"To me, nature is not an escape, it is an entrance into the truest essence of all that is."
The Swiss Backcountry Guide in California, Outdoor Lover, Barbara
Meet Barbara Wanner the Swiss born Sierra Mountain Guide whose connection to nature is not only her passion, but also her profession.
Barbara Wanner is a highly experienced AMGA certified ski guide, single pitch instructor, AIARE avalanche course instructor and NOLS wilderness first responder. A member of the Sierra Mountain Guides which Utu recently partnered with as their official Outdoor SPF Skincare partner, she knows a thing or two about being outdoors, at elevation and in extreme conditions!
Passionate about protecting her skin from all the elements without using products that contain harmful ingredients. Utu’s unique formulations ensure skin is always protected and nourished even in the harshest of conditions. We recently caught up with Barbara as she prepared for the 23-24 winter guiding season.
Have you always had a passion / connection to nature and the outdoors? How did that evolve?
Growing up in Switzerland, I spent a lot of time outside from an early age. My family lived on a farm, so being outside and roaming was what I did. My parents thankfully made nature an unquestioned part of my life. I climbed and skied through my 20s and 30s as I traveled, eventually finding myself in the United States, where I started a family. As my family grew, my husband and I passed the love of nature to our three daughters, just as my parents did to me. My connection to nature is not only a passion, but also my profession.
Can you talk about the importance of connecting to nature and give examples of your favorite ways to connect?
To me, nature is not an escape, it is an entrance into the truest essence of all that is. Connecting to nature allows me to be my authentic self and is essential to my overall wellness. My favorite way to connect with my family is outside when we are ski touring, backpacking, or climbing together. Being immersed in nature is as vital to my mental, physical, and spiritual health as any medicine.
How has nature inspired and supported you over the years
Boy…this is a good question! The impact nature has had on me throughout my life is almost intangible, its effect on me unquantifiable. To me, it’s not a question of how nature has inspired and supported me over the years, only the simple truth that it has always supported me.
Can you tell us about the Sierra Mountain Guides and why you joined them?
Sierra Mountain Guides has been connecting people with the mountains since 1997 and is located in Bishop, CA. What I like about working with SMG is that we are a tight knit group of guides who all know each other and work well as a team. As a guide service, SMG is working to hold us guides to the highest standard of the guiding industry. Most SMG guides are AMGA certified in the discipline they guide or are working toward that goal.
Since I started backcountry skiing as a teenager in the alps, I wanted to become a mountain guide. That wasn't really seen as a viable career option for a girl at the time and so I became an elementary school teacher. But I got a second chance after I moved to the Eastern Sierra and started working as a Mammoth Mountain ski patroller where I met one of the owners of SMG. I was, who offered me the opportunity to start running the kids rock climbing program. This was a door for me into the guiding world and I embraced it. I have been working as a guide for SMG since 2011.
As a SMG Guide can you tell us a little more about the activities you guide in winter and summer?
This is my seventh season working as a fulltime backcountry ski guide and avalanche instructor for SMG - I enjoy the teaching aspect a lot because I like seeing people learn and grow in their understanding of the snow environment.
I love the freedom of having the whole eastern side of the Sierra Nevada as my office. In the winter I guide a lot of day trips where my goal is to find the best snow for my guests. Come spring, I also guide overnight trips where we venture deeper into the mountains and farther off the beaten paths.
Do you have one favorite trip/activity/route in the Sierras
My favorite trips are ski touring up to the higher peaks of the Sierra. The views from up high out over the Owens Valley and into the Great Basin Desert are just awe inspiring.
I feel that Utu is quite literally a lifesaver for me. I used your sunscreen stick exclusively all last season. I never got sunburned.
You are nearly always at elevation in the very sunny and windy Sierras, how does this affect your skin health?
I try to protect my skin from the sun and the wind as much as possible. I use a buff and a ball cap with a big brim, and I also put up the hood of my sun shirt. I worry about the chemicals in most sunscreens that likely will go into my bloodstream. Putting those substances on my skin every day concerns me almost more than the actual exposure to UV!
I feel that Utu is quite literally a lifesaver for me. I used your sunscreen stick exclusively all last season. I never got sunburned. And I was glad to know that I didn't have to worry about chemicals entering my bloodstream, also my skin doesn't get 'wind burned'. The sun stick feels good on my skin and because it is lightly tinted, I don't look like a white ghost. Always a plus when you are trying to gain people's trust.
Do you often find guests are ill prepared for how the sun and other elements at elevation are seriously amplified?
For sure, that’s why we always carry extra sunscreen (now Utu!). Sadly, I notice that many of my guests use commercial sunscreen. I just cringe when I think about the ingredients.
If you had to pick one, are you team Utu Moisturizing Sunscreen or Sunscreen-Stick?
Stick! When I ski tour, it is easier to pull it out of my pocket without having to even take off my gloves!
Learn more about Sierra Mountain Guides and book your backcountry trip at https://sierramtnguides.com/