She Shreds: Women of Winter Founder Chris Walch

Bumbleroot Hydration Focus on Skier & Entrepreneur Chris Walch

How do we even start to describe our friend Chris Walch? She's an entrepreneur running a multi-million dollar company, a former attorney, a world-class skier, an amazing cook, and the founder of Women of Winter which inspires and empowers women and girls to get outside, to be courageous and to boldly embrace and pursue their dreams by carving their own paths in the mountains and in life. And on top of that (or actually before all of that!) she's just a lovely human being. We're so excited for you to meet her. 

When did you start skiing? What has skiing brought to your life?

Oh boy...lol..here comes a much longer story than I think you wanted.

I was born and raised in Hawaii. My parents are both immigrants and I’m a first generation American. My mom immigrated from the Philippines when she was 14. My grandfather was a sugarcane worker and worked in Hawaii for several years before he had enough money to send for my mom, grandma and uncle to come over. My dad is from Austria and he met my mom when they were both 29 and he was on vacation in Hawaii and never left. I was born and raised in Hawaii till I was 17 and then went to college at NYU and grad school at the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin.

At that point, I was 22 and still had no real sense of direction in life or what I wanted to do. What I did know is I wanted to learn more about my Austrian heritage. Growing up in Hawaii surrounded by my Asian (Filipino, Japanese, Spanish) family, I had a very strong identity of being Asian. My dad was the last of 14 kids and I had almost no connection to that side of my family. So after grad school, I decided to move to Vienna to live with my dad’s family. I took German classes and come winter they took me to Tirol, and at the age of 22, I took my first ski lesson with my family. I learned quickly that learning from your family is a bad idea and started taking ski lessons at the ski school. I was completely undone. Hook, Line, and Sinker. I kept taking lessons and eventually started working at the kids school and taught beginner children, the next season I taught beginner adults. I just kept training and teaching from there in Tirol, to St. Moritz, and Killington and haven’t looked back since (although I did take a 6 year hiatus to be a finance lawyer). I have now been teaching for the last 7 seasons at the Yellowstone Club.

It is not an understatement to say that skiing changed the entire trajectory of my life. Almost every keynote I give reflects on the lessons skiing has taught me. Before moving to Bozeman, I was a finance lawyer at a large law firm in London, NYC and LA for six years. Every weekend or vacation I had, I was driving to the closest ski resort (at least 5 hours away) or traveling to ski clinics to train. Eventually, I realized that living in the mountains and being able to ski whenever I wanted was one of my main value inflection points and from then on I made the active choice to shape my life to my values instead of just trying to carve out small spaces for them.

Skiing gives and teaches me freedom, joy, adrenaline, patience, failure, success, discipline, camaraderie and so much more. Skiing has sent me around the world from Switzerland to Bariloche, Argentina. It has taught me how to reframe fear as excitement, how to focus and look at where I want to go not where I don’t want to go, to keep moving and never be stagnant. Skiing is continuously humbling me and teaching me, I feel so privileged to have found skiing and honored to be able to share and teach skiing to others.

Chris Walch Skiing

Tell us about Women of Winter. What led you to start it?

Women of Winter started as a way to tell the stories of badass women in our local community of Big Sky and Bozeman, who were able to carve their own paths in the mountains and in life. It all started in a ski school locker room with two amazing women. Francesca Pavillard-Cain was on the right hand side of my locker and she had previously competed on the Free Ride World Tour and had just come back from Chile filming for Warren Miller’s film, Face of Winter. On the left hand side of my locker was Carly Jo Hougen, an incredibly talented artist who had designed top sheets for Icelantic and had just finished an art show in Denver. I was so blown away by these women who had created these fulfilling and successful lives for themselves in the mountains and beyond. I just thought their stories needed to be shared because I wish I had heard from women like them when I was growing up and I believed the women and girls in our community could benefit from hearing their stories. I had volunteered for TEDxBozeman for the past 2 years, so with that influence in the back of my head, we decided to put on a mini-TED talk and art show, with each woman telling relatable stories mainly about their failures and how they rose back up from those moments of to find success and the paths they were meant to be on. We held that first event at Blend Wine Bar in Bozeman thanks to the generous donation of sponsors.

I never intended for Women of Winter to have a second year. Honestly, I had thought our first year was a fun, fancy night out in Bozeman, with great charcuterie and wine and stories. Well, the community let us know otherwise and how hungry they were to hear from more women with these courageous tales to tell. However, we decided that if we were going to bring this back we needed to do more than tell stories, we needed inspiration to drive action if we really wanted to do something meaningful and that affected change. We looked around the snowsports industry and, at the time, we felt that women in the backcountry and in patrol were extremely underrepresented. So in that second year, we provided 8 women with Avalanche 1 scholarships and donated funds to send a women ski patroller to National Avalanche School.

In our third year, we took a really hard look at our mission, which is to inspire and empower women and girls to get outside, to be courageous and to boldly embrace and pursue their dreams by carving their own paths in the mountains and in life. We decided if that we wanted to empower all women and girls, that we really needed to focus our lens on the most excluded and underrepresented women and girls in snowsports, BIPOC women. We created the BIPOC PSIA Level 1 Scholarship to provide women of color with the opportunity to train for 4 days with some of the best female instructors in the country in order to attain their Level 1 ski instructor certification.

Bumbleroot Note: To donate to this scholarship, click HERE.  

We could never have imagined the impact that event would have had on us or the participants. It was so profound that we worked with PSIA AASI (Professional Ski Instructors of America & American Association of Snowboard Instructors) to roll the scholarship events out nationwide. We have gone from 1 event with 6 participants last year to 5 events around the country with 30 participants in both ski and snowboard this year. We are working hard to diversity the outdoors, to create more welcoming and inclusive experiences and hope to be able to continue to provide these educational scholarship events and to provide safe and welcoming spaces for women in snowsports and in the outdoors.

At the end of the day, if we, women, want to see a change, I believe, we just have to make it happen. And we all show up and do this in our own different ways. For me, I do this by elevating women. By providing education so they can stand in their own truth with confidence and authority and by providing a spotlight for them to shine so they can share their stories and goals with other women. We’ll never know the ripple effects of our actions, but the women in our scholarship programs continuously humble me and give me so much hope that the change we want to see in snow sports is coming and coming fast!

 

What is one of your most memorable experiences skiing with other women?

Personally for me, there is nothing like ripping around the mountain with your lady crew. The level of camaraderie is unparalleled and we are just each other’s biggest hype team. Powder days lapping the tram and cheering each other on in the North Summit or taking ski road trips to explore new terrain, I love skiing with my lady shredders.

The first BIPOC Women of Winter PSIA Level 1 event last year was absolutely transformative for me and everyone who worked that event and participated in that event. We realized that providing a safe and inclusivity community for women of color was an absolutely necessary and rare occurrence. Every event we do is eye opening, and we realize how special it is for women of color to ski with a group consisting entirely of women with that have shared the same experiences, are supportive and welcoming. We are all able to bring our fully authentic selves without mitigation or apology. That is magic. We hope to continuing to recreate the magic from that day for all of our future events.

What advice to you have for women who want to spend more time outdoors, but aren't sure where to start?

If you are tentative about going out with yourself, find a community that you find trust in. Whether that is with a group like Women of Winter, SheJumps, Edge PNW, Ski Like a Girl, Girl Get After It or a friend or a local gear shop. Trust, personally for me, is key when trying anything new because if I don’t have trust, I am unable to be present or connect with the experience and environment.

Groups like ours and those mentioned above are all staffed by people that want you to reach out to them and want to make a connection with you. We’re just a small volunteer crew of 4 women and we’d love to meet up with you, get you on the hill and be a part of your journey or, if we can’t, we’ll at least try to connect you with someone else that we feel you can build a connection of trust with.

We know you're an amazing cook. What does food bring to your life?

Honestly, I was a horrible a cook before I moved to Bozeman. My friends will tell you that when I was living in the cities that all I had a brita water filter and siracha in my fridge. When I moved to Bozeman, I was craving the foods from back home in Hawaii, that had been so accessible in LA and NYC. I missed the connection I felt with home and my heritage, and for me food is all about connection. With my home through the flavors, with my friends through sharing it, with my family when I’m making my grandma’s Filipino recipes. Food like skiing transports me physically and mentally. Funny enough, the same lady shred crew, is my cookbook club crew LOL. We bring a cookbook into the locker room and we all pick something to make out of the cookbook and have a big potluck dinner. Maybe that connection is not totally coincidental 

More about Chris Walch:

Chris is co-founder and COO of LifeScore Limited, where she leads in its short and long term strategy formulation and execution, as well as, its day to day operations. Together with an all-star founding team composed of Philip Sheppard, prolific Hollywood film composer, Tom Gruber, inventor of Siri and world renowned expert in AI, and Ian Drew, ex ARM executive, they have created a fully remote, global company whose mission is to create high quality, functional music that is real time adaptive on demand. In the world of computer-based music, LifeScore is recognized by industry experts for the quality of the music produced and was named in 2021 as UK’s No. 1 MediaTech Innovator. The company was incubated at the best recording studio in the world, Abbey Road Studios, and its parent company Universal Music Group is a strategic investor. LifeScore is engaged with recognized brands in streaming, automotive, toys, wellness, and the music business itself.  

Chris led the LifeScore team on their debut project with Twitch for their live, original content, Emmy and Webby award winning show Artificial Next. LifeScore provided an adaptive musical score for the live streaming performance, where the audience helped shape the story as it was performed. The Artificial / LifeScore collaboration took the experiment to the musical dimension. It was the first time in history that the audience helped shape a musical score, in real time, to a live fictional performance.

Chris also led the LifeScore project team responsible for working with Bentley Motors to create the world’s first prototype of a vehicle composing a musical score in real time. Bentley and LifeScore created algorithms that allow vehicle inputs (such as engine RPM and acceleration) to influence the musical composition in real time, and constantly adapt depending on the driving situation. As Bentley describes it, this true driver-vehicle-music synchronisation is an industry first. Every journey results in a real time user experience that is deeply personalised. The signals from the vehicle create a unique sonic soundscape that responds to how and where the vehicle is being driven and under what conditions. Rather than listening to music to distract from travel, the vehicle is now able to compose an instrumental soundtrack to engage with the journey.

LifeScore’s goal is to be the premiere adaptive music solution for our partners across several industries. While they have their feet firmly planted in the auto industry, LifeScore continues to expand its footprint, as it is also active in the livestreaming, wellness (from health to sleep), and gaming industries. 

Prior to LifeScore, Chris was a senior associate at Latham & Watkins LLP, a global law firm that has been ranked the #1 law firm by the AM Law 100, where she represented a broad client base of Fortune 500 companies, private equity funds, investment banks and high net worth individuals in a wide range of matters, including, leveraged finance, commercial acquisitions and dispositions, cross-border transactions, development projects, mergers and acquisitions, project finance, corporate banking and secured high yield transactions.

In 2018, Chris founded Women of Winter, a grassroots community organization whose mission is to inspire women and girls to get outside, to be courageous and to embrace and boldly pursue their dreams by carving their own paths in the mountains and in life. Women of Winter’s efforts focus on areas in snowsports where women are largely underrepresented, or more appropriately said, historically excluded. In 2020, Women of Winter provided 8 women with scholarships to an Avalanche Level 1 Course and provided tuition support to a female ski patroller to attend National Avalanche School. In 2021, Women of Winter provided 6 BIPOC women with a full set of ski gear from industry sponsors and scholarships for a 4 day Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA) Level 1 Ski Instructor Course and Exam. Chris and her team at Women of Winter are currently working with PSIA to expand Women of Winter’s BIPOC scholarship program nationwide for the 2021/2022 winter in order to bring equity and inclusion to the mountains. As the lone BIPOC women on her founding team at LifeScore and the rare BIPOC women on the mountain (and the lone BIPOC woman in her ski school), it is a constant and cognizant goal of hers to reach back down the ladder and pull other historically excluded minorities u with her. 

An education junkie with an ever burgeoning bookshelf in her office, Chris received her BA in Economics and Computer Science from New York University, her MS in Science and Technology Commercialization from The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, her JD from St. John’s University School of Law, and completed Stanford Business School’s Emerging COO: Driving Innovation and Operational Excellence Executive Education program. She is also currently a venture fellow with VC firm, Laconia. Chris is teaching an entrepreneurship course at Montana State University in the Spring of 2022. 

Sports and teamwork have always been a big part of Chris’s life. She played volleyball from grade school through college and while attending law school at St. John’s University she served as the team’s graduate assistant. For the three years Chris was the graduate assistant, she had the great honor of being on a team that was the Division 1 Big East Regular Season Conference Champions in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The team was also the Big East Championship Tournament Champions in 2007, an NCAA Tournament Competitor in 2006 and 2007 and a NCAA Sweet 16 Participant in 2007. 

Chris still teaches skiing and recently coached volleyball to her local 7th grade team (which went undefeated last season), where she continues to practice the lessons she has learned from a lifetime in competitive sports, including teamwork, leadership, empathy, perseverance, humility, confidence, picking yourself up off the arena floor, responding to quick paced and high pressure situations, patience, grit, strategy and vision.


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