23/24 Voile Scholarship for Women in the Backcountry Recipients

In Giveaways, Guest Post by Voile Mfg.

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We are thrilled to announce the recipients of the 23/24 Voile Scholarship for Women in the Backcountry, but before we do that, we’d like to thank everyone involved.

Thank you to those who helped spread the word by sharing on social media or mentioning this scholarship to a friend. Thank you to the judges who helped put this together. And last but not least, thank you to the applicants for trusting us enough to share their stories. This scholarship runs on all of your efforts! So once again, thank you.

Now, let’s give a digital round of applause for our 23/24 Voile Scholarship for Women in the Backcountry recipients: Manisha Khanal and Christen Falcon!

Continue below to read the winning essays…

Grand Prize: Manisha Khanal

Seattle, WA • Snowboarder

As the daughter of two Nepalese parents (who were both born and raised there), you would think I would have the ambitions from a very young age to climb Mount Everest and spend as much time in the mountains as I can. Well, unfortunately, for one, I was born and raised in Florida. And two, women in third world countries don’t believe they can achieve these ambitious dreams (because these dreams only belong to men). Unfortunately, that thinking carried from my mother to myself at a young age and it was amplified by living in the flat, hot land of Florida. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle where my perception changed.

My old roommate introduced me to backpacking and rock climbing, and I found myself taking snowboarding lessons at a local ski resort. Little by little, I was connecting to the outdoors like my mother was never encouraged to do. But it wasn’t until last year where my life changed. I embarked in a 4-month Basic Mountaineering Class. This class taught us the essence of snow travel, the basics of avalanche awareness, glacier travel, and how to truly appreciate and love the mountains. But most of all, I found the freedom of the hills. There is nothing like you and your closest friends being alone on the mountain. The peace, serenity, and tranquility is a drug. And now, I find myself craving to always be on the mountain.
My mountain goals this year involve climbing all 5 Washington volcanoes and introducing myself to backcountry skiing. This scholarship will help with the latter. With the funds, I hope to take AIARE 1, invest in avalanche gear, and purchase my first splitboard!

And of course, with all the knowledge I gain through AIARE lectures and general experience by being in the mountains, I look to pay it forward. The Basic Mountaineering Class I took last year is conducted by a non-profit by the name of Boealps (http://boealps.org/) that survives on volunteer work. I have already committed my spring to giving back as a junior instructor and don’t look to stop. I not only want to develop my love for the mountains, I also want to share it! And now with my new-found connection to the mountains, I feel more of a connection to my heritage than ever, as Mount Everest has always been a source of immense pride for any Nepalese. I hope to inspire my mom, my friends, my family (even the ones still in Nepal who are not allowed to believe women deserve to be in the mountains) and everyone around me!

Runner-Up: Christen Falcon

Browning, MT • Skier

Growing up on and off the Blackfeet Nation, being so close to Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall I often spent my youth into my adult years covering the mountain sides, harvesting plant medicines, trail running, learning the histories of my people and ultimately utilizing the backcountry as a coping mechanism to work through traumas. As an adult working close to my community, teaching the techniques I learned from the land, through engaging our youth, families and elders, my work revolves around getting my community and inspiring other tribal nations to find wellness through the outdoors. I have done the majority of this work utilizing what limited resources I can get my hands on, including teaming up with a local non-profit offering free access to cross country skis and snow shoes, taking folks on healing walks and hikes, and showing my community how to harvest plant medicines. The term backcountry means something a little different to my tribal community than it does to non-native communities. Backcountry is our home, it is our way of livelihood, substance, ceremony, healing. What I want to contribute to the backcountry world is this perspective us tribal nations have on the backcountry and how we connect and stewarded the land. I do not do this work for the funding however, funding and scholarships such as this helps tremendously with supplies, travel, and support! I want to continue my work with my community and other communities utilizing the backcountry in continuing to gain other peoples relationship to the land in hopes we take better care of the land for these next generations. Receiving this scholarship will ultimately connect me with supports such as this group, assist with backcountry supplies I have a hard time getting my hands on and continue my work with tribal and non tribal communities and help break some of these barriers BIPOC folks have when it comes to outdoor engagement.
Thank you.

The Voile Scholarship for Women in the Backcountry Recipients were selected by the sum scores from the volunteer judge panel. The Voile Scholarship for Women in the Backcountry Recipients consent to sharing their stories on the V Team blog and @voilemfg Instagram and Facebook. This scholarship is not endorsed or affiliated with Instagram.

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