Teton Gravity Research, in Jackson Wyoming. My role essentially means I'm a creative team member that wears a lot of different hats. Some days I'm writing feature-length stories and then there are others in which I'm on the ground photographing events or trying to keep with athletes with camera gear strapped to my back. It's pretty wild. What I love most about my job is that no matter what I do, I get to tell a story. Right now I'm particularly interested in stories from those who haven't always had a voice in the outdoor industry. One of my biggest focuses happens to be on mountain biking. It's a sport that I dearly love. I've only been riding for two years, but I can't think of something that makes me feel more empowered, and when I was first introduced to the sport I didn't see many women reflected in the media.
So, a considerable part of my career has been trying to change that. Off the clock from TGR I'm biking, skiing when there's fresh pow, and balancing a side career as a freelance artist.
My Instagram: @katielo.zancich
Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
The experience that hooked me was a ride at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort bike park. It was my first time ever riding in a downhill setting and I anxiously squirmed the entire chairlift ride up. There had to be a thousand different questions and worries bouncing around in my head. It was until a few pedal strokes in that they dissipated and were replaced with small bouts of laughter. Aspens that glowed from the warm summer light surrounded me and each banked turn brought me to a new part of the trail. I've been chasing that feeling of wonder and adventure ever since.
When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
Hmm, all of it?
Kidding, tight hairpin turns. We have a few nasty ones on this trail I love on Teton Pass called Blacks Canyon. I've found improvement with looking through my turns and leading with my chest.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
Turning will always be something that could be honed in, but that's okay! In fact, the ability to improve is what I crave most about mountain biking. The sport is about constant progression and I find there's always a skill or part of the trail to improve on. This progression keeps the sport exciting and an enduring challenge.
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Flats. I've never ridden with clips, mostly because they make me a bit nervous. But I'm always open to trying new things.
For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
Find a local riding group to ride with, I got lucky that Seattle (where I lived during college) had the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance which held weekly ride meetups through the Seattle area. Riding with other people is the best way to learn. It pushes you and also reminds you to just have fun and enjoy the company you're with. Watching other riders is also a great way to push your riding as well.
You work for Teton Gravity Research as a digital content contributor; what do you love most about sharing stories?
Storytelling is one of the most powerful and unique tools we have! Simply look throughout history, whether it be through oral traditions, art, or written word, stories have been used to inspire, impact, and empower one and another. We all carry such unique narratives with us, and those narratives are more compelling than we give them credit.
What do you love most about giving people in the outdoor industry a voice?
Simply seeing the narratives within this industry expand to include a diversity of voices. I hope one day that anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic background can feel like that outdoor community is a space that welcomes them.
What do you love most about covering/featuring mountain biking?
It's such a beautiful sport to photograph. I've always seen parallels between dancing and mountain biking, there's so much grace to it! As far as the narratives associated with mountain biking, I have often found that biking has been used a metaphorical vehicle just as much as a physical one. The bike is an incredible machine to empower, explore, or simply celebrate the places we love.
I found that a genuine way to address this dilemma is to just provide a platform for women to share their stories. So much so that hopefully it doesn't feel like there has ever been an imbalance. The most successful stories are the ones that highlight individuals for their experiences, meanwhile their gender speaks for itself. I think we've made some significant progress but there's still room for improvement. I'd love to see the narrative expanded to include stories we haven't seen as much, like motherhood in the mountains or how the #metoo movement fits in with the outdoors.
What do you love most about being a woman involved in the outdoor industry?
Think about the term "mother nature", womanhood is an innate part of the outdoors! I love this industry and the fact that my more work celebrates these beautiful wild spaces we play on.
What do you love about riding your bike?
There are a plethora of trails out here in the world, and I want to ride them all.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I just have a 2016 Liv Intrigue. I picked it because it I liked the geometry and it was the perfect fit for my level of riding. I'm hoping to upgrade this season now that I know a bit more about bikes and components.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
There's a myriad of reasons why women are intimidated by cycling and the one I hear the most is "I'm scared". A lot of gals have this perception that biking is solely big whips, riding fast and gnarly terrain. But that's just one facet of this sport.
What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
It all starts with representation. There's this saying, "you can't be what you can't see," and moving forward marketing needs to also showcase young girls to middle age women thriving in this sport.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
There are so many positive byproducts of biking. It's healthy for you, it's empowering, it's a wonderful way to explore your local area, and it fosters new relationships. These are the things I gained from riding my bike and hope to share that with everyone!
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
In addition to writing and photography, I am a painter. My Acrylic artwork ranges from small 8"x8" pieces to 6ft murals. I hope to someday blend art and biking together but haven't quite figured that out yet.