This Saturday is International Women’s Ski Day. While I’m pretty sure it’s something that K2 dreamed up as a marketing tool, I’m really glad they did and was sure to jump on the #IWSD bandwagon.
As the watchful sort, I see a lot of women-focused marketing around the ski/snowboard world, and I find a lot of it doesn’t apply to me at all. Some is focused on women who are busy parents who are less interested in the slopes than in getting their husbands and children bundled up. (This “snow bunny” will be bundled up in the lodge with either a hot chocolate or a Bloody Mary, thank you very much.) Some treats skiing women as tag-alongs in need of lessons in order to keep up with their 8 year-old sons on the trail.
No offense meant! Really! I’m sorry! But it’s an honest fact that neither of these ideas of “skiing female” resonates with me in the slightest. I find them both vaguely offensive, but that’s a product of who I am and my upbringing in a high-testosterone admit-no-defeat den of bro-dom.
I want to see women portrayed as athletes. Which is why my heart goes pitter patter whenever I see the name SheJumps or the Outdoor Women’s Alliance updates their Instagram account. This is why I refuse to retweet or link to any article that focuses more on Lindsey Vonn’s relationship status than her powerful downhill drive.
I say this even though I was too shy to join into the SheJumps event at Stowe last year. I was there at the mountain. I was the chick in the red coat and pink goggles standing off to one side before ducking my head and scurrying into the singles line before any of the bold women in pink tutus and powder skis could noticed me. (I’m working on it.)
To honor #IWSD, I pulled my coworker and web-content wizard, Courtney, aside. I told her about the day and asked her if we could profile some of the bold, brilliant, brave women at Stratton. Courtney ran with the idea. I cans till hardly believe how much passion she threw behind the project. Every day in the two weeks leading up to December 14, she’s posting a profile of a new Stratton lady on the Stratton Be. Blog.
To my surprise, she volunteered me as a participant. And, to my further surprise, she made me sound pretty cool. My favorite paragraph, of course, is the one that ties into the Slackcountry Living mission:
As for my advice, Millikin referenced something her brother once shared with her. ‘Follow the line no one else sees.’ “The path you take down the mountain is yours and yours alone,” says Millikin. “Be creative. Make your own path. It’s yours. You got it.”
Of course, said brother called me out on that line. “I don’t remember saying that. I remember saying, ‘Yeah, just hit that. You’ll be fine.'” While this is a much better example of typical big-brother-to-little-sister advice, I maintain that he said what he said, even if not in the same words. He never told me to be creative, but he did tell me to look for my own line. In retrospect, he probably thought I was going to poach his.
Back on topic – check out the blog posts in honor of #IWSD. There are some amazing female athletes on the hill, maybe more than you thought.
Oh – and if you’re wondering, yes. I did hit it. And yes, I was fine.
What’s the best ski advice you’ve ever received?
4 thoughts on “Follow the line no one else sees. Just hit it. You’ll be fine.”
Somehow I pictured you up north, by Jay, say. We’re in the same neck of the woods, though! Very cool.
Great article on the Stratton blog.
I had a feeling you were based in this area!
And yes – for once in my life I moved south, not north. 🙂 But it seems like the snow came with me!
Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the marketing of women in Snow Sports. As we all know marketing initiatives are created with only one goal in mind – increasing revenue. The honest portrayal of female athletes has come along way however what hasn’t come along with it is the public’s obsession with sex, scandals and instant gratification. Hence a Sports Illustrated spread of Lindsay Vonn in a bathing suit.
It will be interesting to see how your perception of women skiiers change as you get older. I smiled while I read about your disdain for women who choose to stay warm in the lodge or take lessons with the sole intention of keeping up with their kid. As someone who has to resist the urge to categorize people into those who watched HBO’s The Wire and those that didn’t, I understand the tempatation to stereotype women who don’t meet your standards as unauthentic or even silly. After all, as you correctly pointed out, your perceptions are derived from what you know and what your were exposed to in your youth. I think you will find with time however that these stereotypes are just that – stereotypes.
As a “snow bunny” I am taking snowboard lessons so I can keep up with my eight year old son. Does this make me less of a female snowboarder or athlete? Maybe. Does it make me less hardcore? Yeah probably so. Does the reason I choose to take lessons make the experience less authentic? I would argue it doesn’t. I would argue that the reasons women choose to get into the sport are varied, diverse yet all are of equal value. The motivation to learn to ride so I can be with my son and witness first hand what he loves is just as valid as another woman’s motivation to learn so she can one day earn a gold medal for Boardercross. Behind both motivations exist love and passion. Both are from the heart.
As I have gotten older and experienced more life stuff I have slowly but surely loosened my definition of female role models. I have learned that the best way to celebrate women and their acheivements is to become more inclusive rather than exclusive. I have learned that women are not defined by their jobs, looks, lifestyle choices or significant others. Strong, beautiful, exceptional women exist all around us. They are living their lives exactly as they choose whatever that happens to be. You know these women when you see them because they hold their heads up high, speak up when they need to and don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks of them. They ooze confidence and authenticity. Now I understand that if I really want to honor women and make sure our voices are heard I must seek to value all women rather than focus on the superficial differences.
I can tell that you are an incredibly insightful, smart and strong woman. Your ability to sit back and observe will serve you well. I hope you keep writing, sharing honestly and above all allow your voice to evolve and reflect where you are in your life. That is exactly the type of femal role model that inspires and motivates me 🙂
Hi there! Thank you for your comment – really insightful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.
One of the things I really love about skiing and snowboarding is how accessible it can be for everyone. Male, female, young, old, beginner, expert, blind, deaf, double amputee. There is a way for each and every one of us to get out on the hill. And there’s something about mountain culture that welcomes even the snow-bunny spectators. One of my high school ski bus chaperones was a history teacher named Mr. T who very happily spend the whole day sitting in the lodge with his cocoa and his book. I found this confusing. I still find it confusing. But I’m hyperactive.
I think it’s fantastic that you’re taking lessons. I think it’s fantastic that you are doing it so you can share the experience with your son.
That’s the cool thing about sliding down hills. And sports in general. It means something different to each person. Each person gets to define their role in the sport, highlighting what they love. You’re right – I did get caught up in stereotyping. It’s so easy to do. Thank you for calling me out on it.
This post was written from a place of confused loneliness. Growing up, I definitely felt (and was told) that I was weird and different due to my fanatical love affair with winter. In a way, this post was speaking directly to my younger self, saying, “You’re not alone.” My favorite thing about marketing/advertising is reaching out and connecting with that one perfect target audience. Reaching out and saying, “Hi, we made this for you.”
But I do have to remember not to exclude others like I was once excluding. Maybe I need to remember that I want my life to be less “this is for me” and more “this is for all of us”
Thanks again. 🙂 Hope you and your son are having an amazing winter!