Words and Video by Chelsi Moy
Twenty pairs of eyes stare at Leah Evans, a soft-spoken 26-year-old professional skier, as she explains where women often carry fear: their feet, she says.
It's the first day of an all-female camp hosted by Girls Do Ski, a group founded by Evans to bolster camaraderie around big-mountain skiing. Ten years ago, Evans dropped out of college against her parents wishes and forfeited a full-ride hockey scholarship to chase powder and steep terrain in Revelstoke, British Columbia. While ski sponsorships and spots on podiums came easy, something was missing: girlfriends who shared her passion for skiing. So, despite her young age of 18, Evans launched Girls Do Ski, a company that hosts all-women freeski camps as a way of creating the kind of female bonds that were missing from her own life. Now in its ninth year, Girls Do Ski is expanding into the backcountry—a reflection of Evans personal ski-touring interests. Breaking trail is never easy, yet Evans pushes forward, hoping to inspire the women of all ages to push their skiing boundaries.
On this particular day last winter, a mix of anxiety and excitement swirl through the air among the group of women, all of whom are meeting for the first time. Evans, sporting a pink ski jacket and trucker hat, can sense tight foot muscles strapped into ski boots. She senses fear.
There's a joke at Girls Do Ski: If the participants are looking for ski-advice, they’re told to ask one of the Evans' many fellow instructors. For life-advice, find Evans. Before she turns the group loose on eight-inches of fresh Revelstoke powder, Evans asks them to think about "positive action wording." That coach in your mind, she explains, sometimes says, "Oh, you suck." Her bluntness sparks laughter among the crowd. But in all seriousness, Evans asks each skier to "make your coach your number one cheerleader." Because at Girls Do Ski, life lessons and positive thinking are more important to Evans than ski lessons.
I really like two types of adventure. One is the intellectual or social adventure where I get thrown in with totally different people and where you are totally out of your comfort zone. The other is a more classic adventure of a sport and just getting out there really far.
My dad and my mom, they love skiing and they're also really big adventurers. We didn't have a lot of money but my parents made adventure a priority.
When I was 14, we went to Alaska for two months in a '70s RV, total retro. We did tons of backpacking trips and saw lots of grizzlies and went canoeing in crazy places. Everyone had these super fancy RV's and we had an eight-track player.
I went (to college) on a field hockey scholarship. I was always slightly into field hockey but it wasn't my number-one thing. I always wanted to be a skier. My parents had the interest of me going to school.
The place I lived was Farmville, Virginia. It was the last place to desegregate in the US. There were so many times when I would be like, "Where am I?"
Playing Division I field hockey was real intense. I got really burned out of conventional sports because I didn't want anyone telling me what I should eat and where I should be, what basically I should be doing with my life. After that I was just done with conventional organized sports. It wasn't my people.
In Canada, we don't tend to chase down the publicity as hard. Canadians are less likely to promote themselves whereas Americans are a little bit more… It's not in our culture to be like, "I'm the best," or "check this out." I think Canadian nature is more subdued, I guess.
I love the backcountry because it's so silent.
I love skiing but I really love a really connected conversation. I read a lot of books, too, of spirituality or I guess they're self-help books. I just try to learn how people communicate and life lessons and stuff like that.
I always feel like there's a lesson in everything. Even today, just skiing for myself. The more you can explore on your own skis, the better teacher you'll become.
If you want to put my life in the sense of music, I have Bon Iver, pretty mellow, and then I have techno, go, go, go, go.
I either like to go to bed at 10 o'clock or I am up and I am engaged and it usually involves dancing. I get socially high and I'm buzzing around. Late Night Leah likes to stay out really late and dance a lot. If we have a good night out, my friend will be like, "Late Night came out!" I just like to let go. She comes out when I let go.
As much as I'm social, I need a lot of time to process my ideas. I take in a lot and I need the time and space to think. How is this going to contribute to Girls Do Ski or another idea… I don't know; I think.
My ideal date would definitely be an adventure date. And then an awesome home cooked meal and a good conversation. That's crucial. They would have to woo me with their conversation skills.
I had a friend who was like, "If you like a guy, then don't ski away from him." And I was like, "I'm not going to change! He has to keep up."
Coaching with Ingrid (Backstrom) over the summer, I was like, whoa, we have very different ski styles. She and Izzy (Lynch) are always charging and I am always, like, (laughing)… dancing. I just want to be smooth. I've really fallen in love with peoples' skiing who are smooth.
I grew up with my friend Mike Hopkins (professional freeride mountain biker and big mountain skier) and he's like the most beautiful skier. He's so smooth and his upper body is so quiet and his legs are just making these beautiful turns. My brother and I, we really loved the way he skied, so I always tried to emulate that. And now that's just the way I move. And you can see the way my brother skis, too, he has the same style.
I love coming home from skiing and having a big bowl of miso soup. That's my go-to for sure, with bok choy and kale, tofu and sesame seeds. It's super hydrating.
I hate baking. I hate it. I don't like measuring stuff. I just, like, freestyle. Whatever is in the fridge, I can make you a meal. But baking, I don't like those measurements. It's too precise. I like to be a little more creative.