For anyone familiar with the world of outdoor adventure, Hilaree Nelson is a household name. Born and raised in the Northwest, Hilaree began skiing at age 3, and now calls Telluride, Colorado home. Combining a passion for exploration, mountains and skiing, Hilaree has traveled to some of the most exotic mountain ranges on earth. Her adventure resume includes ascents and harrowing ski descents of some of the tallest mountains on earth – including Cho Oyo, Makalu, and Lhoste. Outside Magazine named her one of the most adventurous women in the world of sports, and National Geographic deemed her their 2018 Adventurer of the Year.
At dZi, we are extremely proud to have Hilaree as a member of our Advisory Board. Her passion for giving back to the mountain communities that have inspired her adventures is infectious.
In addition to her work as the head of The North Face athlete team, Hilaree is a mother to two young boys. Although motherhood has changed her life dramatically, her passion for the mountains has not abated.
Hilaree recently visited our US office in Ridgway, Colorado and we had the opportunity to talk about some of her experiences.
You have travelled all over the world, what about Nepal stands out the most?
Well I travel because I like to climb mountains. Of course, Nepal has some of the most incredible mountains on the planet – but really it’s the people that draw me there and make me want to go back and keep those relationships and interactions active and alive. It’s a really incredible culture.
You have taken your kids to visit rural Nepal, what were you hoping for them to learn?
Very rural! Oooh, there are so many things I wanted them to see and experience from hiking through rural Nepal during the monsoon with the leeches, haha! Just seeing how a culture so different from our own lives and thrives in some ways, yet still struggles to achieve even the most basic needs. The school environments that they saw made a big impression on my kids. Kids their age were working as porters already. There are so many things like this that they don’t see or experience here in the U.S.
What I didn’t expect was that traveling through Nepal would teach me so many things. It was incredible how many doors it opened. The families we met along the way just wanted to be with my kids and invite them into their home, and this started all these amazing conversations. It changed how I got to interact in a place I thought I was familiar with.
You’re an active member of dZi’s advisory council – what draws you to support our mission?
dZi has been around for a long time, and you are local to the Telluride region which I have called home for almost 20 years. I see dZi as such a positive influence in our community and dZi focuses on the villages and communities in rural Nepal where there is a huge need. You all work so hard to fill that need.
You have been a big advocate for our community lead development model, why?
Because I believe, like you do, that the Nepali people are incredible. They are very open to learning, they are very much a happy community of people and families. All that is needed is some help diversifying what they are doing, and to provide a chance to get ahead. If they can learn that and do that on their own then obviously it becomes a way of life and a generational thing – versus just coming in and putting a bandaid on the issue.
Do you have any advice on ways other travelers can give back to Nepal?
To me, the best way to give back to Nepal is simply to visit Nepal in a conscientious way where you are willing to open yourself up to the people there, and to travel off the beaten path. Obviously, you can support dZi Foundation as well, but you are more likely to support dZi if you have been to Nepal and understand all that the Nepali people have to offer.
Interview By: Matthew van Rooyen