Editor’s Note: The Odds Are Good is a semi-regular column by Heather Hansman about real life stories in the ski world and things like beards, living in shacks, and getting into Canada.
Saturday morning, buckling my boots in the Crystal Mountain parking lot for International Women’s Ski Day, I had to fight back some feelings of skepticism.
I have an inherent distrust of separate but equal, because I feel like we should be past it. I like skiing with other women, but I hate that it has to be a thing. It feels sort of gross, like haaaaving to pick a certain number of girls for your sixth-grade kickball team, because the gym teacher says they’re not as good at sports. I don’t want the fanfare and tutus, I just want to go skiing with chicks.
But it’s not that simple. And although it’s nice to think you can get in the lift line and fall in with a girl shred posse, it doesn’t happen that easily in real life. And, despite the fact that it’s 2013 and Beyonce is a self-declared feminist, skiing can still feel a lot like a boys club. (See also, unequal sponsorship and prize money for female athletes, and various sundry “top 10 bikini pictures of female athletes” lists).
Ski guide Margaret Wheeler, who was the second woman in the U.S. to get a full UIAGM guide certification, says that there are a bunch of stereotypes that still exist—some that are obvious and some that aren’t—around being a female skier that could stand to be broken down. “I’m trying to debunk that myth of the only girl at the party,” she says.
But it turns out that if you want to make sure there’s more than one girl at that party, you probably have to throw it yourself. Alyssa Clark, K2’s Women’s Ski Team Manager, who invented International Women’s Ski Day, says she sparked the idea because she wanted an excuse for girls to get to ski together, but it spiraled out even bigger than she hoped. A lot of women wanted to be invited to that party. She organized 18 events on Saturday, but she’s gotten pictures from more than 60, including some in Switzerland and Japan. “I just wanted it to be mellow,” she says. “And for people to show up and have a good time.”
They did and it was. Crystal skied sunny and springy. We spun slush bump laps off Hugh Campbell and it just felt like there just happened to be more ladies on the hill than average. A lot of the women who showed up were older than me, my mom’s age even. They carved round, graceful turns down Green Valley and seemed unflaggingly excited. Like maybe they’d never skied with this many women before, and it was kind of awesome. There was only one tutu in the crowd, and when I asked about it, I was told that the woman wearing it put it on every day she skis. Even in the backcountry. It’s her way of saying that she’s there to have a good time, all the time.
There are a hellofalot of questionable holidays out there—I know some people who celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day with a weirdly religious fervor—and as far as constructed events go, I can back International Women’s Ski Day. At no point was I forced to wear a boa, or do an awkward gurl power high five, or talk about my feelings. Most of the stereotypes I was fighting against were in my own head. We just went skiing. Community is a real thing and the people you ski with matter. Sometimes a lot more than the snow, or slope angle, or how rad you got.
And some days it’s nice to know that there will be other women out there.
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