frus­trat­ing and daunt­ing. She’s had to watch a lot of YouTube videos about plumb­ing. She’s had to fig­ure out how not to stretch her­self too thin.

But she’s also re­al­ized that by be­ing there, she’s on the lead­ing edge of a new age of skiers. “The de­mo­graphic is shift­ing,” Ca­ton says. She’s in­tro­duced week-long women’s camps, which have quickly be­come some of the most pop­u­lar weeks, and in­stead of the slow-mov­ing na­ture lovers who came when her par­ents ran the show she’s see­ing more young peo­ple who want to ski hard. “There are a lot of peo­ple who are out there to shred pow­der who are get­ting their eyes opened to the wilder­ness.”

Part of that might be the ter­rain, which slowly sur­prises peo­ple who don’t get to take in the full breadth of it on their 1.5-hour cat ride in from the ham­let of New Den­ver. And this year, she’s plan­ning to ex­pand it even far­ther, into a piece of her ten­ure far­ther south. She’ll build a new lodge, which will be he­li­ac­cessed so she can bring in more guests.

Ca­ton still thinks about trips she might be miss­ing, but she says it’s been sat­is­fy­ing watch­ing more guests come to the lodge, know­ing that she’s be­come a source of jobs in the val­ley. “My am­bi­tions have mor­phed from per­sonal to com­mu­nity. Right now the thing I’m most ex­cited about is grow­ing my busi­ness.”

Jas­min Ca­ton guides clients, re­pairs gen­era- tors, and in­spires the next gen­er­a­tion of fe­male en­trepreneurs— all be­fore break­fast.

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