Dena Zocher writes about interesting people, places, things.
by Dena Zocher on October 5, 2018
Painter Leslie Jorgensen didn’t grow up in Colorado, but after she took a job in Denver in 1989, she never looked back.
“I grew up in Florida, and when I moved here it was the first time I had ever seen snow,” she says. “I loved it and I knew I wanted to spend time in those mountains.”
Leslie quickly came to love Alpine skiing, taking full advantage of the great resort areas in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountains. But a few years ago, the call of the backcountry became irresistible, leading Leslie to explore new mountain adventures on the road less travelled.
It turns out she’s not alone. According to the SnowSports Industries America research group, in 2015 about one in five skiers and snowboarders explored some sort of backcountry. That’s about 3.2 million people forsaking the convenience of ski lifts to hike up a mountain using boots, snowshoes, split boards or skins.
“I wanted to get farther into nature, away from the mechanical lifts and the crowds,” says Leslie. “Before releasing ourselves into the wild, my husband and I took AIARE AVI avalanche training at Rocky Mountain National Park. We did a few hut trips, and we were hooked!”
A landscape painter for many years, Leslie quickly found her new passion taking over her art. “I was in the studio trying to work on other things. But really, I just wanted to be out skiing. I decided to combine the two disciplines of backcountry skiing and art, and something cool happened.”
For Leslie, the mountains, the wind, the cold, the colors – and even the majesty of silence – had become forces that demanded to be expressed through her work. “I love what the wild places have done to me and to my art,” says Leslie. “The energy of these places comes across on the canvas.”
“My work on this series reflects not just my personal journeys into the backcountry, but also the incredible forces of nature and the wonder of something so infinitely greater than myself,” says Leslie. “In my paintings the landscape is large and the figures are small, emphasizing how tiny and insignificant we are in this immense environment.”
“For me, the backcountry represents adventure, risk and a test of my own strength,” says Leslie. “In our over-mechanized world, the fact that such immense, wild, forceful places exist is both inspiring and deeply comforting.”