Ruffwear Ambassadors: Get to Know Theresa and Cassie
Cascade (Cassie) and her human, Theresa Silveyra, are among the newest additions to the Ruffwear ambassador team. As we've gotten to know Theresa, we've been inspired by her efforts to create opportunities for women to connect and adventure outdoors together. From launching a gear scholarship program for women of color, to working as a music teacher, and adventuring with Cassie all over the Pacific Northwest, Theresa knows how to make time for all of her passions.
We recently sat down with Theresa to find out what she and Cassie have been up to, and to learn how Cassie plays a role in Theresa's own journey of finding joy and practicing gratitude in the outdoors.
Ruffwear: We’re so happy to have you and Cassie join our ambassador team. It seems like you’ve been super busy these last few months! Before we dive into all of that, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your pup, Cassie?
Theresa: Absolutely! So we’re currently based in Portland, Oregon and live relatively close to some of our favorite trails in Forest Park, as well as more adventurous places like the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood. Cassie has been a beloved family member since 2016. We adopted her through a rescue program based in Texas. She actually arrived by plane. We didn’t get to meet her before adopting her and only learned more about her from emails with her foster family, but I’m so happy we took the chance. She immediately took to us (although I will admit that she’s a bit more taken with my partner than with me) and has enjoyed a loving and spoiled lifestyle ever since.
Ruffwear: What activities do you like to do together?
Theresa: My partner and I love to take Cassie trail running, backpacking/camping, cragging, and, most recently, skiing! She’s a very active dog. She’s joined us on long trail runs (up to 30 miles so far!) and has even climbed a few Cascade volcanoes with us, including Mount St. Helens and South Sister. All that being said, Cassie’s favorite activity, no matter how fatigued she is, is playing fetch. Her favorite word is “ball” and whenever we say it to her she immediately seeks it out so we’ll play with her. Now if we could only get her to bring the ball all the way back to us rather than dropping it 10+ feet away each time...
Ruffwear: Has Cassie played a role in your personal journey finding belonging in the outdoors?
Theresa: Cassie hasn’t necessarily played a role in my sense of belonging, but she has definitely influenced my ability to appreciate any time spent outdoors and really embrace and take in my surroundings. When I am by myself, either climbing, skiing, or running, I am usually very focused on the task at hand, moving quickly in an attempt to push myself physically. Obviously that is never Cassie’s goal during any of these activities. When I’m with her, I’m forced to slow down so she can sniff anything and everything, poop, or just stop altogether for rest or treat/water breaks. In these moments of standing still, watching Cassie sniff around excitedly or roll around in patches of snow or grass, I’m reminded that it’s so important to appreciate the little things and these joyous times with her while they last. Through Cassie, I’ve also learned to adjust my perception about what it means to “get outside.” It doesn’t have to mean a long trail run through the forest or a big ski tour in the mountains. It can be time spent throwing her favorite ball around in the backyard or walking around the neighborhood in the quiet morning hours. Cassie finds joy in all of these things, and because of that, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for all of it, too.
Ruffwear: Tell us a bit more about the reason and inspiration behind launching your own self-funded mountaineering gear scholarship for women of color this past December?
Theresa: I want to see more women of color getting after it in the mountains. I want to see more of us represented. One of the barriers in place is access to gear, especially for many women of color who don’t have the privilege of generational wealth. The gear scholarship was something I’d been wanting to do for a while but didn’t have the resources (i.e., money) to be able to fund it. After cancelling a long-planned trip due to COVID in November (coupled with Thanksgiving holiday paid time off that I was receiving for the first time ever from work), I finally had enough to purchase a couple pairs of crampons and ice axes from Mountain Shop here in Portland, who also provided me with gear rental certificates for additional scholarship recipients. It meant a lot to me to be able to partner with and support a local business in addition to providing gear to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it, so I’m happy with the way I went about it.
Over 20 women of color applied, and reading their stories further highlighted the widespread, systemic barriers in place that prevent many of us from climbing mountains and how often we are gaslit into believing these issues don’t exist. It was both frustrating and validating to review each application. My hope is that I’ll be able to offer this gear scholarship each year if I’m able. I’m well aware that it’s only a small action and can’t resolve the systemic issues underlying it all, but it’s better than inaction. It’s a reminder to myself that we are not powerless as individuals. We all have the ability to care for and support those in our community.
Ruffwear: What does creating opportunities for women to connect and adventure outdoors together look like for you?
Theresa: For me personally, creating opportunities has primarily involved stepping into more of a leadership and organizer role. Prior to the pandemic, I was planning and hosting in-person events (hikes, workshops, or even happy hour networking events) as an ambassador for the PNW Outdoor Women group. The ripple effect that came from providing these consistent opportunities for women in the outdoor community to regularly get together outside and empower each other was seeing many of these same women come together and organize even more outdoor adventure opportunities with each other beyond the PNWOW group. That continued branching out and fostering friendships has always been the most rewarding part of it all.
Ruffwear: You also recently joined the instructor team for Climbers of Color this season. Tell us a bit more about this new role?
Theresa: I had the privilege to connect with the leadership team for Climbers of Color last summer after launching a fundraiser to raise money for their organization. One of the questions that was posed to me was if I had any interest in becoming an instructor at some point (since Climbers of Color currently doesn’t have any women instructors for their mountaineering program). To say I was overjoyed to be considered would be an understatement. I had the opportunity to shadow their 4-day Mountaineering Leadership II course on Mount Baker last summer to learn more about the course and have been training with Don Nguyen, the co-founder of Climbers of Color and Director of Mountaineering and Ice programs, to prepare. I’ve also been seeking out further educational opportunities, including a 12-day technical leadership course with American Alpine Institute this summer and *hopefully* the AMGA Alpine Skills Course if I’m accepted into the affinity program that I applied for.
I’m excited to be co-instructing on an all-women of color mountaineering course this summer on Mount Baker in collaboration with Trail Mixed Collective and Climbers of Color. It’s something I’ve wanted to see happen for years and I’m ecstatic to get to be a part of it. I’m also incredibly stoked to be co-instructing alongside our lead guide and one of my personal heroes, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, the first woman from Nepal to become an IFMGA guide! I’m looking forward to working with and learning from her so I can continue to grow as an instructor and help organize and lead more courses like this for Climbers of Color.
Ruffwear: What inspires you?
Theresa: Watching more and more women of color in the outdoor industry take up space, recognize their worth, and hype up other women of color in the community. This past year has been the first time I’ve really connected with more women of color in the mountains and it has been their presence and support that has motivated me to keep putting myself out there, dare to dream bigger, and work to create these same opportunities for other women of color.
Ruffwear: What adventures or goals do you have planned for yourself and Cassie this year?
Theresa: To be honest, I’m not entirely sure yet! I have a fair bit of climbing and skill building goals this year, especially as I begin to do more instructing with Climbers of Color, so those have been my priority when it comes to planning. That being said, my partner and I are hoping to ski down Mount Adams and South Sister this spring/summer and would love to have Cassie join us for those adventures! We’d also like to run the Timberline Trail with her in a single day. She’s done it as a 2-day fastpacking trip, but with some training, she’s absolutely capable of completing it in one long day. Other than that, we’ll continue to do our weekly mini-adventures in/near Portland that Cassie enjoys just as much as the bigger ones.
Thanks for joining us, Theresa! We wish you all the best in chasing your goals.
Follow all of Theresa and Cassies adventures on Instagram.