Merrick Mordal

Teamwork makes the dream work

From Women Empowerment to Bad Ass Shredding. She’s a super mom and a mountain guide. Meet our ambassador Merrick Johnston.


I was born and raised in Alaska. My parents provided the space for me to find my love for recreating outside and the need to be an active member of the community. Now as an active mother myself, I can imagine that my father and two older brothers were turned off by the outdoors, when my mom tried to rally them to ski in -40 degrees weather in Fairbanks with the idea of never stop moving as the only way to keep you warm. Norrøna down jackets could have definitely been a game changer for them. I am not sure if her tactics had changed or the winters were warmer when I came around, but luckily for her and me, we found our grounding together in outdoor activities. We learned how to ice climb together, when I was 8 years old. We then began rock climbing a year later. At 10, we began mountaineering.

At 12, I became the youngest to summit North America’s highest peak, Denali, while raising funds for Anchorage Center for Families.

- Merrick Johnston


Soon after, my mom started a guiding company, Great Alaskan Gourmet Adventures. She would make the best food on camping stoves. At 14, I began assistant guiding with her and proceeded to assistant guide for others, which had me guiding on Denali at 18 yo.

I have been guiding in the mountains on the side of other work for over 20 years. This is the first year I am guiding for my own company that I started with Lena Dahl, Tromsø Ski Guides AS. Lena is one of the few females fully certified through Nortind and our daughters are best friends. We are hoping to generate more Tromsø-based guiding work that is more conducive to family-life.

 

I came to Norway in 2009 with the intensions of gaining transferrable knowledge in energy and policy and not to be here over two years. 11 years later, I didn’t quite leave Norway. Currently, I live in Tromsø with my Norwegian husband and our two kids that are 5 and 7 years old. In 2017, I quit my oil job of 8 years that I first came to Noway for and took another master’s at UIT to study fish by/co-products. Now I work as a ski guide and a project manager for the largest private waste management company in Northern Norway, Perpetuum. One of my projects is called Fish Fuel and is a feasibility study for a biogas facility using fish poop as the main input.

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Dedicated to the mountains

After quitting my oil job, I wanted to further my certifications as a mountain guide and make it a more essential part of my life. I knew it wouldn’t be easy as a foreigner, mom of young children and main financial provider to the family. I needed to build a supportive network through outdoor companies.

At the time, I felt very alone and unsure of myself as I faced charges from child services from an anonymous person that claimed I took our daughter in extreme weather and sports.

- Merrick Johnston


The 6-page letter referred to pictures I had posted on Facebook, such as my baby girl sitting on my lap in a whitewater kayak on the side of the cold river. In contrast to the accusation made in the letter, I didn’t paddle down the river with her in my lap. I thought that I shouldn’t post on Facebook anymore to protect my outdoor lifestyle that maybe had different comfort boundaries than the norm, but I loved how Social Media made me feel connected to family and friends in the States. Instead of changing who I was and what I shared on SoMe, I asked for friends to help me be more profiled so that I could make room for people like me in the public eye.

Norrøna ambassador

Norrøna represented the quintessential Norwegian freeride, mountaineering outdoor brand that had a bright and flashy presence. It became a dream to be a part of the team.

I thought I didn’t have a chance to become a visible ambassador when I started writing the application. I probably didn’t if the application came to them only from me, but all these mountain friends began writing and contacting people on my behalf. Where I thought I was alone, I actually already had a support network around me that wanted to see me rise to the next level. Asbjørn Eggebø Næss quickly became a dear friend and saw the value of expanding the norm for mom-life and helped me establish win-win connections.

I have now been with Norrøna four years and haven’t changed who I am. Every person I have met in this company has greeted me with open arms and respect. I am motivated to collaborate with them in product testing, marketing, and in sustainability projects.

The lofoten shoot

I thought I was going to be joining the Norrøna gang in Lofoten for the shoot and camp planned March 2020, but due to COVID-19, we had to adjust the scope like the rest of the world. I love people that see a silver lining in the face of challenges. Nikolai Schrimer embodies that personality trait. He always shines the best light on everyone he meets and makes the most of not sticking to the original plan situation. He is always looking to create positive memories and further win-win relationships. When he asked me if I wanted to still have a Lofoten shoot based with local objectives and crew, it was an easy approval decision.

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First, I thought I wanted to bring another female on board that also wanted to break into the Nortind world. More representation allows for more progression in product development for female clothing. I began sharing the Lofoten product clothes with my friend, Emma Sunnefeldt Nyberg and asked local photographer, Martin Andersen to capture some mountains moments of us. Norrøna approved the pictures and then a shoot was planned for spring with Kristin Folsland Olsen as a photographer and as drone operator. It was so much easier testing the products alongside a friend, so we could discuss features we liked or would change.

 

The Lofoten Gore-Tex jacket and Pro pants became quickly my preferred outerwear for spring skiing when the days were still seeing cold temperatures in the shade. I like the adjustability and flexibility of these products. I especially like the two large pockets in the pants alongside with the front pockets of the Lyngen 35L pack to make snacks, phone, gloves, and hats easily accessible.

I found that at 164 cm, I am a small, instead of medium that I ordered and this is especially the case in the pants. Emma is 173 and also prefers small for the lofoten pants.

- Merrick Johnston

Emma and I ventured to Lyngen with Nikolai to ski north-facing spines, but the weatherforcast decided white-out conditions instead of the prognosed sun. We ended up enjoying lunch and tea under Norrøna’s lightweight windsack, so it was still a good day out. It was tricky finding a free day to venture with the team when my planned ski guiding jobs were replaced with waste management projects and my kids needed more care with the limited school system due to COVID. It was a juggling act so my pack was not usually packed the day before. The next trip we went on was on was Middagstind and you can see Nikos YouTube channel to see that we should have adjusted our DIN, took bigger skis, and especially a longer rope. But again, still a good day out.

Emma and I were not stoked on our skiing performance on Middagstind due partly that we both released from our skis in the breakable crust conditions and were ready for revenge the next days. We were ready to push each other, have fun, and embody the Norøna Lofoten collection. To us the collection meant flashy, stylish clothes that played their way down sunny, snowy peaks perched over the ocean. Our skiing performance became less important, but our grins and appreciation for the surroundings took over the center stage.


The lofoten collection and the Lofoten area represent to me this transition of focusing to becoming a better free skier, but to focus on experiencing the beautiful surroundings and playful nature of freeriding.

1 thought on “Teamwork makes the dream work”

  1. I’ve known Merrick since the day she was born. She arrived as a benevolent and inspiring Princess of the Universe – lover of family and the earth – and now she is the Queen. Keep us believing in what’s possible, Merrick!

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