Emily Ford Takes on New Challenge – Skiing the Boundary Waters in Winter!
Last year Emily Ford made history when she and her canine companion Diggins hiked Wisconsin’s 1900km Ice Age Trail, finishing their hike in March 2021. In doing Emily became the first woman ever to finish the Ice age Trail in winter, and one of only five other people of colour to finish the trail at all.
After completing this amazing achievement, she has since become a huge role model, though she doesn’t class herself as one, and has helped to influence a call for increased representation and diversity when it comes to the outdoor industry. As she states on her Instagram, ‘the outdoors is for everyone no matter your background, where you live, sexuality, race, etc.
Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a woman of colour, she hopes to open more doors for people like her when it comes to trekking and getting outdoors in general. “I started hiking this trail at first for kicks and giggles and then to show, after that, that anybody can hike,” she said.
Despite this she is very modest in her unintentional role as an ambassador for change in the industry, stating ‘there’s tons of other people doing this also, so it’s not like I’m a revolutionary person or anything like that.”
This Years Challenge for Emily (and Diggins)
Now, 29-year-old Emily Ford is taking on another challenge, this time in Northern Minnesota, following the Border Route which was historically used by Native Americans as well as fur traders. She aims to travel by skijoring along the Minnesota – Ontario Border joined again, of course, by Diggins. Beginning at Crane Lake the two aim to complete the 200-mile Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Voyageurs’ Highway and if all goes accordingly, they should finish once they reach Grand Portage which is near Lake Superior by March 13th.
Emily Ford lives in Duluth with her partner and their dogs Zulu and Diggins. For her previous history-making challenge, Ford wanted a companion to combat loneliness, however knew her dog Zulu would not be up for hiking such long distances in cold weather. She was suggested to enquire in a sled-dog group on Facebook about borrowing one and was then introduced to Diggins. Despite only initially supposed to be a borrowed trail buddy, Emily and her partner ended up keeping the cute husky which now makes her readily available for adventures whenever Ford needs a companion to keep her company, as well as help with the physical load of all her items.
Why in Winter?
As this is another attempt by Emily Ford of completing a challenge during this time of year, it’s pretty easy to question why would you choose to attempt them in winter? After all winter climates are well known for being trickier and much more extreme than conditions in other seasons on top of the colder temperatures you have to face. For Emily Ford, it isn’t just to make it more of a challenge. Spending 9 months out of the year as head gardener at the Glensheen Historic Estate leaves Ford with 3 months free in the winter to go on any adventures or do any odd jobs she sees fit.
What Emily Ford Hopes This Challenge Can Raise Awareness For
Emily doesn’t just help to promote inclusivity and diversity within the outdoors community, but she is also very conscious of the causes, trails, and places she chooses to promote and use. Her current trail is sponsored by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness which serves to promote diverseness and inclusivity through their outdoor education program which provides diverse students the opportunity to go on canoe trips to the Boundary Waters.
As stated on the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness website, the goal of Emily Ford doing this trip is to ‘ both to raise awareness of the threat proposed copper-sulfide mining poses to the Boundary Waters and to promote diversity and inclusivity in the wilderness.’
When discussing how she hopes the challenge will help to further spread awareness to the copper-sulfide mining proposals, Emily states. ‘When you think of any type of mining or land disruption, we have to remember it’s not just about (humans.) It’s about us as a whole, and that means the moose, the lynx, the bobcat, and the wolf.’ By doing the challenge in winter, Emily hopes to show how you can view the same place in different ways, and be aware of more wildlife and animal species that call the habitat their home.
With people like Emily Ford continuously promoting inclusion and representation, Preet Chandi (Polar Preet) becoming the first woman of colour to complete a solo trek of the South Pole in January 2022 its fair to say that women – especially women of colour – are finally getting their moment to shine in the outdoor industry and and hopefully will lead in even more inclusivity will follow as more people become inspired to take part in getting outdoors and pushing themselves.
For updates on Emily, Diggins, and their adventures check out her Instagram.
Includes Images from Emily Ford’s Instagram: @emilyontrail