• Hayden Seder

Wild Woman: Skier McKenna Peterson


Photo by Axel Peterson

Like so many who grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, McKenna Peterson (@mck_p) has been on skis since she was 2. The former Freeskiing World Tour competitor switched to big mountain skiing in 2007 and now spends her winters skiing in her hometown and getting helicoptered into places to ski stunning big mountain lines. While she’s sponsored—currently by K2 skis, SCOTT sports, Xtratuf, Stanley, and Ridge Merino—she still works summers on her father’s commercial fishing boat in Alaska alongside brother Axel and sister Dylan to help pay for her winter endeavors. The 33-year-old has been featured in numerous ski movies including Warren Miller and, most recently, Matchstick Productions Huck Yeah! Check out what she’s been up to and what things look like for this winter for her!

How was this summer on the boat?

McKenna: We had a rough summer. It was a combination of poor fishing, poor market, and crappy weather. In my opinion, South East Alaska is the most beautiful place in the world, so I enjoyed being up there. We made the best of it. 


Where are you based out of now? What are you doing right now with fishing season over and ski season yet to begin?

McKenna: Currently, I am still fishing. There is a fall salmon fishery in Puget Sound, so I am living in Seattle this fall and fishing a few days a week. On my off days, I am working with a trainer to get ready for ski season. Once the snow starts to fly, I will be back in Sun Valley for the winter. I moved back to Sun Valley full-time 4 years ago. It is wonderful to be back in my hometown and close to the family. 

What is this winter going to look like for you? 

McKenna: This winter is going to be a little different than usual. I am planning to stay close to home and minimize my usually hectic travel schedule. I will be based in Sun Valley, skiing the resort, and exploring the backcountry. 

What was last winter like getting cut so short because of COVID?

McKenna: I had just arrived in Alaska to film my segment with Matchstick Productions when the reality of Covid started to come to light. I was only able to squeeze in two days of filming before everything was shut down and I hightailed it home to Idaho. I’m grateful for those two days, but it was unfortunate to have my spring plans come to an abrupt halt. I ended up spending the spring at home with my family, laying low, and trying to stay healthy. 

Photo by Axel Peterson

What have you been working on?

McKenna: MSP’s Huck Yeah! is premiering right now at drive-in theaters across the country. The drive-in movies have actually been really fun! I think it’s a great way to show a ski movie, and I hope we continue to utilize the drive-in model even after the world returns to normal. 

Tell me about your relationship to the outdoors and getting into skiing? 

McKenna: I have been on skis since I was 2 years old. Skiing is a part of who I am and always will be. I love being outside and in the mountains; it is definitely my happy place. It has been incredible to be able to make a career out of what I love, and I am confident that even when my ski career comes to an end, I will continue to ski just as much as I am today. 


Did losing your dad in an avalanche in 2016 ever make you consider not skiing anymore?

McKenna: I am still processing the loss of my dad; I believe I always will be. I think about him every day. Skiing is as much a part of my family as anything. I couldn’t imagine not having skiing in my life; none of us could. Fortunately, we have each other and we are still finding joy in going into the mountains together. My family members are my greatest mountain partners and my best friends. 

Photo by Ben VandenBos

In 2014, you did a sailing/skiing trip to Greenland in the Shifting Ice, Changing Tides expedition (an all-girls sailing and ski mountaineering trip), have you done any other campaigns about the environment?

McKenna: The Shifting Ice and Changing Tides expedition was a beautifully eye-opening experience; the effects the changing climate is having on the landscape and communities of Greenland is blatantly apparent. My passions and occupations (both skiing and fishing) are heavily intertwined with the environment and reliant on sustainability. My life in general and everything I do is a campaign for the environment… imagine how powerful it would be if we all started to look at life this way? I want to believe that humanity is getting closer to a point where sustainability and respect for our planet become inherent moral responsibilities.

When I interviewed you years ago you were on an 8-year program to get an exercise physiology degree. Did you end up getting it and are you doing something with it?

McKenna: Yes! 8 years! Haha. I did finish my Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology with a minor in nutrition. I am currently not using my degree other than with my own training for skiing. If I were to continue my education, which I likely will, I will focus on the nutrition aspect as that knowledge has become a personal passion of mine. 

If you weren’t a skier and fisherwoman, what would you be doing?

McKenna: See above question :) If I weren't fishing or skiing, I would be furthering my education of the human body and working in some type of health field. We will see what happens in the future. I believe that it is exciting and ‘ok’ to continually evolve and change occupations throughout a lifetime. There are so many experiences to be had.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

McKenna: 5 years is a long time! I hope that I will still be on the path that I am currently walking, skiing professionally in the winter and fishing in the summer and fall. My skiing is still improving every year so I will continue to work on getting better and more proficient in the big mountains. I have a lot more to learn about the fishing industry and catching fish so that will keep me occupied for a while. 

What’s your favorite backcountry snack? 

McKenna: My favorite backcountry snack is smoked salmon. Salmon are packed full of good energy and I can run off of salmon for a long time. Smoked salmon is delicious, salty and sweet; it’s easy to eat by itself and a welcome treat in the mountains. 


#wildwoman #staywild #womenoutdoors #womenoutside #mckennapeterson #skiing #womenskiing

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