Live Like a Local: Ellen Miller

Vail Valley’s Most Accomplished Mountaineer

To Ellen Miller, to elevate” means to rise above, to strive to be better, to raise one another to a higher state.

One purpose in my life is to elevate others,” the long-time Vail Valley local says. Every morning, Miller strives to wake up and acknowledge how blessed she is to live in such a beautiful place.

My favorite part about living here is the mountains, snow sports, our access to wilderness and the community of amazing people,” she says. We are very privileged to have a backyardlike this.”

Miller has lived and worked in the Vail Valley for over 30 years, and she notably emulates the mountain lifestyle. Her primary passion is mountain climbing and being at high altitude. She was the first American woman to climb both sides of Mount Everest from Nepal and Tibet.

Photos courtesy of Ellen Miller

As the founder of the Vail Mountain Winter Uphill Race and The Climb for Literacy, access to the wilderness and supporting the community are fundamental values to Miller. She frequently appears in local programming, such as The Vail Symposium and the Colorado Snowsports Museum.

I enjoy giving back to my community and to the places I value by volunteering for the Town of Vail as a summer Vail Trail Host and for the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance as a wildlife ambassador,” Miller says. In fact, she was named the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance 2021 Volunteer of the Year.

Her dedication and ambitious spirit give pulse to locals also contributing to Vail Valleys world-renowned vibrancy. To many, she is not only a huge inspiration but a living legend.

"The wilderness and forest in the Vail Valley are precious; please treat it with care." Ellen Miller

Today, Miller works as a caregiver for an elderly patient. To her best ability, she connects with nature every day for mental, physical and spiritual health,” as she puts it. Whether thats hiking up Vail Mountain before work on a winter day or going climbing in the summer months, she says to never underestimate the value of an exhilarating jaunt above tree line.

“The wilderness and forest in the Vail Valley are precious; please treat it with care,” she advises. “Everyone who lives here has a responsibility to care for these precious places and to help educate our visitors about the importance of ‘Leave No Trace’ and respecting wildlife.”

This summer, Miller is leading wilderness educational hikes through Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance/USFS. She will also be volunteering at various trailheads during seasonal wildlife closures. And, it doesn’t stop there; you can also find her competing in local trail running races throughout the season, followed by ski mountaineering events in the winter.


“For the past 16 years, I have also worked as the manager of the USA Women’s Mountain Running Team, so we look forward to returning to post-pandemic competitions with these athletes,” she adds.

When Miller climbs, she says she feels insignificant amongst the grandeur of the high peaks. It helps her to see things from a higher perspective. “Elevation will always be important to me,” she shares. As one of Vail Valley’s most accomplished mountaineers, Miller’s work as an outdoor fitness coach and community ambassador is leaving a legacy that’s cherished by many.