Woog’s World / A Westporters deep mark on the skiing community
If the name Reichhelm sounds familiar, it should. Longtime Westporters remember George Reichhelm, a nationally known sailboat racer out of Cedar Point Yacht Club. His wife Carole was a famed horse trainer. Their sons Scott and Todd were noted ski racers.
So was George and Carole’s daughter Kim. In fact, decades after growing up here — and earning local renown as one of the first all-around female athletes — she is still making waves on ski slopes around the world.
Calling the Reichhelms an athletic-minded family is like saying the Kennedys were involved with politics. George Reichhelm was successful on Wall Street, but his passion was sports. Every weekend in the winter — when he could not race boats — he and his wife took their kids to Vermont.
Kim was bitten early by the ski racing bug. No matter how cold or stormy the weather, she was on the slopes. Several other youngsters were equally avid. The Reichhelms joined with a few other parents to start the Stratton Mountain Ski Academy. Starting at age 12, Kim spent winters there. In 10th grade, when the school became fully accredited, she transferred full-time. She graduated from Stratton Ski Academy in 1978.
All along, Kim struggled with dyslexia. In elementary school, she’d been placed in a classroom with mentally challenged students. “Books and classes were difficult,” she said. “But I ruled the playground.”
Sports of all kinds gave Kim confidence, and taught her to be a leader. She was an equestrian, and played field hockey and softball. But skiing — being out on a mountain with the wind in her face, on constantly changing courses — was her greatest love.
Competition was in the Reichhelms’ DNA. “My family was competitive at everything,” she said. “Pumpkin carving, egg dyeing, whatever we did was a contest.”
At a young age, Kim was selected for the United States ski team. But, she said, the training was not as good as Stratton’s. She was independent and outspoken. She fought the national team system. Soon she was dropped from the squad.
Racing for four years at the University of Colorado was “the greatest thing that ever happened,” she said. “I had been brash and selfish. I didn’t know how to be a positive leader. But I learned how to care for other people, and give up a little bit of myself.”
That process of personal growth helped her lead Colorado to a national championship, and her own All-America honors. She headed off to the professional tour.
Thirty years later, Kim is still on the slopes. And for three decades, she’s been passing along her passion — and her knowledge of how skiing can change lives — to others.
In 1989, she started Ski With Kim. It’s a multi-pronged business, including clinics, camps, corporate skiing, private trips and adventure travel for all ages and abilities. She infuses local ski-town culture, group camaraderie and teaching, to create unforgettable experiences. Itineraries include Colorado, Utah, Montana, British Columbia, Chile, Argentina, Japan and heli-skiing in Alaska and Greenland
Her specialty is women. Early on, Kim realized male instructors did not understand that women learn differently than men. They bring different life experiences and expectations to the mountain. Under Kim’s mentorship, women around the world have learned to ski — and travel — with confidence.
Kim’ own confidence is off the charts. After being featured in several ski movies, she was invited to the World Extreme Skiing Championship in Alaska. She and other competitors were airlifted in, then descended mountains never skied before. Points were awarded for aggressiveness, degree of difficulty, control, fluidity and technique.
Kim won that first-ever event in 1991. She returned to Alaska as an Extreme Skiing broadcaster and judge. Four years later she competed again. Once again, she won.
After capturing South American and U.S. Extreme Skiing championships, she retired at 35. Now, leading trips of all kinds, particularly with women, is her life.
“Taking chances, overcoming fears, going outside your comfort zone — what you get from skiing helps you become better in business, and as a parent and partner too,” she said.
Kim’s life revolves around skiing. But she returns to Westport a few times a year. Her parents and brothers still live here. She has always loved the water. She crewed on her father’s national championship boat, and in the early ’80s taught windsurfing at the Longshore Sailing School, and Long Island Sound provides a nice break from the Rockies and Andes.
Last spring, Kim was invited to give the commencement address at Stratton Mountain Ski Academy. Forty years after she graduated, it’s still going strong.
So is she.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.