World-renowned ski mountaineer, environmental activist running for Utah’s open Senate seat

Between bagging peaks around the globe, Caroline Gleich has advocated for policies to protect the Great Salt Lake and protested Utah’s congressional maps.

(Gleich campaign) Ski mountaineer and climate activist Caroline Gleich takes a photograph outside the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, while filing to enter the U.S. Senate race as a Democratic candidate.

First, she summited Mount Everest. Now, climate activist Caroline Gleich has set her sights on Capitol Hill.

The Park City-based professional ski mountaineer filed with the lieutenant governor’s office Monday to run as a Democrat for outgoing Sen. Mitt Romney’s seat.

“As I start this climb towards the U.S. Senate, I carry with me the lessons learned from reaching mountain peaks and navigating life’s terrain,” Gleich wrote on social media Monday. “My commitment is unwavering — to empower, to protect, and to advocate for a brighter future.”

Gleich’s “vision for Utah,” a statement said, “is rooted in a commitment to creating positive change, with a focus on advocating for people and the planet, social and environmental justice, and elevating critical issues such as air quality, gender equity, climate action, and more.”

Her posts about her adventures attempting to bag and ski peaks like Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Vinson in Antarctica are interspersed with videos drawing attention to climate concerns and human rights issues around the globe.

One year ago, Gleich stood on the steps of the Utah Capitol, rallying for state lawmakers to take action to increase water flow to the ailing Great Salt Lake.

“When we talk about big, ambitious environmental goals like saving our Great Salt Lake, people are going to say it’s impossible, and we can’t listen to what anyone else says that we’re capable of,” Gleich said then.

She continued, “It’s time to prioritize public health, to change our antiquated water laws. Our mountains, our air, our rivers and lakes, our lives deserve respect. They have value. Our elected officials must stop selling our public lands to the highest bidder, and stop using our waterways as dumping grounds.

In July, the weekend before the Utah Supreme Court heard arguments in a challenge against the state’s redistricting process, Gleich organized a 1.9-mile “Run to Redistrict” through all four of Utah’s congressional districts to protest the electoral boundaries established by the Utah Legislature.

In announcing her Senate run, Gleich earned endorsements from other prominent athletes, including rock climber Conrad Anker, who wrote in a story on Instagram, “Super respect for [Gleich] for stepping up. If all the outdoor enthusiasts coalesce for Caroline we have a chance.”

Chances as a Democrat in deep-red Utah are slim. The last Democrat to occupy the seat was Frank Moss, who was elected in 1958 and later lost a reelection campaign to Orrin Hatch in 1976.

In 2022, Democrats threw their support behind independent candidate Evan McMullin, who described himself as a “conservative,” but more moderate alternative to Sen. Mike Lee. McMullin ultimately lost by 10 percentage points.

So far one other Democrat — Archie Williams III — has filed to run for the open position.

If Gleich secures the Democratic nomination, she will face one of several Republicans who are competing for the spot. Among them are current Rep. John Curtis, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, late Sen. Orrin Hatch’s son Brent O. Hatch, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs and former Lee staffer Carolyn Phippen.

“I have always been an underdog my entire life, and when I told people about my dreams of climbing and skiing the biggest mountains in the world, they told me, ‘you’re too small and delicate, you’re not strong enough, you don’t look like a mountaineer,’” Gleich said in a video posted to Instagram Monday, again on the steps of the Utah Capitol. “So I’m used to doing what people tell me is impossible.”

Help Utahns have access to trusted reporting this election year

The Salt Lake Tribune’s election coverage is free during the 2024 primaries thanks to the generous support of donors. Join them with a gift to our independent, nonprofit newsroom and ensure we can continue to make this critical reporting free to all Utahns this year.