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Adventurer Mark Jenkins to Present Last of the First Skiers

January 8, 2014 — National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins will share his experiences with one of the world’s oldest skiing cultures Thursday, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Center for the Arts Theatre in Jackson. The visual presentation is free and open to the public.

A writer in residence at the University of Wyoming, Jenkins lived and hunted with tribal members in Central Asia’s Altai Mountains, a ski culture that has survived unchanged for at least 5,000 years. Their wide, long, curve-tipped skis are hewn by axe from red spruce and the bases nailed with silky horsehair, Jenkins says. These ancient skis glide smoothly over powder and yet can climb practically straight up.

“The Kazakh and Tuvan tribesmen of the region use the skis to hunt elk. Guns are illegal, so they lasso the beasts from their skis --- a primordial tableau that is depicted in local petroglyphs dating from 8,000 B.C.,” he says.

Jenkins says he will “explore the last enclave of prehistoric skiing, its links to the modern global ski culture, and the profound adaptability of humankind in an increasingly globalized world.”

The program is part of the UW Global Studies Excellence Initiative and continues the World to Wyoming outreach series.

A critically acclaimed author and internationally recognized journalist, Jenkins covers geopolitics and adventure. Among hundreds of stories, he has written about land mines in Cambodia, the war in Eastern Congo, the loss of koalas in Australia, global warming in Greenland, ethnic cleansing in Burma, and climbing Mount Everest in Nepal.

Jenkins has won numerous writing awards, including the Overseas Press Club Ross Award for “The Healing Fields” in 2013 and a National Magazine Award with colleague Brint Stirton for “Who Murdered the Mountain Gorillas” in 2009. Both of these projects provided the basis for statewide presentations at Wyoming’s community colleges as part of UW’s Global and Area Studies Program’s international speaker series.

The event is sponsored by UW Global and Area Studies, InterConnections 21, Skinny Skis of Jackson Hole, the UW Outreach School, the Russian Club of Jackson Hole and the Ruth R. Ellbogen Foundation.

Mark Jenkins lived and hunted with tribal members in Central Asia’s Altai Mountains, a ski culture that has survived unchanged for at least 5,000 years. (UW Photo)

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