Meet onX Backcountry Ambassador Caroline Gleich

In this series, we’ll be highlighting a series of four of our Backcountry Ambassadors. They will shed light on why they’ve endeavored on a life spent outdoors, what conservation means to them, and how you can play a part.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your sport of choice? How long have you been doing it?

I grew up in Minnesota, but my family would often take trips out West to ski and backpack. I always dreamed of climbing up and skiing down the biggest mountains. When I was 15, my family moved to Utah and at 18, I began to pursue the aforementioned childhood dream. I never skied competitively, but my parents taught me how when I was two years old, so I’ve been doing it for over 30 years.

How do stewardship and preservation play a role in your career as an athlete?

Being of service to the world and trying to make it a better place have always been an integral part of my career. I feel that it’s my duty to be an activist for social and environmental justice. I’ve been vocal on many issues, but I really focus on the climate crisis and gender equality. 

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What are some ways for recreationalists to easily start adopting more responsible practices? Expanding on that, what are some more intermediate/expert level stewardship opportunities that they could endeavor in?

Get involved with local, environmental non-profits. You can find your local groups through Patagonia’s Action Works program

Volunteer your skills and time, fundraise, pick up trash, leave no trace, and think about how it gets there in the first place. 

How has your thinking about conservation and stewardship changed over time?

As I’ve grown as an activist, I’ve learned from Indigenous leaders and people of color. I see how closely intertwined social and environmental issues are with their cultures. We need to do more to make the outdoors inclusive in order to create a holistic front for the environmental movement.

What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen in your community that ignited your excitement for the future of responsible outdoor recreation?

The environmental movement in the outdoors is beginning to see the intersectionality of social and environmental justice. How we treat people is how we treat the planet. The climate crisis, protecting public lands, and protecting public health are all related. You don’t have to confine your activism to one lane. Responsible outdoor recreation means more than packing out your trash, it means making sure we leave a habitable planet for future generations. It means advocating for clean air and water.

Where do you see the future of environmental stewardship going?

I envision a future where our elected officials will run on a platform of outdoor recreation and environmental activism. And the constituents will no longer divide ourselves into parties, but find shared purpose in being advocates for the outdoors.

When was your awakening that you were no longer just a ski mountaineer, but an Athlete Activist? Could you describe that experience for us?

Ever since I was a little girl, my parents told me to pick a career that has a meaningful impact on the world. They encouraged me to dream big and thought I’d end up as a lawyer, doctor, or politician, but my heart was always drawn to the mountains. 

As I was getting ready to graduate college and decide what to do with my life, I worked at an internship for the Utah Governor’s Environmental Advisor Ted Wilson. My ski career was growing, I had been on the covers of a few ski magazines, but I wasn’t finding enough sponsorships to pay the bills. I was hoping to make a positive impact on Utah through my internship by advocating for more clean, renewable energy. At the end of the internship, the Governor released his 10 year energy plan for the state of Utah, and it was dominated by fossil fuels. 

I was despondent. After working hard at the press conference and briefings all day, an edible cookie gift basket showed up to the office from the “Friends of Coal,” with heart-shaped cookies that read “I Heart Coal.” I was so hungry, and needed a sugar high, that I ate one. That was my turning point where I realized my calling was as an athlete and an activist. I learned from that experience that I could have more impact by following my heart and pursuing my dream of being in, and advocating for, the mountains.


Mitch Breton

Mitch Breton was raised on the shores of Maine's coastline chasing fresh snow, trout, grouse, and the best darn mosquito repellent money can buy. Covering topics from fly fishing, car camping, and beyond, he thrives on a story well-told.