As a geologist and professional skier, Kim Vinet has a deep connection with the natural world and the many different types of energy that exist around her. When we speak, I feel instantly at ease as her voice flows like honey. There’s something about the way she shares that demonstrates her level of comfort with herself, as well as a comfort with all of life’s unknowns and uncertainties.
Kim lives in a small town in British Columbia, Canada. Her work is focused on geothermal energy projects and natural resource preservation. She takes full advantage of the region’s ski opportunities and notes that her connection to the mountains largely impacts her belief system and how she relates to geology—in other words, her work impacts her skiing and her skiing impacts her work.
In April of 2014, Kim was invited to go on a backcountry ski trip to Bill Putnam (Fairy Meadows) Hut in Canada with seven other women. One of the women was an inspiring guide that Kim was excited to spend time learning from and growing with. The group didn’t have any specific goals in mind; the trip was simply an opportunity to spend time in a beautiful environment pushing edges, respecting boundaries, and forming friendships. This group of women had a very powerful and profound connection with one another and spent the week working together in order to support one another’s life decisions and goals.
On this particular trip, the freezing level, or the altitude at which the temperature registers 0 °C, was abnormally high and the hut where they were staying was close to the freezing level. This meant that the weather patterns were unpredictable, and it was hard to assess what type of conditions the group would experience. Although these women were all highly competent outdoor athletes trained in what to do if there was an avalanche, so many unknowns exist when one is in intimate relationship with nature. You may have all of the book knowledge in the world—but there are no written words that can fully explain the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual experience of being in a natural disaster.
This trip filled with magic and connection also contained tragedy. A few days into the excursion, an avalanche occurred and one of the skiers, Ellie, got trapped under the debris of the slide and died shortly after being rescued. In a story that Kim wrote about this experience she states:
“I had the training. I knew ‘what to expect.’ But what no one tells you is that you may be performing CPR on someone you know and love. Their body is real. Your relationship with them is real. The situation is so unbelievably surreal that you can’t humanly contextualize it. Something inside you shuts it out.”
At this point in our conversation, Kim revisits the numerous oddities and coincidences that existed before she ever went on the trip. The badass guide was fighting off a really terrible cold. Ellie, the woman who died in the avalanche, had outwardly stated, “I can’t die in an avalanche,” days before she was killed. The Thursday before the trip, Kim had thoughts and voices inside of her that told her things were going to be different when she returned. There were numerous signs that were pointing Kim toward a deeper knowing or possibly some form of clairvoyance, but they didn’t stop her from going on the trip. In fact, she recalls:
“This [the thoughts] were something [that] I didn’t really understand and I just didn’t feel any sort of emotional attachment to [them]. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t anything. I was just a little bit confused. It’s hard to know.”
Kim and I begin to discuss the difference between instinct and intuition. For Kim, intuition is “something that [has] no conscious reasoning behind it. It’s just something that you don’t have to understand or you can’t understand but it is what it is.” Whereas instinct “[is] something that you develop based on your past.” As humans our understanding of reality is based on our blind perceptions of the world as well as actual real-life experiences. We are regularly trying to make sense of what is happening and why it is happening. When we have an intuitive feeling that winds up becoming a reality, we may actively choose to shut down those parts of ourselves that are capable of knowing in order to numb or escape some of the suffering that comes from painful experiences.
After losing her friend Ellie in the avalanche, Kim earnestly began reading about intuition and explored how to best understand and connect to the voices inside of ourselves. In this process, she started to learn about frequencies and wavelengths and the laws of attraction. It’s all related to the science-based data that makes up quantum physics but it exists in a rather undefined realm. Science and data tend to make most people feel safer about the uncertainties in life when really so much of what makes life worth living cannot be backed up by science or “knowing.” However, life, by definition, is the art of “not knowing.”
At the end of our conversation, Kim shares with me what she has learned from this experience. Ellie was an individual that took the time to dig deep and get to know the people around her. Kim feels a commitment to carrying on that flame and makes the time and space to connect and be real with others. And when it comes to life lessons, she notes that we are often “exposed to the same lesson over and over and over again. And sometimes it takes a really huge incident to just show up in front of you to say that you need to start paying attention.”
As our intuition and gut instinct often exist in the most subtle of realms, I can’t help but smile when Kim finishes our conversation by noting that “if we just had learned from the little things, maybe it wouldn’t get that big."