The Work Behind the Body: Reneé Freeman

Reneé Freeman is one of those undercover crusher types. She doesn't really do social media. When she isn't skiing, climbing, or running up some mountain, she can usually be found launching explosives at unstable snow as a ski patroller or teaching someone how to clean anchors. 

She's also one of the nicest, most positive people I know. As an unassuming, multi-sport, talented athlete, featuring her on the Work Behind the Body series was a no brainer. (*Learn more about the series here.*) 

She trains hard to play and work hard. As she says in the interview below, "To call the mountains my office is very special and something I will never take for granted."

Reneé's powerful legs and killer core are consequential to her love of the outdoors and her commitment to being the best ski patroller, climbing instructor, and athlete she can be. She's pretty. She's cute. You betcha. More than anything, though, she's a lovely human being who cares about others and the world. She volunteers on a local farm here in the summer and helps people discover and celebrate their potential. 

Photo by Isaac Fleming

She's out there in the mountains pursuing her passion with respect for her body and a love for life. Read the interview and you'll get a taste for Reneé's contagious enthusiasm for life.

K: What sports do you enjoy?

R: I enjoy any sport that involves the mountains and the challenges that come with them. Growing up I never really played any team sports. I was the kid who would be wandering around outside, exploring our natural world. I was really into hiking and swimming. I grew up just outside of Reno, NV with the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Lake Tahoe out my backdoor.

In middle school my dad decided he was tired of skiing alone and wanted ski partners. He rented my brother and I ski gear and took us out. I was a little hesitant at first, but after the first few turns I was hooked. It started a life-long obsession.

In high school I competed on the swim and ski teams.  College was a great time for me; I dabbled in many other sports and discovered not only did I have an obsession for skiing, but also I loved ultra trail running, mountain biking, and climbing. I love the mental and physical challenges of these sports and the places they can take you.    

Renee slaying pow on the job. Photo by Isaac Fleming

K: What do you do for work?

I have worked hard to build my life around these activities I enjoy.  During the winter I Ski Patrol at the Yellowstone Club and in the summer I work at Spire and for Touch the Sky (a nonprofit getting kids outside climbing).

To call the mountains my office is very special and something I will never take for granted. 

The days are long and can be very physically and mentally demanding.  During the winter my typical day starts around five am, unless it's an avalanche control morning, and then I'm up at four. I start the day in skis at sunrise, completing run checks and setting up the mountain.

On avalanche control mornings, I am part of a small team that uses explosives, ski cutting and other techniques to get our section of the mountain open. Of course this involves shredding some pow too.

Photo by Isaac Fleming

The rest of the day I work on various projects and respond to any medical emergencies on hill.  The medical component of my job is very exciting and interesting: you never know what you will ski up on and have to manage.

This is one of the best jobs ever! I ski lots of powder with good friends, use my medical and avalanche rescue skills, and help train and carry around an avalanche dog. I love the excitement, challenges and variety of each day this job brings me.

In the summer I work at Spire Climbing Center and Touch the Sky doing lots of different activities.  I teach climbing classes for kids and adults of all ability levels. With Touch the Sky I am one of their program managers and climbing guides.

Renee training for climbing. 

Renee training for climbing. 

I help organize all the summer day outings in the Bozeman area and lead trips to different crags. I work with all age groups and abilities on all types of rock. I mostly do single pitch sport and traditional climbing along with bouldering outings too.   

 My jobsite is always changing with the terrain, duties for the day, and the clients I work with. Both jobs can be very physically involved, so the more fit you are, the better your body can perform and stay healthy on and off the clock. 

Photo by Isaac Fleming

Being a women in male dominated work field can come with many challenges. I have seen lots of women who have not enjoyed the environment these jobs tend to breed in the workplace.  But I have also had the opportunity to work with kickass women who are strong positive leaders for everyone around them.  These ladies are wonderful mentors and true inspirations for upcoming patrollers and women in the guiding industry.

You have to have thick skin at times and stand up for what you believe. Take pride in your work and never let anyone else tell you what your limitations are. Find what makes you happy and embrace it! 

K: How do you train for your work and play?

R: My training varies depending on what seasons coming up and what activity is the focus for that time of the year. The most fun training is going out and doing the activity I love. But doing specific exercises for each sport and keeping a good base line fitness helps to achieve my goals and prevent injury.

I try to work out at least 4-6 days a week varying between cardio training, climbing, and strength training.  It can vary depending on my work week, trips, and running races.  For cardio training my main exercise is running, which I do all year. My mileage varies depending on the season and if I’m gearing up for a race or just doing maintenance runs.

I have been getting more into mountain biking the last couple years as a fun new activity. It's also a good way to cross train with running season and get into ski shape as well. I do climbing and strength training 3-4 days a week. I also do yoga and stretch as much a possible.

It’s easy to get caught up in the training and forget about keeping a well balanced body that not only is strong but flexible with good mobility. Rest is super important as well, which I’m terrible at, but it’s very important to know when the body has had enough and needs some time to recover.    

K: How often would you say you get “out” to enjoy your sports?

I'm lucky I get to enjoy my sports almost everyday since I work in the outdoor industry.

I try to make it a point each day to get outside regardless what the weather is like or the time of day. 

Living in Southwest Montana there are endless mountains with many trails, epic ski descents and climbing opportunities right in my backyard. Working a seasonal schedule leaves time for me to travel in the off seasons, spring and fall.

Plus, it’s easy to get away for a few days to surrounding states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah for skiing and climbing trips.  Jackson Hole and Ten Sleep, WY are two of my favorite close by places to visit for skiing and climbing. 

I’m also lucky to call Tahoe my home and go back every year to enjoy the great skiing, climbing, trail running and biking.  Recently I have had to the chance to explore around Vermont and climb in Rumney, NH which offers super fun bouldery sport climbs and rugged steep trails hidden in rolling green hills. I have been lucky to have the opportunity to ski in Chile and climb in Mexico.

Most of all I love where your sports can take you. There is nothing more exciting than packing up your gear for the next big adventure!  

Renee in Mexico. Photo by Isaac Fleming. 

K: What does beauty mean to you?

R: Beauty to me comes in all shapes and sizes. Beauty is unique just as being a human is.

As a female athlete who works in male dominated occupations, I have had the opportunity to work with amazing, beautiful women whose strength and determination surpasses most others and has helped them to obtain their goals.  It’s very inspiring to see the perspective of beauty shifting toward strong, empowering bodies and the personalities that go with them. 

In all beauty and strength there is an equally as strong personality to go with it that is full of passion and determination to make dreams a reality.          

K: How has/have your sport(s) shaped your body image and your relationship to your body in general?

R: I have been very active my whole life and my hunger for exploring the natural world has really shaped my body image over the years.  I realized at a young age that to achieve my sports goals would take lots of work and I could use that training to get outside more.

When I started trail running in college I quickly became to addicted to that feeling of achievement in reaching a longer mileage or a new destination. Questions like, "how much farther can I push it?" and, "if I go just one more mile, where will it take me?" fueled my runs. 

Those same feelings also drove me to push my skiing and climbing limits as well. To reach these goals of skiing big lines or pushing new climbing grades I need a body that can perform the task it is given. I have never been interested in having a magazine cover body. 

I have worked hard to create functional strength that can use when I’m out recreating or at work.  I give my body lots of respect through a healthy lifestyle, it has taken me to new heights and allowed my to achieve many goals.

K: What advice would you give women and/or fellow athletes in general to better enjoy their unique bodies?

R: Take pride in and love everything your body can do! We all have unique strengths and weaknesses. 

Work through those weaknesses and know that there are not limitations but opportunities to learn and explore new ways your body and mind can grow. 

The biggest thing I have learned from my sports is the mental training that comes with accomplishing any goal. The mind rules over the body; the mental journey that comes with training for any goal can be long and hard but love the process and all learning that can be gained from it. 

Empower the feeling of pushing the mind and body to the edge and then surpassing what you thought were your limits. We only get one life to live so live it to the fullest and enjoy the process of achieving your dreams.                             

Thank you, Reneé, for being a part of this series! Keep crushing, lady.