This story appeared in the September issue.
Words: Tess Weaver
It's a dreary April morning in Revelstoke outside the Cheeky Beaver Chalet. The B.C. railroad town is sleepy on this Friday of closing weekend, and I hear a truck splashing through puddles as it nears the block. Puncturing the grey, a '93 bright blue Toyota pickup pulls up and out pops Izzy Lynch, a rainbow of fuchsia, lime and turquoise. Within a minute, we've loaded gear and are headed west to the resort, where 6 inches of fresh awaits.
At the hill, everyone knows Izzy. The rental boys happily adjust the bindings on her S7s I'm borrowing. The barista makes her a small straight up Americano, and Revelstoke's mountain manager sits down for a chat about the adaptive ski program Izzy wants to start. She's present, giving everyone eye contact and a genuine smile. Her accent roots her in Alberta; her calm demeanor has a mellowing effect. Her skiing does not.
Born in Calgary and raised in the Rockies, 27-year-old Izzy moved to Revelstoke in 2008, the year after the resort opened, and has gained a reputation as its strongest female force.
We meet up with her sister Zoya and one of her close friends, Leah Evans. It's a surprise powder day and Izzy leads us around the mountain as only a 100-day-a-year local can. Her style is photogenic—aggressive and effortless. She's always in front, and when I follow her through the trees, I look for the swaying branches.
Rachael Burks, winner of the 2012 Red Bull Cold Rush, remembers skiing with Izzy at Revelstoke in 2010. "She kicked my ass," she says. "I was so humbled and impressed with how fast she skied."
Izzy came into the 2011-12 season feeling strong after a summer of biking and climbing. Above average conditions at a resort that's known as one of Canada's snowiest, with an average of 40 feet per winter, has allowed Izzy to push her skiing. She toured more than half her ski days last year and jumped on opportunities, like a hut trip in Kyrgyzstan and a film trip with Sherpas Cinema.
"I was blown away," says Sherpas Co-Director Eric Crosland, who filmed Izzy throwing her first back flip at Selkirk Wilderness Lodge. "She's an incredible big mountain skier—really solid and in control. And she has a mountain sense when addressing the backcountry that's way ahead of her age."
Life in the mountains for Izzy began as a family affair at Fortress Mountain, Alberta. Every winter weekend, her parents and her three younger siblings drove 70 miles from Calgary to Fortress, where they'd sleep on bunks in a $15 dorm and sneak their dog inside. Izzy started a ski-racing career that carried her to the Nor-Am circuit. She was talented but amassed a lot of DNFs.
"My style of ski racing was all out, balls-to-the-wall every run and crash," she says. "My coaches would say, 'Well, you won the first interval of that run.'"
She picked up an addiction for speed that hasn't wavered.
"She skis like a dude," says Zoya, who beyond a sister, is Izzy's roommate, ski partner and best friend. "Just really aggressive and faster than most people, girl or guy. It's the same with her personality. She knows what she wants. And she's fearless."
Izzy started coaching for the Banff Alpine Racers when she was 19 while attending the University of Calgary. She thought she'd coach through school then settle into a communications job in downtown Calgary. But once she started coaching for the Rocky Mountain Freeriders in Lake Louise, she was hooked on coaching and hell-bent on moving to Revy. In 2009, she started a branch of R.M.F. in Revelstoke and coached skiers like 16-year-old Jake Teuton.
"What made Izzy different than other coaches was how hard she skied—always charging," he says. "She was always there helping me with hard line decisions and always having fun."
Kevin Hjertaas, the former head coach of R.M.F., said Izzy's good-looks and hard-charging style brought out the best in their athletes.
"Izzy could out-ski our best skiers…and most of the older guys had crushes on her," says Hjertaas. "The kids knew Izzy was happy to be there—they trusted her and pushed themselves whenever they skied with her."
Coaching has always been Izzy's main gig, but she's also paid her dues waiting tables, babysitting, working construction, fighting fire, and working at backcountry lodges. Now, she's dedicated full time to Live It, Love It, a non-profit adaptive adventure organization Izzy founded after a friend's life-changing accident.
On April 11, 2010, Izzy and her boyfriend of two months, Jeff Scott, were bombing a groomer on closing day at Revelstoke, when Scott crashed, broke two vertebrae, and severely damaged his spinal cord. Post surgery, he was a quadriplegic who couldn't move, breathe or swallow on his own. Izzy spent a year commuting to Vancouver, while Scott recovered at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre.
When Scott finished rehab, he and Izzy went on a six-week road trip across Canada in a wheelchair-equipped van. Crossing the prairies, they chatted about the young people they had met—an 18-year-old who broke her back in a ski comp, a 16-year-old who broke his back mountain biking, and a 25-year-old who broke his neck cliff diving.
"I realized opportunities for freedom and adventure still exist in challenging situations," says Izzy. "I wanted to make those opportunities available, to create a platform of support and inspiration for these athletes."
The idea for Live It, Love It was born.
When the Keg Steakhouse & Bar, a restaurant chain based in B.C. and beyond, launched Thanks A Million, a million-dollar campaign recognizing individuals and organizations making a difference, Izzy applied with the idea of Freewheel, a summer adaptive adventure camp in Whistler. After a month of public online voting, she was awarded a $25,000 grant for Live It, Love It. Twelve young athletes with recent spinal cord injuries gathered for three days of bungee jumping, zip-lining, ATV riding, kayaking, rock climbing, and gliding. A sports psychologist was on hand, as well as accomplished para athletes. The camp is set to take place again in August 2012 and Live It, Love It board member Josh Dueck, who landed a back flip on a mono-ski last winter, will participate.
"Through Live It, Love It, I want to empower people through adventure," says Izzy. "You have to truly be passionate about what you're doing. I don't have a hard time asking people to support the cause, because I really do believe in it. I've seen the positive effects firsthand."
In Revy, Izzy rallies Zoya, Evans and me for a day tour to the Asulkan Hut on Roger's Pass. Izzy's S7s are mounted with Dynafits. In roomy yellow pants, a hoodie, trucker hat, and oversized shades, she passes rando racers in spandex. She pulls away, skinning at a seemingly unsustainable pace. I ask the girls if she's always this fast uphill. They confirm with a knowing reply. "That's just Izzy."
She fell in love with the backcountry when she was 9 years old on her first ski tour out of Amiskwi Lodge. Her family, along with four other families, had spent the previous summer building the remote backcountry cabin near Golden. She was 21 when her father bought her an avy course on Roger's Pass as a Christmas present. Mostly, she credits Revelstoke, where Izzy is surrounded by who she calls, "The most capable mountain people in the world." It just so happens that many of those people are women.
"I mostly ski with girls and sometimes I forget how unique and special that is," says Izzy. "I've never come across a community with so many strong female skiers."
Izzy works to extend that community by coaching at Girls Day Out, two-day female ski camps in B.C. and Alberta founded by Evans.
"She never says 'If I could,' it's always, 'I'm going to do that,'" says Evans. "She's really driven. I see her accomplishing big things."
For more infomormation or to donate, click-in to liveitloveit.org.