Women-only Ski Clinics Give Participants
a Time to Build
By Eileen Ogintz - The Record,
Bergen County, NJ
Ogintz - The Record, Bergen County, NJWe moms weren't fooling
We had gathered at Snowbird Resort in Utah,
home of some of the most challenging slopes in the country and a "macho"
reputation to go with them.
We were going to conquer this "guy's
mountain" (which now has a woman, Maggie Loring, as its mountain school
director) and brag about it afterward to the skeptics we'd left at home.
There were 31 women in our Women's Ski Camp
group, ranging in age from 26 to 70-plus. The group included moms and a few
grandmothers. Among us were engineers and historians, doctors and homemakers,
law clerks and graphic designers.
We'd come to starkly beautiful Little
Cottonwood Canyon, about 30 miles from Salt Lake City, from places such as
Philadelphia, New York, Houston, Las Vegas, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Our big reason for being there: to improve
our skiing at the four-day camp, one of three that Snowbird hosts each
(Others are scheduled for March and
April; for details, visit www.womensskicamps.com.)
But our time together turned out to be as
much about meeting challenges as navigating moguls, as much about building
relationships as carving turns.
I'd persuaded my sister, Amy Fieldman, to
join me. We live 3,000 miles apart, and this was the first time in more than
two decades that the two of us had spent any concentrated time together without
husbands, kids, parents, and assorted other relatives. Much as we love family
gatherings, we were thrilled not to have to mediate the kids' squabbles, hunt
for lost mittens, shop for groceries, or cook.
We shared a room and leisurely dinners,
exchanged confidences and jokes on the lifts, and encouraged each other on the
steepest, bumpiest, slopes we'd ever attempted. No one was urging us to go
faster, as our kids typically do.
We skied each day with the same upbeat
instructor and a small group of campers whose ability was similar to ours,
forging new friendships as well as skills. There were early-morning stretching
sessions. We were videotaped so that we could dissect our technique.
At lunch, we recounted our triumphs and
wipeouts. After skiing sessions, ski coach Mermer Blakeslee, the author of
In the Yikes! Zone: A Conversation With Fear, taught us how to cope with
our fear, on the mountain and off.
"You go back a different person, and it
might not be the person you were expecting," said 61-year-old instructor Connie
Bauer, a mother and grandmother who has long been involved with this clinic.
"When you're skiing, you can't think about
anything or anybody else. You go home physically beat but mentally refreshed."
These types of women-only skiing clinics and
other all-female adventures have become increasingly popular in recent years,
as active women come into their own in traditionally male-dominated sports.
This Snowbird clinic was the largest in the program's 12-year history, said
Nona Weatherbee, who coordinates the camps.
Extreme-skiing champion Kim Reichhelm of
Crested Butte, Colo., is offering women's clinics at five different resorts
this season. (Visit www.skiwithkim.com.)
Some of the Women's Ski Spree Programs at
the Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont (www.okemo.com) have sold out, filled up
by snow-loving moms.
There are now women's clinics for
snowboarding and telemarking, for beginners as well as experts, ranging from
weekends that cost a few hundred dollars to five-day, all-inclusive packages
that run $1,000 or more. (For listings of such programs, visit www.nsaa.org
Still, the snow-sports industry, plagued by
flat numbers and anxious to encourage newcomers, continues to ponder how to
keep women on the snow rather than in the lodges.
Women account for a majority of snow-sports
beginners, according to the National Ski Areas Association, but females account
for fewer than 30 percent of snow-sports experts.
"I see a lot of moms who are frustrated by
skiing," Reichhelm said. "They spend all their time taking care of the family
and never get to enjoy it for themselves. By the time the kids are skiing well
enough for her to ski with them, they are better than her."