Kt Miller was more or less born on skis. “My dad skied like 100 days a year, so he started putting me in a backpack when I was a baby,” the 25-year-old Cooke City, Mont. resident says. “I think I’ve been skiing since I was two.”
That early outdoor immersion resulted in a livelihood based around skiing, and now Kt is the ski industry’s newest, youngest face in photography, balancing skills behind the lens with a passion for conservation.After a childhood spent chasing her dad and brother down Bridger Bowl’s Ridge, the Bozeman native joined the town’s Junior Mountaineering Association, which led to a senior-year climbing trip up the Middle Teton. “I remember just standing on top of that and having this light bulb go off in my head,” Kt reminisces. “It was like, ‘Oh, this is what it’s all about. Mountains. This is what I want to do.’”
Those early years spent learning about the mountains have paid off. “She’s a natural teacher, and she’s super intentional,” says adventure buddy Lydia Tanner. “Every footstep she takes, she means to take.” Because of that skill, Tanner notes, Kt is able to photograph places only skilled mountaineers can access. “She usually goes into the backcountry with people feet taller than her, so she’s learned to be really efficient,” Lydia says of her 5 ft. 1 in. friend. “She works hard at fitness, even if she might not admit it.”
After high school, Kt guided for the Montana Mountaineering Association while studying photography at Montana State University. When she turned 21, Kt took a job that most skiers only dream about and spent two years heli guiding with Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA) in Haines. But instead of reveling in the easy access to steep lines, her inner environmentalist spoke up.
“Going into my second year guiding, I knew I didn’t believe in [heli skiing],” Kt says. “It’s a huge carbon footprint.” For Kt, a large draw of the skiing experience is touring, exploring and evaluating the snow conditions during the approach.
That fall, she teamed up with Polar Bears International, which documents polar bears in the Arctic, and has worked as the nonprofit’s media specialist for four years. Through her time in the Arctic, Kt’s developed professionally and as an environmental citizen. “The executive director there is a good friend, and she’s been a mentor of mine for a long time. She doesn’t buy plastic at the grocery store; she buys raw fruits and vegetables and only local meat,” Kt explains. “So I learned a lot from her just being around her. ‘Polar Bears’ is really just an extension of that learning process for me.”
“In general, people are really excited for me,” she says. “They want to work with me and publish stuff from a girl.” And while female ski photographers are numbered, Kt notes that male photographers provide just as much inspiration. “I learn about what they’re shooting, and a few have taken me under their wing and taught me about editing and submissions,” she says. “I try to be transparent and ask lots of questions, because I am still learning.”
Last spring, Kt became an ambassador for Winter Wildlands Alliance, giving her another outlet to advocate for wild places. “She has a bunch of connections and a bunch of people who want to be connected to her,” says Hilary Eisen, Recreation Planning Coordinator for WWA. “So nationally, she brings attention as a spokeswoman and gets skiers interested in an intimidating bureaucratic system of land management.”
As Kt’s skill and reputation begin to precede her as a fast-emerging female ski photographer in the outdoor industry, she’s staying focused on her creative pursuits. “It’s all about inspiring people to get outside, in whatever capacity that is,” Kt says. “It’s cool to do it for the girls, for sure, but I’m just doing what I love and this is my art.”
To learn more about Kt, visit ktmiller.photo.