Obituary: Karen Rebecca Sahn (Shaka)
January 4, 1969 – May 21, 2022
Few people were faster, stronger, or more courageous than Shaka. She was also known as Karen Rebecca Sahn, age 53, born January 4, 1969, at University Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa where her father, Steven Alan Sahn (deceased), was a medical resident and her mother, Gene Whitmore Marsh, was a nurse.
In 1973, Karen moved to Aspen with her mother and sister, Stacey. She attended Aspen schools from kindergarten through her freshman year. She moved to Tucson, Arizona and graduated from Amphitheater High School in 1987. When she ran her first race in Tucson and nearly beat the reigning state champion, heads turned. “Who is that girl?” was muttered throughout the stands. The next week, everyone knew who “that girl” was. Karen was a Division Five state standout, leading her high school cross country team to two state championships.
Karen graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC in 1991 as a journalism major. For four years she ran for the indoor/outdoor track and cross-country teams. Her team won seven of eight indoor/outdoor Atlantic Coast Conference titles, something no other team had accomplished.
Following college, she returned to Aspen and began living her passion for travel, especially on outdoor wilderness adventures, rock climbing and back country skiing excursions in extreme climates. Peru, New Zealand, Argentina, Nepal and France were among the countries she loved. Island Peak in Nepal, Mt. Blanc in Europe, and Denali in Alaska were the favorite peaks she summited.
Karen loved snowstorms and severe weather. For 19 years she worked as a patroller for Snowmass and Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol and was a snow safety technician for Aspen Highlands. She worked as a mountain and climbing guide for Aspen Expeditions for 11 summers. At a lively ski patrol party with dancing and loud music by artists like Chaka Kahn, the patrollers nicknamed her Shaka Sahn, and the tag stuck. She was henceforth known as “Shaka.”
In addition to her many exploits of strength and endurance, ski mountaineering and sky marathons, Karen’s greatest characteristic was the strength and endurance of her friendships. She kept close and loving connections with her family, friends and teammates from middle school, throughout her adulthood. She was especially close to her sister Stacey and Stacey’s family. Karen was an adored and devoted aunt to her niece and two nephews, teaching them to love the backcountry and mentoring them in safety, and fun. She was artistic and creative and made jewelry as gifts for her friends and family.
Karen Died peacefully, May 21st, during an unseasonal spring snowstorm at her mother’s home in Salida, Colorado. She struggled for years with an eating disorder and hoped that others with similar illnesses would be open about their conditions, seek early treatment and return their lives to normal.
Karen is survived by her mother, Gene Marsh; sister, Stacey (Kirk) Petersen; aunts, Jane Whitmore, Sandi (Steven) Comen, Jill (Robert) Benson; half-brothers, James and Michael Sahn; half-sister, Rachel Hill; stepmother, Claire Hoefer; nephews, Turner and Severyn Petersen; niece, Sydney Petersen; many cousins, including Ben and Michael White, Melissa Hall, Stephanie Comen, Jennifer and Brandon Benson; former stepfather, Robert Marsh and his two daughters, Kamala Marsh and Bente Doolan.
A celebration of life will be held later in the summer in Aspen, Colorado.
Donations in Karen’s name may be made to the Outdoor Education Fund of Aspen Middle School http://aspenaef.org/donate
(in the dropdown menu select Annual Restricted Fund, in the space for comments enter:
Karen Sahn ODE fund).
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