The Therm-a-Rest Dream Team is a ragtag crew of adventurers and explorers that, in our opinion, have some pretty incredible stories, objectives and pursuits. They share our draw to the great outdoors and also share our desire for a better night outside. We’re excited to share their stories over the next few months and hope their adventures inspire you like they inspired all of us here in Seattle.

Without further ado, we give you the 2018 Winter Dream Team.

Heather Laptalo

Photo: Ben Christensen

How did you find your passion?

I found my passion for skiing after a couple years of mountaineering. My goal is always to see how fast I can climb a mountain and wanted a faster way to get down so I learned how to ski for efficiency. I ended up falling in love with the sport and often ski just to ski, not because I’m climbing something.

Where is your favorite place to spend a day?

My favorite place to be is outside, around few people. I love camping by glacier lakes in the Cascades. I enjoy backpacking or skiing into a mountain-less area, setting up camp and then using a day pack to climb nearby peaks.

What is your greatest triumph in the outdoors?

Running and skiing. I’ve had 3 back surgeries and all my doctors told me I would never be able to physically run or ski.

Photo: Kristina Kurcinka

Why is resting better outside important for you?

If I’m sleeping outside, I’m conquering a physical challenge. If I don’t get good sleep, it’s really hard to achieve my goal. Solid sleep and nourishment are essential for all athletic endeavors.

Frankie Devlin

Who inspires you?

I used to volunteer for Snowboard Outreach Society up at Snoqulalmie Pass. We taught underserved youth to snowboard over the course of a 5 week after school program. Most of the kids had never been snowboarding before and some had never even left the city. Despite the bad weather, icy snow and sometimes ill-fitting gear those kids were infectiously stoked. Their passion for learning and enthusiasm for adventure will be an inspiration for the rest of my life.

What is your greatest triumph outdoors?

In June of 2016 10 of us spent nearly a month climbing and snowboarding on Denali. It was a mind blowing experience that we all appreciated to the fullest. In contrast to many of the super-focused peakbaggers, our mantra was “we have fun every day”. While most of us did reach the summit, the best memories were from long sunset power laps, or hilarious evenings spent riding out storms in the group tent.

Breaking trail at WA Pass. Photo: Megan Bailey

Where is your favorite place to spend a day?

A night spent in the North Cascades followed by splitboard laps in fresh snow is my ideal trip.

Couloir on a trip to Valhalla Mountain Lodge. Photo: Justin Kious

Why is resting better outside important for you?

There’s no better way to refresh your mind and body than sleeping outside under a starry sky.

Erin Cunningham

Photo: Todd Sweatland (@themountainspeaks)

How did you find your passion?

I found my love of backcountry skiing after my first experiencing boot packing to Artist’s point near Mount Baker with my sister and her husband on Easter day in 2013. It was a struggle walking in snowboard boots and carrying my heavy board but earning those turns on a sunny spring day in April, felt amazing! As I settled into my new home in Seattle, and jumped head first into the outdoor community. I looked into joining a search and rescue team as I loved the idea of combining my passion for medicine and helping people in the outdoors. I soon realized, the best way to get into the backcountry was to surrender my snowboard and return to my ski racing roots. A year later, I took an AIARE level 1 avalanche course, bought my first backcountry ski setup, and never looked back. I took my avalanche course in an all women group (SheJumps) through a guide service at Rainier National Park and quickly made ski partners. I soaked in every opportunity to get out in the backcountry and learn about avalanche risk, snowpack, terrain selection and safe decision-making. Last winter, I had the opportunity to spend the winter in Canada skiing at a backcountry ski lodge. I learned SO much as I gained experience in professionally guided and self-guided groups as well as in my level 2 avalanche course. Just recently, I bought a home within an hour and a half drive of Mount Baker, bought a season’s pass and look forward to exploring the Mount Baker backcountry as well as head back up to Canada for a few hut trips and ski traverses. There is nothing more exhilarating than using your own two legs to reach a backcountry objective and choose your own untouched line to ski down! I love every minute!

Photo: Todd Sweatland (@themountainspeaks)

What is your most embarrassing backcountry moment?

I have many embarrassing moments in the backcountry…most of which include emergency use of the natural outdoor facilities on the side of the volcanoes I climb and ski down. I’m hoping packing it out doesn’t leave too terrible of a smelly trail as I ski down the mountain. One of my most recent embarrassing moments was skiing down a beautiful powder line in the backcountry at Mount Baker. At the bottom were a few folks transitioning back to touring mode, watching my descent. I was just cruising along in a beautiful rhythm, when my tip caught underneath and spun me 360 degrees around and I proceeded to face plant into the snow yelling, “oh geez” in my MN accent! I emerged from the snow laughing and my boyfriend got the entire run on video so we can continue to laugh at it!!

What sport do you really want to learn more about and why?

I recently bought a set of ice tools and new crampons for ice climbing. I tried ice climbing this past fall on some glacial seracs on Mount Baker and absolutely fell in love with the sport. I found climbing ice a lot less terrifying than rock. The freedom of choosing your own line and sticking a hold with your tools feels pretty dang exhilarating. I do have a slight fear of exposure and falling but I love a good challenge and ice climbing is definitely a whole new world for me!

Photo: Kaitlin Shanklin (@wherekaitswent)

What is your favorite Therm-a-Rest product and why?

I really enjoy my NeoAir sleeping pad since it’s very light weight and compact for backpacking. I’m looking forward to trying the Xtherm SpeedValve sleeping pad for the higher R-value and fast inflation while snow camping and winter hut trips!