Wild Woman: Nicole Jorgenson
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Nicole Jorgensen is a true embodiment of the outdoor lifestyle—summer on bikes, winter on skis. The 28-year-old grew up in California until moving at the age of 10 to Idaho where she watched her brothers race bikes and would eventually get into it herself. Nicole has worked in several bike shops and even represents women’s bike company Wild Rye as a member of their “pro” team. In the winter, she works as a ski patroller on local Bald Mountain and an EMT for the fire department. She also works as an ambassador for the intermountain area for SheJumps, an organization dedicated to providing outdoor education to women and girls. Basically, every aspect of her life revolves around the outdoors—a lifestyle that didn’t happen by accident. Read on!
Tell me about your relationship to the outdoors?
Nicole: As a family, my dad would take us camping every once in a while. My mom never really liked to camp. As a family, we rode bikes a lot, mostly road bikes or cruiser bikes on the bike path or to breakfast or something. Nothing intense, but we did ride bikes a lot and that includes my grandparents and extended family. That was my introduction to biking, but I didn’t know it at the time. As for the outdoors, I went to a small school that had an outdoor program [Riverstone in Boise] and we would go on backpacking trips twice a year and those would be in Idaho, Utah, Washington, all over. I didn’t realize how much I valued them until after high school when they asked me to come back and help lead some of the trips.
My freshman year of college I ended up going to school in New York City (Barnard) and ended up transferring. That year was very transformative as far as me realizing how much I actually need the outdoors in my life. I couldn’t live without big open spaces, quiet spaces too. So I transferred to Colorado College and there, I started integrating into the outdoors and taking avalanche courses and trips on our breaks and figuring out how I could work in the outdoors and what parts of the outdoors were important to me now that I was choosing them for myself.
What did you think you wanted to do career-wise, working in the outdoors?
Nicole: I never really thought I would work in the outdoors; I don’t think that ever crossed my mind. I was always interested in medicine and in college, global health was a big passion of mine. I always thought I’d go down that path and I never really had a dream of working in the outdoor industry. I’m not sure how bikes became so much of a focus. Well, there’s some background—my brothers founded a junior club team in Boise and racing road and mountain bikes. They were really into bikes all while I was growing up but I was playing soccer so I never really got into it. In college, I found biking again and after graduating I had no idea what I wanted to do. I worked at a bike shop in Golden outside of Denver and started making bikes more and more a central focus in my life. Then I realized I didn’t want to be in Colorado anymore and moved back to Idaho and worked at a bike shop again in Boise and started racing bikes—road, mountain, cycle-cross. That’s how I started working in the outdoor industry.
I started backcountry skiing in college but then it really became a passion of mine after I moved back to Idaho after college. Now, I’m realizing how much I need to centralize my life around the outdoors and not just do outdoor things when I have time. At this point, I was still interested in medicine so I got my Wilderness EMT up in Alaska. Once I got that, I was trying to figure out how to work as an EMT. I didn’t realize that in Boise you have to volunteer for a long time before you can get hired at any of the EMS agencies. At that time, I didn’t really want to work in a hospital as an EMT and then I found the Ski Patrol in Sun Valley and saw they were hiring. I was like, ‘Huh, I can ski and combine medicine with that.’ I ended up getting that job, somehow, which is crazy because at the time they weren’t hiring many people. Working in the outdoors just came with me needing to make the outdoors a central point in my life, it was never something I planned.
So this coming winter will be how many seasons of ski patrolling?
Nicole: This’ll be my fifth.
How did you first get involved with SheJumps?
Nicole: When I was working at the bike shop in Boise [Bauerhaus], a woman would bring her bike in and we became friends. I saw that she had a SheJumps sticker and asked if she was involved with them. She was a regional coordinator so she coordinates ambassadors for a big area. She said they were doing an event in a couple weeks called Wild Skills and said I should volunteer at it. I did and it was awesome and I loved what they were doing. Stacy, the woman who connected me with SheJumps locally, is a mom and has two girls and the regional coordinator, Kim, in Boise is also a mom with several kids and their passion just blew me away, especially for how important they believed it was to get their girls outdoors with other girls and provide that space. That kind of ticked something in my brain and I thought, wow, I want to do this too. I benefit so much from this, I should make sure that other girls get the benefit as well.
How long have you been an ambassador?
Nicole: I think this is my fourth year.
What are your favorite places to bike and ski?
Nicole: Oh man. Locally, I don’t think in my lifetime I’ll get to ski everything I want to ski here which is so cool. I love skiing in the Sawtooths, the Lost Rivers, I’d like to ski more in the White Clouds, I haven’t done much of it yet. Those are some of my favorite places. Biking, I also love riding here but I also love riding in the desert. It’s just such a different type of riding. Our trails are kind of similar style—backcountry, fast, single-track. If you want to progress as a rider, I think it’s really important to go and ride other styles of trails whether that’s the desert or Pacific Northwest. I like riding up there too, but I haven’t spent much time riding up there. I haven’t mountain biked that many places yet honestly; I only really got into mountain biking at the end of college.
What’s your favorite trail snack?
Nicole: When I have the time, I like making my own energy bars or when I’m doing a lot of longer, gravel riding I like making rice cakes—just white rice and tons of different mixtures you can do like sweet ones with chocolate chips or peanut butter and jelly or savory bacon and chive ones. They digest really easily. Otherwise, Swedish Fish or Scandinavian Swimmers from Trader Joe’s.