“A Mother’s Nature” was first published in our December 2016 (45.4) issue of POWDER. This excerpt is one of a five-part series that pays tribute to the women who made us skiers.
PHOTO: Jay Goodrich
When she was 17 years old, Pip Hunt came down from her bedroom to find her mom slumped over the kitchen table, ski boots nearby, crying. It was February, and it hadn't stopped snowing for a week, which meant her mom hadn't missed a day of skiing all week either, despite working till midnight every night at the restaurant she owned. The tears? Pure exhaustion. "She was just so tired, but she couldn't stop skiing. She had to keep skiing because it was that good," remembers Pip, now 29. "She was addicted."
Her mom, Martha Hunt, has built her life around a proximity to good skiing since she made her first turns at 14 during a school trip to Austria. Despite being told from a young age that skiing was not a valid career choice, Hunt, 55, forged her own path and raised Pip, her only child and former Freeskiing World Tour competitor, with the same sense of optimistic independence that has always been her driving force.
"Being out in the mountains and in the backcountry, even when Pip was young, there was a lot to be learned there—like there's no point to a hissy fit. Just being in that environment, you learn the endurance to cope and to overcome," says Hunt. "As you progress through life, you start to learn that once you've committed, you have to follow through. These are real life lessons from skiing: be prepared, be adaptable. You never know what's going to happen, even if you cover all the angles."
Born in England, the internationally certified ski instructor and yachtsmaster finished school at 16 and spent the next 10 years ski bumming around the Alps, working in kitchens and bars, doing whatever work she could find to support her powder habit. Eventually, Hunt turned to instructing and worked toward getting certified as a British Association of Snowsport Instructor, an extensive and all-encompassing accreditation that includes medical and psychological training in addition to technique and avalanche safety.
When she became pregnant with her daughter, she thought the responsible choice was moving to Scotland—the only area of the UK with any real skiing—to work at a ski school. She and Pip's father bought a house and converted it into a successful ski lodge, but after two years, they determined the weather was terrible and the skiing worse.
Toddler in tow, Hunt headed for the United States, where she spent the next year touring North America's best ski towns, surveying for a spot to raise her daughter to be a skier.
"It was so fun to think that we could go skiing together [when Pip was younger]. The more you have in common, the better it is to do things together," says Hunt. "You can relate much more easily to your child when you share that, and I think that's why we're really lucky to have a really good relationship."
Ultimately, she landed in Crested Butte, Colorado, where, until 2005, she owned and operated the Swiss Chalet, an après restaurant with six beers on tap, where regulars hung their ceramic steins on the wall and the doors didn't open until after 3 p.m.—an intentional choice for Hunt so she could ski every day before work. The Chalet was also home to Hunt, now a single mother, and Pip, who lived upstairs, a mere 500 feet from the lift.
For Pip, growing up on the top floor of the Chalet meant first chair on powder days and access to the local ski academy, which turned into an eight-year career as a competitive skier.
Life is a bit more relaxed now, says Hunt, who currently runs a catering business in Whitefish, Montana, and works construction with her husband. Leaving Crested Butte behind wasn't easy, but Hunt reverted to her usual philosophy: If the skiing is good, everything will be fine.
"I've always been happy I chose this path—like every powder day is a reward," she says. "Even if you're having a bad week, you could go out and get your stoke on again. Just getting outside is all you need to reset. It puts it all in perspective."