Athletes to watch: Kate Chapman Zander

Athletes to watch: Kate Chapman Zander

Posted by: Ross Leonhart

Skimo is a family affair for the Zanders

Kate Chapman Zander grew up in Australia before moving to the United States as a teenager with her family. While living in Colorado, she grew to love winter sports like cross-country skiing and in college, she dabbled in the growing sport of ski mountaineering. But the cost of gear caused her to be hesitant to jump right into the Skimo world.

And then she met her husband, Tim, at (of all places) a Skimo race. Together they went to Europe and attempted Mt. Blanc followed by traversing Holy Cross Couloir – both trips limited by the telemark gear she was using.

So together, Kate and Tim bought the proper Skimo gear as a wedding gift to themselves.

“If we’re going to do this, let’s just both do it and invest in the gear,” Kate said. “Each season he encourages me to keep current with it because it is ever evolving.”

Now at 35 years old and living in Frisco, Colorado, Kate considers herself a veteran in the sport.

Kate Chapman Zander and her husband, Tim, enjoy a three-day, two-night traverse in the Gore Range in 2021.

“There’s folks that have been doing it in the mountains for longer than I’ve been alive but not having a name to call it,” she said of Skimo, which will be in the Winter Olympics in 2026. “The actual sport of Skimo as we think about it now – up and down the mountains in spandex – is evolving and it is growing amongst the runners, cyclists, triathletes and folks that maybe aren’t even backcountry skiers. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it is developing its own identity which I think is a good thing.”

Kate said she hopes to be involved with either the coaching or mentoring of Team USA’s Skimo athletes in four years at the Winter Olympics in Italy.

Three years ago, Kate won the Audi Power of Four Ski Mountaineering competition with her teammate, which at the time was the location of the U.S. Championships. She’s competed in Europe as well and has multiple top finishes under her belt, including winning the Grand Traverse with her teammate.

While the competition side of Skimo is exhilarating for Kate, motherhood has changed her outlook on the sport.

“I do have a young family, so the mornings that I get out early and get to go skinning I think of it as a privilege and a gift,” she said. “It’s sort of the one part of my day that I have control over, so it’s just precious.”

Kate works at the Nordic Center and knows that cross-country skiing gives people a good base for ski mountaineering. Tim is one of the few internationally certified referees in the U.S. at the moment.

“I love being fit and being asked to do things, but my husband and I just like to take on missions in the backcountry in the spring,” she said. “They’re not record-breaking but just creative.”

They tried to traversing the Gore Range in Colorado last spring but were shut down due to weather. Together as a family, the Zanders enjoy going out on hut trips and skinning up the mountains with kids in tow.

Kate Chapman Zander and her teammate Nikki LaRochelle celebrate a first-place finish at the Grand Traverse in 2019.

“There’s community, too, within the sport,” Kate said. “It is small, so the folks you meet are pretty like-minded, driven and kind. … Huge shoutout to anyone trying it. If you have any questions, let us know. I think we’re all pretty approachable.”

At the Winter Mountain Games Preview in 2022, Kate is hoping to compete in all three Skimo events, but with her husband working the event as a referee, they will have to balance their time and their kids.

“But I have a babysitter for two out of the three days,” Kate said, optimistic she’ll compete in at least two of the three races in Vail.

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