Soon after moving to the Bow Valley, I signed up for my first Avalanche Skills Training Course. Keen to explore my new backyard, I wanted to garner the skills needed to be smart and safe while playing in the mountains.
That first course provided just enough information to make me wet my GoreTex snow pants and ski straight back to the lift lines. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of information, understanding and evaluation of risk that travelling in the backcountry required. The mountains command an incredible amount of respect.
With little confidence in my fledgling touring skills, the thought of fumbling through the backcountry with fellow greenhorns made me shiver. On the other hand, I grappled with the exposure of putting my fate in someone else’s hands. Regardless of their experience or qualification, it didn’t feel right to blindly trust. Besides, I sweat through my merino at the idea of trying to keep up with (or holding back) my seasoned pro touring friends.
Humbled, I realized taking an avi course was just the first step of a life-long learning journey.
Soon after my AST 1 course, I was invited along on a women’s-only backcountry ski trip to Wheeler Hut (see page 21). Surrounded by a dozen women of varied ability, we relied on each other for decision making, safety and support. The more experienced gals took time to explain the sounds, feels and signs on the trail. Together we dug pits, analyzed crystals, and discussed why, when and where we would travel across specific landscapes and terrain. Then we skied, turn after endless turn of knee deep blower powder.
Often on trails, rivers and skin tracks, women have a tendency to slough decision making, and its associated responsibilities, to the guys. But when they’re not there? We ladies step up. Because we have to, and because we can. I left Rogers Pass empowered, educated and inspired to ski more, especially, with more gal pals.
Professional skier and Girls Do Ski founder, Leah Evans, is all about creating accessible, empowering and enriching experiences for females (14-55+) in the mountains. “We are cultivating a community,” says Evans of her organization. With a focus on education, development and fun, Girls Do Ski Cheap programs aim to dissolve the intimidation factor, encouraging and strengthening gals to become confident members of the ski community. Referred to as a “yogi” of skiing, Evans has a knack for helping gals transfer the confidence, growth and stoke they experience on the slopes back to their everyday lives.
As I’ve learned, formal training from an accredited Cheap Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) Program can get you started with a platform of backcountry knowledge, but the wisdom, awareness, and confidence required to travel safely in the mountains must be honed over time, through experience and with a little help from our girlfriends.
Get out with the Girls
Check out these 2014 Programs that bridge the gap between formal skills training and real-life ski experience. Build confidence, push your boundaries and connect with a community of ladies that love to rip!
These ladies-only freeski camps include coaching from some of BC’s most accomplished professional female skiers, including Leah Evans, Izzy Lynch, Tessa Treadway, Sarah Frood, and more. Coaching is focused on improving technical skills and pushing personal boundaries in a safe and supportive environment.
In addition to their well known resort-based programs at Kicking Horse, Revelstoke and Whitewater Resorts, Girls Do Ski will be offering their first backcountry, cat skiing and heli skiing programs during the 2014 season.
Under 20? Check out Girls Do Ski’s ’20 Under 20’ program, a day of of skiing, inspiration and great prizes for the under 20 crowd.
Detailed information, dates, rates and registration for their insanely popular ‘Girls Day Out’ programs can be found online.
Putting their mission to ‘increase female participation in outdoor activities’ to work here in Canada, SheJumps is hosting their second annual Alpine Finishing School in BC. This all-women’s ski mountaineering course is for ladies looking to take their mountain skills up a notch. Diny Harrison, North American’s first female IFMGA guide will cover topics of glacier travel, crevasse rescue, avalanche safety, route planning, and navigation in a supportive and encouraging environment.
Girl Pow(d)er is CMH’s ladies-only offering through their Powder University, a series of heli-ski trips that help develop skier and rider’s skills in the deep, backcountry powder of the Columbia Mountains. Set at a comfortable pace, participants will strengthen their powder legs and confidence as they share their turns with a supportive group of ladies. Learn to rip powder with a level of encouragement that can only come from a tight group of females.