“We strive to create confident women in the outdoors”

Photographer: Ashley Johnson

Q: What inspired you to start an outdoor program specifically designed for women? 

Sierra: Part of my inspiration lies in the “what” and another part lies in the “who.”
The “what” of my inspiration has to do with getting my Bachelor’s degree in outdoor studies at Alaska Pacific University. I completed several expeditions during my time at APU. I have always loved the outdoors and it was always something I had a hard time saying goodbye to because it’s just a huge part of who I am. Throughout my education, I realized how much I enjoyed the creative process of designing programs. I enjoyed it so much so that I completed a self-designed concentration in Recreation Program Design. I was intrinsically motivated to promote change and to see change within the outdoor industry. My friend Kalley was the champion that truly inspired me to start this nonprofit and see it to fruition. 

Photographer: Ashley Johnson

Q: How did you come up with the name Pioneers? Why Pioneers?  

Sierra: I was in awe of mountaineer, Arlene Blum, who led the all-women ascent atop Annapurna in 1978. Although she wasn’t the first to explore the slopes of Annapurna, she proved that mountains can be scaled by females. So, in the same way, the name Pioneers implies that women are powerful in their ability to spearhead any adventure. The “s” in Pioneers resembles unity; we are a team and we are in this together. 

Photographer: Ashley Johnson

Q: How do you want women to feel after attending a course?

Sierra: I want women to feel connected to themselves and to nature. After attending a course, women should feel that they have found a community to support them. I want them to leave with more confidence and strength, knowing that they can do anything they set their heart and mind to. I want them to know they are capable of stupendous things! 

Photographer: Ashley Johnson

Q: What kind of courses do you offer and who are they for?

Sierra: In the summer months we offer three-day backpacking courses and during the off season we will be offering courses related to outdoor skill intensives for females 18 and older. We are in the process of creating more courses and hope to have more to offer in the Summer of 2021. 

Photographer: Ashley Johnson

Q: How has COVID changed the way you do business? Are you currently offering courses?

Sierra: COVID has definitely disrupted our courses especially since we just opened in March 2020, but it hasn’t kept us from dreaming big. We know that we have a personal responsibility to help slow and mitigate the spread within our community, so that’s what we are doing. Currently, we are dreaming and scheming of ways that we can still educate women in the outdoors during this time.

Q: How can we as Alaskans support this amazing program? 

Sierra: There are so many ways to support PIONEERS. Our biggest support comes from word of mouth and getting our name out there. You can also donate, and all of the proceeds go towards furthering Pioneers’ vision to bring empowerment and outdoor education to every female. Other ways to support us are through in-kind donations and sponsorship. We are always looking for new or gently used gear for women to use during our courses. You can contact Sierra Palmer, for more info: s.palmer@pioneersforwomen.org.

Meet Sierra Palmer

Sierra was born and raised in Washougal, Washington. She spent her childhood mucking horse stalls, horseback riding, skateboarding, and biking. She moved to Alaska with her husband in 2014 and pursued her undergraduate degree at Alaska Pacific University. She graduated with her undergraduate degree in Outdoor Studies with a concentration in Recreational Program Design. After graduation, Sierra became an Alaska State Advocate for Leave No Trace and later began pursuing her dreams of starting a non-profit to engage women in outdoor pursuits. She loves to backpack, hike, bike, run, and aims to invest more of her time into mountaineering and climbing. 

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Hali Young is a true Alaskan with an adventurous soul, born and raised in Eagle River. She recently graduated from UAA with a Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition and intends to pursue a career in which she can assist individuals in bettering their health and wellness through nutrition, which translates to having more energy and feeling healthier each day. Her goal is to meld her passions to her career so that she may assist with improving the health and wellness of others. Hali loves running, hiking, backcountry skiing, fishing, and coffee. She seeks adventure and thrill and is always in search of the next great quest.


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