Mothers and daughters: it’s a relationship not often talked of in the ski-guiding world. But as the number of female guides grows, so too does the source of inspiration for ladies taking on the challenges of this particular career path. For Canadian-certified guide Kate Devine, her relationship with mother Grania has fueled her professional pursuits and helped her find guidance.
In the spring of 2014, Revelstoke, B.C.-native Devine earned her ski-guiding certification through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Though undoubtedly a big step in her career, it was, in many ways, also a logical progression that started before she was born—Devine was raised splitting her time between the family Revelstoke home and her mother’s ski touring hut, Selkirk Lodge, in the mountains near Rogers Pass.Grania and her late husband Steve decided to start a business high in the glaciated Albert Icefield and, in 1986, built the lodge that Grania still owns and operates. Two years later, in January 1988, before the lodge was finished and when Kate was just four months old, Steve was killed in an avalanche while tailguiding for Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing. And while Grania raised Kate with her partner Mike Cummings, the lodge remained primarily under Grania’s oversight.
“Seeing my mom in the role of lodge caretaker influenced me—my [adoptive] dad is very involved with things at the lodge, but it is still her business,” Kate says of her mother’s impact on her own career. “She is the one running things all winter long. My mom is definitely a force to be reckoned with.”
While Kate, 29, now seems at ease with her vocation, Grania remembers a time when her daughter was not so surefooted about her dreams.
“She ski raced as a kid, but didn’t show a lot of interest in the backcountry. It was ordinary—something her family did, so how cool could it be?” Grania recalls. “But when Kate was 16, she came up with a friend for her spring break to go ski touring, and she looked at me about two days in and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to be a guide.’ Since then she has been pretty single minded in her pursuits.”
Kate has successfully pursued ski guiding in the years following her 16th birthday. In the spring of 2012, she passed her apprentice guide exam at age 24, and when she received her full ski guide certification, she was only 26.For Grania, Kate’s love for the backcountry has emotional challenges that are all too familiar. “Ski guiding is a double-edged sword with its own anxieties attached to it for me as a parent,” she confesses, “but I realize that probably the most dangerous part of Kate’s job everyday is driving the Trans-Canada Highway out to the staging area.”
And Grania has faith that Kate’s proficiency in ski guiding will steer her to safe decisions in the mountains.
“She doesn’t shy away from big objectives, but she won’t go somewhere if she thinks there is a good reason not to,” Grania says. “I hope that I have passed that onto Kate, but to be perfectly honest, I think that a lot of that is just innate.”
As for Kate’s future, she has expressed an interest in someday taking over Selkirk Lodge after her mother’s retirement. Currently, however, her goal is to build a client base in the Revelstoke region through her work at Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing.
“Even though it is our family business, it is still a tough industry to break into,” Kate says. “As a guide, you need to have a client base to sell weeks at a lodge, but I would like to be up at the lodge full time in the next few years, if possible.”
Grania is happy with the prospect of her daughter taking the reigns, but Kate knows that her mother will always be a welcomed fixture in her life. “She keeps threatening retirement,” Kate says, “but at the same time she likes skiing so much that she is always saying she will ‘work one more season.’”