Opinion » Alta States

Cheeying Ho — sustaining the vision

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The world was a big place. And Cheeying was obviously curious. Still, her decision to move to Africa and teach in Botswana was a radical move... by anybody's standards. "I taught there for nearly three years," she tells me. It was difficult, frustrating, exciting, scary, satisfying, enchanting, daunting, overwhelming... in short it was everything she'd hoped it would be.

It also speaks volumes about the woman herself. For Cheeying is nothing if not practical. Sure, she can handle ideas and concepts with the best of policy wonks. But fundamentally, she's a doer; she doesn't mind getting her hands dirty. But I digress.

Her next stop was Ontario. "I taught high school math and science and also at Algonquin College in the tech and trade school," she recounts. She also managed to complete a Master's degree in education at the University of Ottawa. More importantly, it was in Ontario that she fell in love with skiing.

"I'd skied a bit as a teenager," she says. "But nothing like this. My partner (at the time) and I even started our own ski club at the high school where we were teaching in Guelph." She smiles at the memory. "It was a lot of fun, you know. We travelled to Killington and Mont Tremblant and the various southern Ontario ski hills."

But she was still a long way from the mountains. "The west is my 'here,'" she explains. "I'd ended up in Guelph to follow my partner. But it was never home. So when that relationship ended, well, it just felt natural to move back to Vancouver."

It was around 1993, she adds, that she first came into contact with backcountry skiing. "I don't remember how it all came about." She laughs. "But I ended up renting touring gear and skiing up to Elfin Lakes." More laughter. "An overnight trip on my first ski tour — Oh my God! I had no idea. By the end of the first day, I had second-degree blisters! They were sooooo deep... the first layer of skin was totally gone."

I suspect that Cheeying comes from the "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" school of life. For what would have defeated most skiing neophytes simply made the activity more attractive to her. And she proceeded to build up her backcountry skiing skills with the zeal of a true believer.

Meanwhile, she'd moved from teaching in the schoolroom to teaching in the real world. "Working in the non-profit sector," she explains, "is not for everyone. But it works for me. In general, the non-profit value system fits very well with my own values. And the challenges... well, you have to be very resilient to keep a non-profit going. It's like running a small business: creativity, patience, innovation, drive — these are all required if you really want to make the thing work."