Olympian Inspired by Outdoors, Humanism and Storytellers
Growing up surrounded by the beauty of the Grand Tetons and the Jackson Hole Valley had a lasting impact on Jennifer Corbet’s outlook on outdoor spaces.
As a child, Corbet loved experiencing the rugged wilderness in her backyard. “My brothers and I would run around the woods. I backpacked. I skied. I cycled. I loved being outside. At that time, Jackson Hole looked much different than it does today. Our neighbors were old homesteaders, cowboys, ranchers, and ski patrollers. Regardless of who you were, you cared about the environment…the community really was a microcosm,” she shared.
Corbet’s parents were instrumental in instilling a passion for the outdoors.
Her dad, Barry Corbet, was a world-renowned mountaineer. He helped place the highest camp during a 1963 American Everest expedition, and he made the first ascent of Mount Tyree in Antarctica. He was also an avid and respected skier: Corbet’s Couloir on Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is named after him. His perseverance and positive outlook carried him through challenging times after a helicopter crash left him paralyzed when he was 32 years-old. After this life altering experience, Barry Corbet served as a strong advocate for the disabled and as a writer and editor for New Mobility magazine.
Corbet’s mom, Muffy Moore, was also a gifted climber with a deep appreciation for wild spaces. Moore was a County Commissioner and was instrumental in setting the master planning for Teton County, WY, protecting this unique natural area for decades. Moore encouraged Corbet to attend college on the East Coast, as she wanted her daughter to experience an entirely different culture and region than she had in Wyoming.
“I was the first female in my family to get accepted to Dartmouth College, but I ultimately decided to buck family tradition and go to Brown University (Providence, R.I.),” Corbet said. “I wanted to be a geologist; my interest in that field stemmed from taking a fantastic high school geology class.” As she dived into her studies, she changed her focus to the environment and also decided to test the waters at competitive rowing.
“I tried many sports in middle and high school, but was never that good, even though both of my parents were outstanding athletes,” Corbet said. “I finally discovered a sport that suited me, and I liked working with others towards a common goal.” On the Brown University rowing team, Corbet trained on the scenic but sadly very polluted Seekonk River and Narragansett Bay.
After earning her bachelor’s degree, she deferred plans for law school and moved to Seattle, WA, to compete for a spot on the US Women’s Rowing Team. There Corbet trained surrounded by the beauty of Mount Rainier and the Puget Sound.
“I remember seeing the other women who had massive builds and was somewhat intimated,” but still she earned a seat on the team. “I trained three hours in the morning and three hours at night, six days a week, while holding down a job to pay my living expenses. It was a rigorous schedule.”
Corbet’s dedication for the sport took her to the 1987 World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark where she and her teammate placed fourth in the straight pair event. She went on to compete at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, placing fifth in the four-with-coxswain event.
After the Olympics, Corbet had the opportunity to continue training, but ultimately decided to go back to school, studying resource ecology and earning a MS degree from the University of Michigan. From there Corbet started a career with the USDA Forest Service.
“Working at the Forest Service allowed me to be at a place where change happens–not an easy place to be, but where significant impact can be made. I believe we need to dive into the middle of hard issues and try to find consensus rather than shout from the edges. My Forest Service position allowed me to implement new paradigms, lead interdisciplinary teams, and influence major public projects with significant environmental impacts,” Corbet related. One of the projects Corbet participated in was Clinton’s President’s Forest Plan, where she helped collate and respond to over 120,000 public comments. This involved collaboration with OGC and DOJ attorneys on legal matters determined by the National Environmental Protection Act , Organic Act, National Forest Management Act, and other relevant legislation.
She also met her future husband, Randy Hickenbottom, a fellow Forest Service employee.
“We met in Bly, OR, a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere,” Corbet said. Because the two worked for the same organization, policy dictated they could not work in the same jurisdiction.
This meant they were required to work in different locations and were often separated for long periods of time. After several years at the Forest Service, Corbet opted to take her career in another direction – enrolling in a school for acupuncture and oriental medicine. Having expertise in acupuncture and eastern medicine enabled Corbet to treat patients in remote areas where Hickenbottom was stationed.
The two eventually landed in Colorado where they raised their family, and Corbet embarked on yet another career and list of accomplishments. She has skills as a technical writer, something she did while training for the Olympics, and decided to hang out her shingle as an independent contractor working with experts in the environmental, medical, and forensic engineering fields.
“My passion has always been forging relationships and helping people find common ground,” she said. “I enjoy recognizing people and organizations that aren’t typically recognized, and I want to help our community to talk and truly see one another despite all the issues that divide us.” Towards that end, Corbet is now a publisher with Best Version Media, producing Evergreen Living, Foothills Living and Conifer-285 Living magazines, giving her the opportunity to share local, personal stories with a wide audience.
Corbet is proud to follow in her parents’ footsteps as an advocate for storytelling, conservation and highlighting the mountain way of life, and is especially proud to support MALT.
Together, we’re saving the land and leaving a legacy.