Tag Archives | ski industry

Yes, I love skiing. But here are some things I’d change.


Let me start by wishing skiing a very Happy Valentine’s Day. Yes, skiing, I love just about everything about you: the activity, the culture, the weather, the scenery. To me, skiing has been a gift that has enriched my life in oh so many ways. Yet true love doesn’t mean unconditional acceptance. You can love something and still recognize its flaws. In fact, the more you love something, the more you want to make it better.

So this week, I thought maybe it was time I took off the rose-colored glasses and addressed some of the issues the ski industry needs to work on. No, I don’t have the answers. These are complicated problems that many people have been puzzling over for years. But as a (very) interested observer, here are some of the things I would change, if only I could:

• Greater affordability, particularly for families: There’s no denying that skiing is expensive. Sure, there are ways to cut costs: ski clubs, buying tickets in advance, ski swaps — all of these can do a lot to make it more affordable.That said, it’s a wonder that anyone can afford to be out on the slopes. At $189, Vail’s walk-up rate is firmly in nose-bleed territory. And while that may be an extreme example, it still demonstrates that the industry is pricing a lot of people out of the sport. When I see a family on the slopes and I think about what they’re paying for lodging, food, gear, lessons, and lift passes, I’m frankly at a loss to know how they do it.

• Better pay and benefits for instructors.* Anyone who takes a lesson knows you pay a pretty hefty price. But what most people don’t realize is that instructors only receive a very small portion of that amount. Typically, instructors are only paid about 10 to 20% of the revenue they generate for major US resorts. Sure, they get perks: the free pass is nice, and they may get discounts for food or gear. But the amount they receive is way out of whack when you look at what’s being charged. *Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s up the pay and benefits for patrollers, too.

• More affordable housing for ski resort employees. The problem with working in a ski town is living in a ski town. The market for high-end vacation homes has made affordable housing nearly impossible to find. So what’s the average liftie/instructor/food service worker to do? Typically, commute in from farther and farther away. You can read a good article about the problem here, but it’s a crisis situation that needs to be addressed.

• More diversity on the slopes:  From 1974 to 2016, the percentage of Americans skiing fell from 25 percent to 17 percent. And while the number of minorities in the country is continuing to rise — by 2060, the US will be a ‘minority majority’ nation — 73% of skiers are white.  What’s more, a key demographic — the Baby Boomers — are aging out. If skiing is going to survive, we need to bring younger, more diverse people into the sport.

• A viable model for smaller, family-friendly resorts. Since the 1980’s, roughly 33% of US ski areas have gone out of business, and up to 150 more are considered threatened by industry experts. It breaks my heart to see these places close. Small hills play an important part in skiing. These are where many of us get into the sport, and are an important, affordable place for families to play. Keeping these areas going is essential for the life blood of the sport. I’ve written about one solution, Mountain Rider’s Alliance, here. But there need to be others, too.

• And while we’re at it, a little less sexism. This covers a whole lot of ground: everything from relegating women to soft goods sales in ski shops, to only paying attention to women racers who look a certain way, to producing skis in girly colors with flowers and butterflies (thankfully, this is a trend that’s disappearing). It’s simple: Women want to be appreciated as the athletes we are. We don’t want to be talked down to like children or treated as sex objects. The industry has made a fair amount of progress in this, but it still has a long way to go.





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A chat with Kelly Pawlak, new president of the National Ski Areas Association

Kelly Pawlak

Kelly Pawlak

There’s nothing unusual about female ski instructors. And women in resort human resources, marketing, communications, and sales? Common as dirt.

But women general managers are a somewhat rarer breed. According to statistics from the National Ski Areas Association [NSAA], there are only about 20 to 30 nationwide. It’s more or less a boys’ club.

All this is about to change. Because starting in January, the boys’ club will have a woman in charge. Kelly Pawlak, GM of Mount Snow, VT, will become NSAA’s first female President and CEO. NSAA represents 313 alpine ski resorts that count for more than 90 percent of the skier/snowboard visits nationwide, as well as 414 supplier members who provide equipment, goods, and services to the mountain resort industry.

That’s a pretty big responsibility. According to its website, NSAA’s primary objective is to meet the needs of ski area owners and operators nationwide and to foster, stimulate, and promote growth in the industry. To do this, it analyzes and distributes ski industry statistics; produces annual conferences and tradeshows; produces a bimonthly industry publication; and is active in state and federal government affairs. It also provides educational programs and employee training materials on industry issues including OSHA, ADA and NEPA regulations and compliance; environmental laws and regulations; state regulatory requirements; aerial tramway safety; and resort operations and guest services.

I recently spoke to Kelly about her new position.

SD: You’ve been in the ski industry for a long time. How’d you get started?
KP: Quite honestly, it was sort of by accident. When I graduated from college, I realized that if I wanted to ski, I’d have to pay for it, myself. My dad wouldn’t do it anymore. So I looked for a job, found one at Mount Snow, and never left.

SD: You really came up the ranks, too. I understand you held a variety of positions, correct?
KP: Yes, I’ve been there since 1985, and I’ve worked in marketing, sales, operations, events…pretty much everything.

SD: So how has this has helped prepare you for your position at NSAA?
KP: Well, I think it helps me understand some of the needs of the 300-plus member ski areas. Clearly, my expertise is not very strong in the west and midwest, so I have a lot of learning to do there. Luckily, I’m not alone. There’s an extremely qualified staff of about 12 people behind me, so I’m confident that with their assistance, and talking with the folks at the ski areas, retailers, and suppliers, I’ll be a quick study.

SD: Women GM’s are few and far between, and you’re the first female president of NSAA. What are your thoughts on that? Why aren’t there more female execs in the ski industry?
KP: There are more and more women every year. Certainly there aren’t as many as men. But it’s a demanding schedule and it’s a woman’s choice to decide whether or not she wants that lifestyle. I often joke and say that most of my women friends who work in the industry are too smart to take a position like mine because they know the hours I work. I was lucky – I was able to work it out with my husband so I could do this job. He put his career on the back burner for me, and I’m grateful for that.

SD: There are a number of issues facing ski areas today. Off the top of your head, what do you think are the biggest challenges and which do you think you’ll be addressing right away?
KP: The biggest issues are already being addressed by NSAA, but I have two that interest me the most. The first is getting enough people to fill the jobs at ski areas and ski towns. As you know, the hospitality business requires a lot of people to get the job done; it’s not as automated as some other industries, so finding staff is difficult.

SD: I understand  there have been a lot of issues recently regarding  J-1 Visas. [Ed. Note: there are reports that the President is considering axing the program that allows students from all over the world to work U.S. ski area jobs in the name of cultural exchange.]
KP: Exactly. We’re trying to make our legislators understand that if we could fill all the positions with domestic staff, we would, but it’s just not possible. So we support the international staff members.

The other challenge – and we’ve been working on this for years – is bringing new skiers into the sport and retaining them, once they try it. I think this is an area where we need a lot more discovery. We’re going to have to try some new things. Skiing is an amazing opportunity for people and once you’ve tried it and had an enjoyable experience, you’ll want to do it for life. We have to discover what those hurdles are and break them down and make it easy for folks to ski. There’s more work that needs to be done and we’re going to have to be a bit more innovative.

SD: How do you feel about all the consolidations that have been going on in the ski industry?
KP: There are pros and cons, depending on where you are and who you are. It’s not black and white; it’s gray. At Mount Snow, I’ve been part of three different ownerships and each one brought different benefits to the resort. A lot of times when a ski resort changes hands it really motivates other resorts in that demographic to try new things. I know that for Peak Resorts, which owns Mount Snow, buying Hunter Mountain was a really good move because we were able to connect all of our ski areas, so now our skiers could buy our Peak Pass and ski the Poconos, Hunter, and Mount Snow. So in that case, it was excellent for our portfolio.

SD: Consolidations can also make it difficult for the smaller resorts to compete. What can NSAA do to support them?
KP: Besides working with the larger areas, part of my new job will be visiting some of the smaller ski companies so I can better understand their challenges. It’s important to address their needs just as much as the larger ski areas.

SD: I know climate change is another major challenge. That has to be high on your agenda right now, too.
KP: Yes. Again, NSAA has been working on this for many years. There isn’t a ski resort that isn’t focused on sustainability. NSAA is great about sharing knowledge, so every time we can learn about a resort that’s lowering their kilowatt hours or reducing their dependence on diesel air compressors, we share that throughout the industry. What helps one helps us all.

SD: And it seems that so many of them are working on becoming four season resorts, too.
KP: Absolutely. The ski industry is becoming so versatile. We have resorts that do better in the summer than in the winter.

SD: On a personal note, you’ve been living in Vermont for a long time. I suppose you’ll be moving to Colorado now? You’ll have to trade your ice skis in for powder skis.
KP: Exactly! I’m going to have to take some lessons and learn how to ski powder. I’m looking forward to that. But this position does have quite a bit of travel involved, so I still plan to come back east to ski. This time, however, I’ll be a guest so I can do all the things I couldn’t do when I was focused on providing the guest experience at Mount Snow. I’m looking forward to that.



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Highlights for Women from the 2017 SIA Show.

Since they haven’t yet perfected human cloning, I wasn’t able to attend the annual SIA Show in Denver a couple weeks ago. In case you don’t know, this is the snow sports industries’ biggest trade show, showcasing the latest trends, innovations, product lines, and styles. But the winter season is short, and there’s just too much going on for me to be everywhere at once.

Fortunately for me, Bobby Monacella, who writes  DC Ski Mom  and the SIA blog Snow Source, came through with her take on the highlights for women at this year’s show. So take it away, Bobby!


New Women’s-Specific Technology and Design are Among the Highlights From the 2017 SIA Snow Show

The SIA Snow Show takes place every January at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center. It’s where over 80% of all ski and snowboard manufacturers and apparel makers come together to display their lines for the upcoming season to retailers from across the country. I got a sneak peek of some of the best gear, apparel and accessories for women that will be available for the 17/18 season and I’m excited to share my favorites with you!

Ski companies are really starting to wake up to the fact that women make up 41% of the market, and that we do 95% of the decision making about where the money gets spent in our families. Each year, ski companies are realizing more and more that they need to keep women happy. This means admitting that women are not small men, and that we have specific needs and performance demands from our gear.

“The bottom line is that if mama’s not having fun, no one’s having fun,” says Kim Walker, owner of Outdoor Divas in Vail, CO – the only woman-owned, women’s-specific ski shop in the country. “And each year we have more opportunity to offer equipment for women that allows them to truly have a great experience on the hill. Finally, women’s boots are made for women’s feet, and women’s stances, and allow women to be comfortable and warm, which then helps them want to stay out all day and return again and again. This is what manufacturers are finally realizing – that if you keep mom on the hill and keep her happy, you gain a whole family of lifelong customers.”

For 17/18, lightweight is definitely the trend in women’s boots and skis. Along with women’s-specific fit, this allows more control over your equipment, and therefore better performance, which equals more fun!

In boots, comfort is key for 17/18 with moldable liners and walk-to-ride tech that makes getting around the lodge a lot easier. A few standouts include:

  • The K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat has an integrated Therm-ic heat system built into the liner which you charge with a USB cable. It also comes in a softer flexing version, the Spyre 90 Heat.
  • The Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV, which was developed by a panel of top bootfitters and female testers, features a pliable upper cuff heated to fit the calf and merino wool in the liner for extra warmth.
  • The Roxa R3 Series is one of the lightest high performance alpine boots available for 17/18. It’s available in a freeride hike/ski model, a freeski model for all mountain performance, and the R3 105 W TI, a high-performance 4-buckle model.
 L to R: Roxa R3 105 W TI, K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat, and Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV

L to R: Roxa R3 105 W TI, K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat, and Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV


For skis, the focus for 17/18 is on new shapes that offer front-side carving performance but also allow for all-mountain versatility. My favorites included:

  • The Blizzard Sheeva 10 is a lightweight, completely women-specific design that won the SKI Magazine Hot Gear Award for its innovative technology. Blizzard is heavily invested in developing women’s technology with its Women-to-Women Initiative, which involves women in the design process from start to finish. It really shows with the Sheeva 10, which is getting consistent accolades from women testers.
  • The Nordica Astral 84 has new materials and a race-inspired shape, with a rigid tail and wider tip, that allows for superior performance while keeping the ski lightweight and easy to turn.
  • The Elan Ripstick 86W has a women’s-specific tube-filled wood core for lightweight performance and a rocker/camber profile which allows for easy turning.


L to R: The Nordica Astral 84, Blizzard Sheeva 10, and Elan Ripstick 86W

L to R: The Nordica Astral 84, Blizzard Sheeva 10, and Elan Ripstick 86W

Base and Mid Layers

This is my favorite category because some of the best brands are women-owned or women-centric, and have great corporate ethics as well as super cute designs.

Krimson Klover, owned by the amazing business powerhouse Rhonda Swensen, makes fabulous traditional ski sweaters, merino dresses and capes, but the base layers are my favorites because the prints are amazing and they’re super soft. The Mikaela Top and matching Victoria Bottoms have a fun Scandinavian design and are 100% merino.

Kari Traa is another base layer favorite mainly because the prints and colors are so great. They have a fun, energetic feel that reflects the personality of Kari Traa herself, a Norwegian Olympic freestyle skier who started the company as an antidote to the “boring black base layers” her sponsors gave her. Many of her designs echo her Norwegian heritage with plays on traditional prints in super fun colors. The new Akle LS Top features Henley snaps and extra long cuffs for a cozy feel. Kari Traa is also introducing a great new midlayer jacket for 17/18, the Svala. It has dry release technology to keep you warm, dry and looking awesome.

Another fun midlayer/apres ski/athleisure – I’m not actually sure what to call it – layer is SmartWool’s Urban Upslope Cape. It looks like it’d be really comfy and easy to throw on after a day on the mountain and it’s a fun alternative to your traditional down vest. It has quilted wind-resistant poly-fill on the outside, and is reversible to a grey camo print merino on the inside. The cozy hood and wool lined pockets make it a great apres-ski option. Plus I love SmartWool because they have a staunch commitment to gender equality and women’s leadership in the company.

Clockwise from top left: Krimson Klover Mikaela Top, SmartWool Urban Upslope Poncho, Kari Traa Akle LS Top, and Kari Traa Svala Jacket

Clockwise from top left: Krimson Klover Mikaela Top, SmartWool Urban Upslope Poncho, Kari Traa Akle LS Top, and Kari Traa Svala Jacket



Kjus introduced a new knitted technology for 17/18, with the Freelite Jacket. It’s an incredible ultra-stretch jacket with fully knitted shell, insulation and lining layers. It feels like you’re wearing a sweater, but it’s a totally weatherproof coat that looks amazing.

L to R: The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket, Strafe Scarlett Bib, and Kjus Freelite Jacket

L to R: The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket, Strafe Scarlett Bib, and Kjus Freelite Jacket

The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket won SKI Magazine’s Hot Gear award for its good looks and zip-out primaloft liner that can be worn alone or with the shell layer. It’s a great year for the win, since Obermeyer is celebrating its 70th anniversary. 96-year-old Klaus Obermeyer was on hand at the Show as always, and delivered his traditional yodel at the closing bell.

Bibs are still on-trend for women’s bottoms, and the Strafe Scarlett Bib got a lot of attention for its innovative halter design. The design allows you to heed nature’s call without having to remove your jacket, so it’s a plus for backcountry pursuits or generally hassle-free potty stops. The eVent shell membrane keeps you warm and dry and the styling is feminine with a great range of colors.


Okay, I admit it, I have a thing for hats. I have so many favorites – but I’ll try to pare it down to a bare minimum!

One of my all-time favorites is Skida, founded by the fabulous Corinne Prevot. As a Nordic skier in high school she began sewing the hats for friends and now the brand has exploded and is sold across the country. She employs women in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where garment sewing was a tradition for generations until the mills and factories closed their doors. Now they put those skills to work on the super fun hats and neck gaiters that Corinne designs. She also launched a cashmere line a few years back, and employs women knitters in Nepal where she did a semester during her Middlebury College years. Her latest creations for 17/18 are just as colorful and energetic as always, and are a perennial favorite.

L to R: Sh*t I Knit fur pom pom hat, Skida’s 2017 Snow Show booth, Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie

L to R: Sh*t I Knit fur pom pom hat, Skida’s 2017 Snow Show booth, Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie

A newcomer at the Snow Show this year, Christina Fagan introduced her Boston-based headwear company, Sh*t That I Knit. The name was just a tongue in cheek title for the website she started to share her knitting creations with friends and family. Eventually the designs caught on, and she was selling more than she could knit on her own. She moved her production to Lima, Peru, where she sources her merino and employs moms and other women knitters who work from home to create her beautiful designs.

One more great new hat design that I have to mention is the Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie. It has a fully reflective design built into the flower print, so it’s an incredible addition to any runner’s, dog walker’s or night-time Nordic skier’s ensemble. During the day the flowers sparkle, and at night they’re reflective. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I thought it was too cool to pass up.

My hands are always cold, so of course my favorite glove offering for 17/18 is the new Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Glove. Thanks to a lithium battery, it touts 12 hours of heat at the touch of the button, which sounds like a dream come true to me. Plus I love their company because CFO Wendy Carey is such a strong force for women’s leadership within the snow sports industry.

L to R: Giro Ella Women’s Goggles, Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Gloves, Zeal Portal Goggle

L to R: Giro Ella Women’s Goggles, Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Gloves, Zeal Portal Goggle

I’m a Giro gal when it comes to helmets, so I was excited to see the new Giro Ella Women’s Goggle. It’s a frameless design with quick-change magnetic lenses. It’s also co-branded with Zeiss Optics so they have superior optical clarity, and all for a really reasonable price.

Another cool new goggle option is from Zeal, with their newly launched Rail-Lock technology. The Portal Goggle has rails on the sides of the frame that allow you to slide, click and lock interchangeable lenses without ever touching the lens surface.

With so many new designs and so much innovative technology focused on women’s products at the Show, it’s hard to stop gushing about all the amazing new offerings for 17/18. These highlights are definitely the cream of the crop that caught my eye, and I’m sure they’ll be well worth the investment when they hit stores next fall.

Until then, here’s to a great end to the 16/17 season – cheers to all the ski divas hitting the slopes and loving life! As Klaus Obermeyer told me, “Life is great because of skiing; it should always be fun and make your life wonderful!”


Bobby Monacella is a freelance writer who focuses on the subject of raising outdoor kids. She also writes about the business of snow sports, with the occasional update on the perils of climate change and craft brewery reviews thrown in here and there. As a former ski patroller, instructor, and eventually marketer at Breckenridge, Sugarbush, and Stowe, Bobby brings over 25 years of industry perspective to her writing. You can find her at DC Ski Mom and at SIA’s Snow Source blog. View her profile at LinkedIn.

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Women Who Ski, By the Numbers.

If you’ve ever been skiing and felt like you were the only girl out there, you’re not imagining things. There’s no dispute that there are more male skiers than female. In fact, one of the reasons I started TheSkiDiva.com was so I could find other women to ski with. Self serving, I know, but none of my friends skied, and most of the people I saw on the hill were men.

Ski Divas at Big Sky.

Ski Divas at Big Sky.

That said, it’s one thing to think something is true, and another to back it up with data. I mean, did you ever stop and wonder about the actual numbers? How many women skiers are there? How often do they ski? And really, how much do we really know about this group?

It’s something I think about, myself. Then again, beneath this ultra cool Ski Diva personality is a geek who loves stats of all kinds. (Also map. I love maps. But that has nothing to do with this.)

Kelly Davis, SIA's Director of Research

Kelly Davis, SIA’s Director of Research

Recently I attended a presentation by Kelly Davis, Snowsports Industries America’s Director of Research. Kelly makes it her business to compile data about just about everything to do with snowsports, and she had some fascinating information about women and skiing. So I thought I’d share some of it with you here:

• In ‘15/’16, there were 11.631 million downhill skiers. Forty one percent, or 4.769 million, were female. (This is actually more than I thought, so encouraging news.)

• Thirty five percent of the 8.158 million participants who consider themselves skiers or snowboarders and didn’t participate last season are female. Their three most common reasons for not participating are as follows:  (1) nobody to go with; (2) increased family commitments; and (3) bad weather/snow conditions.

• Half of women skiers ski fewer than 9 times a season; 25% ski 10 to 19 times; and 28% 20+ times. Compare this to men: 39% say they ski 9 days or less, 25% 10 to 19 times, and 37% 20+ days.

• Women tend to rate their ability levels lower than men. About 17% assess themselves as beginners, 50% as intermediates, and 33% as advanced/expert. For men, 5% assess themselves as beginners,  36% intermediates, and 57% as advanced/experts.

• Women who return to skiing after dropping out cite lack of time as their primary reason for stopping. Many return because they want their children to experience skiing. They also return when they feel they have enough disposable income to afford to ski again.

• Women who are new to the sport see four key hurdles to participating: (1) intimidation because they feel that they don’t have adequate skills; (2) lack of confidence due to not having or knowing how to choose the right gear; (3) uncertainty about planning a ski trip, and (4) price sensitivity because they think it’s too expensive.

• Women make up just 25% of a subgroup of skiers that Kelly identifies Core Skiers, a group that accounts for only 5% of the skiing population. Her description of Core Skiers is as follows:

“This participant lives to ski. They might be found hanging around back bowls, tree runs, or skinning in the backcountry. Many live and work in ski towns just so they can focus on their passion for skiing. They are planning trips to exotic ski locations around the world. They have a quiver of skis and will buy high end gear with superior technology including equipment, apparel, and accessories. They probably ‘know a guy’ that works in a specialty shop in town who hooks them up with the best gear. They read SKI, Skiing, Powder, and Freeskier magazines and play close attention to gear guides. They consume ski media and produce their own online content.”

And here’s the group’s demographics:

• College degree
• Household income $25K to $50K and $250K to $1M+. Note: on the lower end of income and age, this person may work at a specialty shop, on the mountain, as a guide, or at a restaurant in a mountain town. On the high end, this could be a consultant or the founder of a successful business venture.
• Averages 30+ days a season
• Age 15 to 30/ages 45 to 65 (about 585K)

So what do we get from these numbers? What do they mean? Why are women such a minority in skiing? It’s a question the industry has grappled with for years, and it’s one I put to the members of TheSkiDiva. Here are a few of the insights they offered:

• Many, many women, especially in my mom’s generation, seem to have this ingrained sense of needing to take care of everyone, including their husbands, while the men have an easier time really embracing a day off. This may affect womens’ willingness to give time over to skiing, because it can be a very, very time-intensive sport, especially if you live in day-trip proximity to the big mountains. They may just be thinking about all the stuff that won’t get done if they spend this or that day up in the hills, and then they go less, and their skiing doesn’t get better. Meanwhile, the men are thinking, “Great! A day off, let’s ski!”

• A lot of my friends skied when I was in college. But fewer and fewer did, as I got older. For some it was because of  kids, and the whole process became just too difficult. For others, it was money. And for others, it was just lack of either time or interest. I’m the only one of us who’s managed to keep at it.

• I think as woman age their priorities change. High School age and younger, they have no responsibilities and are able to enjoy skiing without guilt. College age, there’s more responsibility with school, but no families or children yet. After graduation there’s jobs, thus less time for skiing, more dedication to climbing the corporate ladder etc. Finally marriage, kids, lots and lots of responsibility less and less time for skiing. Skiing isn’t a priority any longer and goes by the way side.

• Women are supporters. And part of the reason for this is because of the way we’re brought up. But I think another part of it is that we reorganize our lives and reprioritize our lives all the time. We tend to reinvent ourselves when things happen in our life, and adjust our priorities. If a guy is a skier when he’s single, he’ll likely be a skier when he’s married, and when he becomes a dad…………..(you get the idea), When an average woman makes those transitions her her life, I think she tends to adjust priorities more readily, and thus the lack of enthusiasm for a given activity.

• It seems women get distracted from skiing by the parenting and total family expense; unfortunate more fathers don’t step up and insist on hanging in the lodge and encouraging mom to get back out there. I don’t live in the land of make believe — a couple of my friends’ husbands did encourage them to get back out there and take turns in the lodge. It makes the difference, for these friends they are still skiers — with and without family.

Next month is Learn to Ski and Ride Month. Many ski areas are offering special rates for lessons and rentals. So if you have a friend who might want to learn to ski, check it out. Or check out my list of women’s ski clinics for the ’16/’17 season. For women who want to return to skiing, it’s a great way to brush up on rusty skills and learn some new ones in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

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No Limits: 11 Women Who Shattered the Snow Ceiling.

I’m writing this on August 26, Women’s Equality Day. Sure, I know, I’m posting it four days later. But y’know, Women’s Equality shouldn’t be limited to just one day. It’s something we need to think about all the time. Why? Because it’s 2016, not 1916, and a lot of the issues that hold women back should’ve have been resolved a long time ago.

Nonetheless, Women’s Equality Day got me thinking about all the women in the ski world who’ve broken gender barriers and smashed through the snow ceiling. Certainly, there are a lot of amazing women I could include — too many to name, in fact — but I thought I’d point out a  few who have done their part to show that women shouldn’t be limited just because they have female rather than male anatomy.

Andrea Mead Lawrence

Andrea Mead Lawrence



Andrea Mead Lawrence: Let’s start with a good one. Andrea Mead Lawrence was the first American alpine skier to win two Olympic gold medals. Not first female alpine skier — the first alpine skier. She showed all of us that sure, it could be done. And yeah, it could be done by a woman.




Jeanne Thoren

Jeanne Thoren

Jeanne Thoren: Granted, some of the modifications she proposed for skis and boots are still being debated today. But whether you agree with her or not, you have to give Jeanne Thoren her props. Jeanne was the first person in the ski industry to realize that women were not just miniature men and maybe, just maybe, we needed gear engineered to suit us. A radical concept, in its time (which incidentally, wasn’t all that long ago). In 1986, Jeanne designed what is believed to be the first women’s ski, for the Austrian company Blizzard. She also created awareness of and demand for women-centric ski gear, raising the bar for the entire industry and improving the sport for all women. The Exclusive Carve Ski she designed for Dynastar became Ski magazine’s 2007 Ski of the Year. In 2009, she opened the Jeannie Thoren’s Women’s Ski Center in Vail, Colorado.


Suzy Chaffee

Suzy Chaffee

Suzy Chaffee: I had the privilege of interviewing Suzy a couple years ago, and it was pretty mind-blowing to speak to someone I idolized when I first started skiing. Sure, she’s a three-time world freestyle skiing champion, and yeah, she was the first female member of the US Olympic team board of directors. But I think her most far-ranging achievement is her work as a champion of Title IX legislation. Suzy was instrumental in convincing federal lawmakers to enact the statute that guarantees equal opportunities for men and women in federally funded sports and education programs. You can find my interview, along with her long list of achievements, here.

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn


Lindsey Vonn: I hardly need to write anything here. Lindsey isn’t just arguably the best women’s skier of all time, she’s also considered one of the best skiers of all time.  I won’t go into all her accomplishments (you can find them in Wikipedia), but I’ve included her in this list for one important reason: her extremely high profile serves as an inspiration for girls and women everywhere.  She’s also the founder of the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, which empowers young women through scholarships, programs and unique opportunities.



Lynsey Dyer

Lynsey Dyer

Lynsey Dyer: A phenomenal world-class skier who was named Powder Magazine’s Skier of the Year, Lynsey is also the founder of  SheJumps.org, an organization dedicated to encouraging  women to  participate in outdoor activities. But that’s not all: Fed up with the fact that only 14% of the athletes in major ski films are female when women make up around 40% of the skiing population, Lynsey took it upon herself to produce Pretty Faces, an all-female ski movie, raising the bulk of the money she needed via a Kickstarter campaign. I interviewed her about all this here.



Lindsey Van

Lindsey Van

Lindsey Van: Yes, another Lindsey/Lynsey (what the heck is with that name, anyway?). But this one is different: she flies. Lindsey is an amazing ski jumper; in 2009, she became the first World Champion in women’s ski jumping after winning the first World Championships to allow women to compete. She also holds the North American women’s record with a jump of 171 meters. Before the Olympic Games in 2010, she held the hill record for both men and women in Vancouver. More importantly, her continued efforts not only helped put women’s ski jumping on the map, but helped put it into the 2014 Olympics. For more information on this, here’s a piece I did about it in 2013.

Sarah Burke

Sarah Burke


Sarah Burke: Taken from us way too soon, Sarah was a force to be reckoned with on the Freestyle Skiing circuit. In fact, it’s thanks to her tireless efforts that women’s ski half-pipe was finally included in the X Games, three years after men were competing in this same event. Sarah went on to become a four-time X Game champion. She also coached girls on glaciers in the summer, paving the way for future female competitors in more than one way.




Pam Murphy

Pam Murphy


Pam Murphy: There still aren’t a lot of women in the upper echelons of ski area management, but the first to break the snow ceiling was Pam Murphy. Starting in the ticket office at Mammoth Mountain in 1973, Pam rose through the ranks to vice president of marketing and sales and in 1998, became Mammoth’s general manager — the first female GM for a major ski resort in the country. Pam retired from the post in 2014.



Kim Beekman

Kim Beekman


Kim Beekman: One of the major publications of the ski industry, Skiing Magazine never had a female editor-in-chief in its 68-year history until Kim Beekman took the helm. Named to the post in 2015, Kim is an award-winning journalist, an accomplished lifelong skier, and director of SKI’s rigorous Women’s Ski Test. As editor-in-chief, she’s focused on welcoming a wider range of skiers into the fold, no matter what their ability, through compelling story telling and informative articles.





Angel Collinson

Angel Collinson

Angel Collinson: Angel is kind of the ‘it’ girl of skiing right now. But not without cause. Angel was the first woman to win the Best Line at the Powder Awards, creating what the Ski Journal called “the burliest—and most entertaining—female film segment of all time.” Her footage ended up earning her the coveted closing segment in Paradise Waits, marking the first time a woman has been selected for a TGR finale. The previous year, she broke barriers with the first female opening segment of a TGR film, in 2014’s Almost Ablaze. In fact, until Collinson showed up on the scene three years ago, the studio hadn’t featured a woman in a film in years.



Jen Gurnecki

Jen Gurnecki

Jen Gurecki: What do we do when we’re unhappy with the women’s skis out there? Here’s what Jen did: she stepped up and created Coalition Snow, the first ever woman-owned ski company — not an easy task in an industry that’s dominated by men. The company’s tag line says it all: We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. Yep, don’t tell her she can’t; she’ll turn it into a can. I interviewed her here.




There’s no doubt there are a lot of inspiring women in the ski world (some of the others I’ve interviewed include Muffy Davis, Donna Weinbrecht, and Elyse Saugstad). In fact, the Ski Hall of Fame will soon be opening a special exhibit on women hall-of-famers, a well-deserved tribute to a talented, powerful group. Helmets off to them all!


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