Kalen Thorien: More Than Just A Skier Girl

Full of wanderlust and devoid of ego, this pro skier is a breath of fresh air. By Leslie Hittmeier
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I caught up with Kalen over phone the other morning and, after a long discussion about the downfalls of drinking too many cups of coffee, we got into the nitty gritty of what she’s been up to this summer, and how—after spending all winter recovering from injury—she plans to go into this ski season with her best foot forward. 

Turns out, the Salt Lake City-based 27-year-old has been busy. 

She kicked off the summer with a hiking trip to the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii, and when we talked, she had just returned from 10 days in Southern Utah with National Geographic Adventure. “We mountain biked, river rafted, did some canyoneering. I was psyched to explore one my favorite places,” said Thorien. “On Tuesday, I’m hopping on a plane to Belize on for a full-on family vacation. I’m excited to go on a trip where the goal is to relax. Knowing me, I’ll probably extend the trip.” 

After Belize, she wants to head to Colorado to fly-fish, pack-raft, and do some bigger hikes the Rocky Mountains. Thorien laughed as she told me that the Google Earth app on her computer is covered in pins. “I have all these amazing things I want to do and places I want to go, but don’t know how I can possibly do them all,” she said.

For those who don’t know how Thorien made her career as a professional skier: “Well,” Thorien said, “it was kind of by accident.”

She didn’t start skiing until high school. By the time she graduated, she still couldn’t ski down a black-diamond or navigate deep powder without wiping out, but she moved to Alta to become a ski bum anyway. “I was able to ski every day on hard terrain and was forced to go fast to keep up with all my friends.”

But that’s not the only reason she got good.

“If I saw a girl shredding I would pull them aside and ask how they were doing it,” she said. “And I still do that.”

During her first few years in Salt Lake City, she worked as a wild-land firefighter in the summers and spent the winters skiing and sending massive amounts of emails to local photographers in her free time. Eventually, well-known ski photographers like Scott Markewitz agreed to shoot with her. As her portfolio grew, so did her ability, and all of the sudden Thorien found herself not having to fight fire in the summer anymore. 

Unless she’s in ski clothes—which, let’s be honest, is half the year—Thorien stands out among the rest of the blonde skier girls thanks to her tattoos. “I’m a bit of a tattoo-aholic,” she said, laughing. “I got my first one when I was 18 and it’s a Jim Morrison poem. Stereotypical 18-year-old tattoo, I know.” She also rocks a full sleeve composed of wolves (her spirit animal), the Wasatch Range, GPS coordinates, and henna-inspired designs. Her most recent tat is a beautiful Mandala on her chest: her gift to herself after the car accident last winter that basically pumped the brakes on her 2014/2015 season.

“I lacerated my knee and pretty much fractured my whole face in the accident,” she said. “I thought I would recover quickly but a month later I still couldn’t walk down stairs, and I was so discouraged.” Thorien kept herself busy by trying her hand at writing, and dropping more pins on Google Earth. “Being injured made me realize that my happiness and how I define myself depends on me being able to be active in the outdoors,” she said. “And that can be taken away from me at any moment through permanent injury. I now know I need to make sure my happiness come from other things besides being physically strong…My mandala constantly reminds me that strength and courage come from within.”

Maybe Thorien’s winter spent cooped up on the couch is one reason she is getting after it so hard this summer, but I’m convinced she’d be doing it anyway.

I asked her what her plans were for this winter. “Ski,” she said. “I’m going to ski.”

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