• Hayden Seder

Wild Woman: Wood River Trail Coalition’s Kya Goldschlager

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Growing up in Connecticut, Kya Goldschlager got her first experiences with the outdoors while attending summer camps in New Hampshire. But what truly cemented her relationship to the outdoors was attending Prescott College in Arizona where she met her now husband, James, and took her first trip to Sun Valley. Since then, Kya’s done a bit of everything: worked for Trek bikes, picked huckleberries commercially, worked at ski resort Schweitzer as well as several outdoor leadership companies. In terms of outdoor activities, she’s just as well-rounded, having spent various amounts of time dedicated to backpacking, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, trail running, mountain biking, road biking, and bikepacking. Now at 31, Kya is the Volunteer & Events Coordinator for the Wood River Trails Coalition. In her free time (what little she has!) Kya also creates custom bike bags with her company Wolf Pax and spends time with her 6-month-old Reif who can often be found in a backpack strapped to Kya as she continues adventuring.

Tell me about your relationship to the outdoors?

Kya: My intro to the outdoors was through summer camp in New Hampshire. New Hampshire, especially camp, was so dear to me for so many years. I started going when I was 8 and transitioned into CIT (Counselor in Training) and Counselor and started running their adventure camp program. Growing up in Connecticut was suburbs so I wasn’t that exposed to the real wildness. The White Mountains in New Hampshire are rugged and are a good intro for anyone. I started backpacking at camp as well and in high school I did an adventure program with The Traveling School which is an all-girls traveling high school. They run programs all over, mostly in Africa and South America. I did the southern Africa semester and that was just another step for me to gain more confidence in the outdoors. It had a huge outdoor curriculum within the school program. We would live outside the whole time out of a safari truck and set up camp every night.

Then I went to Prescott College in Arizona and studied outdoor education and wilderness leadership. That just sealed the deal with me falling in love with being outside.

What does someone who studies those subjects typically go into?

Kya: Guiding, outdoor education, curriculum design with schools. But mostly I would say outdoor programming and guiding. A lot of people transition to raft guiding and take it from there. It’s a cool school, most of the classes are van-based so you’re in the field the whole time. So it sets you up well to be a dirtbag. They don’t offer any housing so half of the kids live in their trucks on campus in the parking lots. That’s where I met James [her husband]. We actually first came up here with school, with Prescott, for a backcountry ski course. I learned to climb there, they have a good climbing curriculum and amazing rock down there too. The access is amazing living in Arizona. I always biked, but that’s kind of where I fell in love with mountain biking too. The network is extensive and everything connects unlike here. There, you can link up everything, ride for hours and days if you want to. It also made me fall in love with the high desert. Coming from the east coast, I thought the desert was kind of uninspiring—just cactuses and sand. The first time I came out west was to Tucson, Arizona and exploring the mountains and diversity around there was amazing. Arizona has a special place in my heart.

What did you do after graduating from Prescott?

Kya: It took a while for me to finish college; I took a few years off in between sophomore and junior year and did some traveling in South America and some other work, did some sailing. James and I got married during school in Vegas, which was fun. We honeymooned at Red Rocks. We were both big into climbing then. But after we graduated we moved up to Sand Point in north Idaho and I spent a season working for an outdoor company called SOLE (Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Exploration); they do programming like backpacking, day trips, ropes courses, and climbing with at-risk youth. That fall I picked huckleberries commercially which was rad—I made more money than I ever have in a month! I just picked huckleberries straight for a month. Then I spent that next winter working at Schweitzer, the mountain in Sand Point.

Then we decided we were looking for a little more mountain stuff so we moved to Colorado and we worked for this wilderness therapy program called Open Sky. James was actually a student there and he always wanted to go back and work for them as a guide. We did that together for a few years. It was a pretty cool lifestyle—you work for 8 days on and then have 6 days off. Most of that time, we were living out of the truck so it was easy to get to Moab and plan trips in between work shifts. It was pretty amazing but also pretty exhausting. For a little while there, we had a house in Durango which was nice to have a base. But then you’re paying for rent half the time so it’s hard to justify when you’re in the field for work and not at home on your time off. Definitely the dirtbag days! We’d get out of the field and didn’t want to make dinner so we’d just literally have a can of coconut milk with maple syrup.

And then you came to Ketchum?

Kya: Then we moved to Boulder for a year and in between that I was working for Trek bikes and running some of their ride camps which took me all over the west while James was in grad school in Boulder. Boulder’s awesome, amazing access, great climbing, great trail running, great road biking. But Boulder is a tough place to live just in terms of being expensive and there’s a lot of entitlement. We call it the “Boulder Bubble” like if you live in Boulder you’ve somehow “made it”, like it’s the holy land. I felt it hard to make connections with folks there. I feel like if I was there in the ‘70s it would have been amazing.

And then we moved here three years ago. I still worked for Trek a little bit the first year we lived here. Last year I worked with the Forest Service on their Trail Crew. And halfway through the season I found out I was pregnant with Reif which was a hard end of the season. Physically I felt okay, I was still very capable of doing all the tasks we had to complete, but I was just exhausted on the weekend and didn’t have any motivation to really do much. James had this cool idea to climb all of the highest peaks in the surrounding ranges with Reif in the womb. We kept some rocks from each and now have a little Reif shrine with the rocks we collected.

How did you get involved with the Wood River Trail Coalition?

Kya: As I mentioned, last year I worked for the Forest Service. I’ve always been into trail work and used to do some Conservation Corp work with the Youth Corp in Colorado and then in high school, I did some trail stuff. Then when I found out I was pregnant, I realized I couldn’t really work a 40-hour week on the trails anymore. Sara [ED of WRTC] reached out last year looking to hire someone for next year to help with events and volunteer nights. I applied for the position and interviewed and felt really good about it because I would still be able to get out with Reif a bit and it has a flexible schedule. And I’m pretty passionate about the trails in our community. We have an amazing trail system that gets a lot of love from users and from the trail crew. Being able to do work on it with people is a pretty cool job.

Tell me about your bike bag business?

Kya: It’s called Wolf Pax which is a triple entendre: packs like pack animals, living in a pack; packs like backpack, and pax which is Latin for “peace.” I really started it this past winter when I was pregnant. I taught myself to sew last year. I’m pretty passionate about bikepacking and so the ability to make bike bags was the initial interest. I’ve always loved doing things with my hands. My goal with Wolf Pax is really just to get people inspired to do more adventure riding and have the capability of packing your gear on your bike, especially around here there’s just a limitless amount of gravel roads and single-track to link up. I’ve just found a tremendous amount of confidence and inspiration from riding long routes by myself. Two years ago I rode the Oregon Timber Trail by myself which extends from the California border in Oregon to the Washington border [a distance of 670 miles]. Being able to bikepack your own stuff on your mountain bike is pretty awesome. I’m just really trying to get locals riding with my bags. Having a huge shop and employing a dozen people would be way down the line.

Do you sell them in town? Online?

Kya: Right now I’m selling them at Idaho Cycles, that’s the only shop right now I’m working with. And then just word-of-mouth. The frame bags are mostly custom to fit your specific triangle so most people come to my studio and I size their frames up and they can choose their different fabrics and stuff. James is also starting his own business making custom bikes called Wolf Cycles so eventually it’d be cool to have a space somewhere, probably in Hailey, where he could do his bike stuff and I could sell bags and apparel and all the things. That’d be the long-term road but that’s a few years down the road. Right now I’m happy with keeping it small and more customizable with what people want.

What would you say your main outdoor activities are now?

Kya: Mountain biking, gravel riding, backcountry skiing. I’ve skied Baldy like, twice ever. I’m not really into paying for a pass. I really like the access here. It’s incredible. Over the pass is awesome or the Sawtooths. Nordic skiing here is great; I started doing that last winter when I was pregnant. Hopefully this winter we can do more Nordic with a trailer for Reif. I am also really into trail running, however my body has changed a lot after birth. I’ve been running a bit of shorter stuff, especially around my house here in East Fork, but I haven’t found the same strength and balance in running since I gave birth. But I’m being patient and giving that more time. To me, running is the most freeing and simple form of movement. Biking and skiing are so gear-intensive. Most of the landscape here is so open and easy to run ridges. But biking has probably been the number one outdoor activity for me.

As a new mom, how do you plan to create a relationship for Reif to the outdoors?

Kya: I think getting him comfortable outside is number one. I notice when he’s upset and I take him outside, he is immediately in a different mode and it calms him. He’ll just stand under our big Aspen outside and be in awe watching the leaves. So exposure and just getting him out in the backpack as I can. And as he gets a little older, I think backpacking with him is going to be a goal for next year. And as hard as it is, just getting him comfortable maybe being a little cold or being in the pack for a few hours when it’s hot and uncomfortable. I don’t really have any specific plans like, ‘I want him to be a biker, or runner, or hiker.’ Whatever he seems into, I want him to pursue that. That begins with just simple time outside. And I realize it doesn’t have to be some big backpack into the Sawtooths; we can just sit in the backyard, play with the ants that are crawling around. And my personal goals have definitely changed. I still love to get out by myself and ride for a few hours, but I don’t feel like I have the need to go on weeklong expeditions anymore or long, long day rides. With Reif, anything’s an adventure!

What’s your favorite trail snack?

Kya: This is more for long, high-output trips: a jar of peanut butter that’s half full and then I put chocolate chips, honey, and whatever other random things like chia, flax, or coconut oil in the jar and mix it all together to make this pot of sweet goodness. When it sits on your bike, it oozes all together and becomes this incredible mess and I just eat it by the spoonful. Other trail snacks: the best thing to break out is goat cheese and smoked salmon. Also, sardines. I’m really into the oily fishes right now.

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