By Becky Pahl, NHA Adventure Prep Specialist
Meet Elsa Bailey. Elsa is en route to Churchill right now to realize a lifelong dream of seeing polar bears in the wild, as Nat Hab’s 2013 Polar Bear season kicks off today.
I learned of this adventurous, spunky woman at Arapahoe Basin ski area one weekend last May when I witnessed the hoopla surrounding her 100th birthday celebration—yes, Elsa made some turns on skis that day. Being an avid skier myself, a 100-year-old woman skiing really caught my attention. I had to know more about her, to learn her secret to life, which I later found out is simply to do things her way.
I looked Elsa up online when I got home that night and learned through a news story that, after a century of travels and adventures, she still had unchecked items on her bucket list, one of them being to see polar bears in their natural habitat. Of course, I knew just the company to help her with that request, and when I told our president and founder, Ben Bressler, about Elsa, he said we must book her on a trip immediately.
I coordinated with Elsa’s friends to surprise her at a party that her blind skiing organization was having in Colorado Springs. As far as Elsa knew, I was there because her story really struck a chord with me, and I was inspired by her undying adventurous spirit and zest for life. All of that was completely true, but I also had an ulterior motive—to make her polar bear dream a reality on behalf of Nat Hab.
In the course of my conversation with Elsa when I met her, I mentioned that I’d heard she wanted to see polar bears in the wild. With wide eyes and great enthusiasm, she then started telling me—as if I didn’t know—about trips where people travel out on the tundra in vehicles with huge tires to see the bears, to which I said, “Yes, I’m familiar with those types of trips.” I explained to her that the company I work for specializes in such adventures, and that Nat Hab would be honored if she would join us on a Tundra Lodge & Town Adventure in Churchill this fall. Elsa couldn’t have been more thrilled and accepted the offer without hesitation.
I’m happy to say that the day is finally here. Elsa is on her way and will soon be hanging out with the polar bears of Churchill. Stay tuned for our post-trip report on Elsa’s big adventure!
Below is the video clip of the 9News story on Elsa’s 100th birthday party at Arapahoe Basin. You can also see more photos and read about her birthday party on Arapahoe Basin’s blog post.