Five Questions with Skier and Climber Emilie Drinkwater

Our athletes and ambassadors shred gnar and send hard lines, but there’s much more behind the scenes: other careers, balancing family life, creating art, giving back. To dig deeper into the adventure lifestyle, we’ve created Five Questions, an ongoing feature asking OR athletes the hard questions. And sometimes more than just five.

How did you get started skiing and climbing?

My ski career started at age 6 when I was dropped off at ski team racing practice having never been on skis in my life. The coach, a German man with the terrifying last name of Frankenstein, took one look at me and demanded I keep up or keep out. I guess I sort of kept up. As far as climbing, I started in college to impress a boy.  

What is your typical day/week schedule?

I have none.  At least nothing typical. Mountain guiding for me is binge work. I may not work at all for a month, then work for nearly three months straight. There’s little in the way of security or advanced scheduling, but that’s part of what keeps it interesting. 

Finish this sentence: In high school, I was ... a nerd. Not the smart kind, but more like dorky and slightly athletic.

Any advice to young people getting started in your sport?

Make good decisions so you can climb for a lifetime. Get some instruction, hire a guide, have an adventure, but know your limitations.

Favorite place on the planet?

Anywhere as long as I’m with a good partner.

What’s your favorite piece of OR gear?

Really, I can only choose one?! The Acetylene Jacket [LINK]. Or the Stormtracker Gloves [LINK].  No actually, the Enchainment Jacket [LINK]. Pretty much all of it, I guess.

Where do you live now and why?

In the Adirondack Park. If you don’t know where that is, you probably should. I love being based in the Northeast; our mountains may be small, but they’re rugged and complex. We also have lots of bad weather, a long black fly season, and lots of moss-covered rock. Combine all this with phenomenal, easy-access rock, ice, eastern alpine climbing, and occasionally good backcountry skiing, and you have the perfect training ground for bigger mountains all over the world.

How is it you’re able to climb and ski all over the world on a mountain guide’s salary?

I can afford my lifestyle because I live in a glorified circus tent. Well, actually it’s a yurt. But there’s no running water, electricity, internet, or other conventional amenities, not even a driveway; access is by ATV or walking only. It’s a bit rustic, but completely affordable! Also, I’m not afraid of a little credit card debt here and there.