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Karen Bockel

Date of Surgery: 5/18/2016
Update (10/2017): Karen completed her final AMGA guide exam and is now a certified IFMGA mountain guide.

About Karen

Karen grew up in Schwaikheim, Germany. She moved to the United States in 1995 to study Laser and Atomic Physics and race as a track athlete. Soon she began to call Colorado home, spending her time skiing and climbing in the San Juan Mountains. In search of adventure, she skied many of the Colorado Fourteeners, the Grand Teton, and Denali, along with trips to the Canadian Rockies, the European Alps, and the high Andes in Chile. She has climbed in the Black Canyon, Indian Creek, Red Rocks, Yosemite, the Tetons, Cirque of the Towers, and the Mooses Tooth in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge.

Career Background

In 2010, Karen turned her love for the outdoors into a passionate profession and began guiding expeditions on the West Buttress of Denali and ski patrolling at the Telluride Ski Area. She became part of the avalanche control team and the high-angle rescue crew, enjoying the challenges of working in the snow and learning about snow science. She currently guides for Exum and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides in the Tetons, is a heliski guide in Valdez, AK, guides expeditions for Mountain Trip, and is a co-owner and guide for Chicks Climbing and Skiing, a company that empowers women through mountain sports. She also teaches avalanche courses for the American Avalanche Institute. Karen loves sharing the joy of skiing and climbing, and feels most at home when she’s out in the mountains.

Treatment Procedure and Recovery Plan

3 years ago, I took a big fall while heliski guiding in Valdez, AK. I tore my ACL and injured my meniscus. I had surgery, but I didn’t recover well. I went back to skiing and mountain guiding, relying entirely on my good leg. Eventually, things caught up with me, and I could barely walk or stand up straight, limping to the front of the helipad to land the helicopter for another ski run, hoping my clients wouldn’t notice. I knew then, that I couldn’t keep going. I asked the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation for help, because this time, I wanted to be proactive and get the best care possible which meant going to the Steadman Clinic in Vail. I had surgery to remove a lot of scar tissue and re-repair my meniscus, and also started physical therapy at Howard Head Sports Medicine.


"I am so deeply thankful that I received this generous opportunity through the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation. This is my best chance at skiing and guiding again and completing my childhood dream – it’s my life and my livelihood! I can’t express how much it means to me to have had the support from the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation for this long and difficult road. I hope to be back on the ski mountain this winter, and guide in the Alpine next summer. I still have to work diligently to continue the recovery process, but I am hopeful that this time, I’ll get back to the mountains with more strength and less pain, and a good plan to stay healthy out there. "

- Karen Bockel