The Skiing Gender Gap: Another Perspective


After such a great response from last week’s post offering a little advice to would-be women ski bums, I’m offering here another side of the coin: the politics of relationships on the slopes.

Fellow ski journalists John Naye and Claudia Carbone put together a “He said/She said” on the sport of skiing and I’m reprinting it here with permission. I’d be thrilled to hear your reactions to this one. Here it goes: (kk)

Ski slopes can be fertile hunting grounds for the sexes, but that Mars/Venus thing can also turn those slopes into a battlefield. Ski hills are the perfect place to test compatibility, but they can also test our patience. Can you survive taking a run together, riding the chair together, and agreeing on lunch together?

Not too long ago I was discussing this subject with a female friend of mine, who happens to currently be the President of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, a position I also held a few years ago. Claudia lives in the Colorado ski resort town of Breckenridge, and because she works as a skiing ambassador for the resort, she sees her share of skiers and riders trying to work out their gender based differences. For fun, I asked her to write some comments about skiing with men to which I could write a counter point about skiing with women. Here’s a part of that.

She says:

Just try to keep up with Christina, photo by Andrew Longstreth

I love to ski with a man. I’ll take a date on the slopes over après-ski every time. But if you want to ski with this downhill diva, then pay attention. For starters, where does it say that guys have to be the leaders? You think you own the mountain. You get off the lift and zoom, you disappear. Okay, I may not always know where I am, but getting lost together could be romantic, could it not?

Guys love to talk the talk, especially in the bar the night before. Usually the ones who brag the most ski with the grace of Chewbacca. Of course, everything has got to be an unannounced contest: who can ski the fastest, the longest, the most runs, the steepest terrain. It seems that no matter how exhausted or frightened you might be, you’ll never ever admit it..

A bite of chocolate and a squirt of Gatorade isn’t lunch. I want a full sit-down meal. Besides marking the end of morning and the beginning of afternoon, lunch is an opportunity for a make-up check. You men do understand that, don’t you?

Mountain scenery takes my breath away. If you want to do the same, stop occasionally and savor the view. And speaking of scenery, don’t dress like a dork. Zip up your jacket, cut off that collection of old lift tickets, and don’t even think about wearing jeans as ski pants.

Another thing: I get so tired of hearing “Come on, you can handle this.” I’ll make that decision myself, thank you. If you lead me astray on the mountain, I’ll cut you off after dinner!

Now, let’s go rip it up.

He says:

Ah, get over it Claudia. If men didn’t lead the snow parade, there wouldn’t be enough ski patrollers in all of recorded history to find all the tender-gender types lost out there on the mountain. When’s the last time you actually saw a woman read and understand a trail map?

This guy can ski, photo by Kim Kircher

I love to ski with women too…but it’s not unconditional love. Since when did whining become an Olympic sport? It’s too cold, too hot, too steep, too foggy, too early, too late, just about too anything.

And how can there actually be “too much powder?” Why do women always want to have a leisurely breakfast on a powder day? Why am I the jerk if I want first tracks? You could happily meet me later, couldn’t you? I know you’d find that trail map handy then!

One of the biggest things that bugs me about skiing with chicks is when I ask them 500 times if they want to try something a bit more “aggressive” and they keep saying yes. Then I take them to a… BLUE run and…. HOLYMOTHEROFGOD… it all hits the fan, and I instantly go from Mr. Charm to Mr. Mean.

What happened to that women’s lib thing, you know, all that equal treatment under the law. Does the simple fact that I invited you to go skiing mean I get to pay for everything…. your lift tickets, ski rental, meals, spa bills, everything? Then, if I do, the first thing I hear is “that was an exhausting first run – I’m going to the lodge. See you at four.” Not much value for that $60 lift ticket, is it?

I don’t think you women realize your real ability. You may be the most technically sound skiers in the world – but will you push your speed a little….no way. I mean, where is the sense of adventure? Then you decide to stop and chat half-way down a run, then pout about being left behind. Save the chatter for the chairlifts, that’s what they’re for.

And one more thing. Don’t ask me – don’t ever ask me – if you look fat in stretch pants!

Thanks John and Claudia for offering your perspectives. I, too, often witness this push and pull on the slopes. Now dear readers, it’s your turn. How far has the sport tested your relationships? Hit the comment button and tell us your thoughts.

10 responses »

  1. With Claudia’s thoughts, the mountains are often dominated by men and us women sometimes need to remind them that we know the lay of the land just as well as them without it being a race to finish.

    In regards to John’s response… John you’re not skiing with a skiers, you’re skiing with women who like the idea of skiing. Women who don’t
    understand the excitement of early morning pow
    days or packing a sandwich in your jacket so
    you dont miss out on the biggest snow day of
    the season. You’re skiing with women who don’t share the same passion for the sport that you and others like you carry within. The problem isn’t women skiers or their understanding of the skiing culture, the problem lies within the women men choose to ski with. Don’t complain if you invited Sally skiing on a powder day without knowing whether or not she is a skier. We all know the difference between someone who skis and a skier.

    • Ashely, you said it! I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, there’s a statistic in skiing that makes it hard for older guys to find their soulmate on the slopes. Women tend to stop skiing when they hit about 30. Mostly, I suppose, so they can raise their children. But what better place to do so than in a healthy sport? But I digress. Also, I think our culture is getting wimpy. There. I said it. Buck up people. It’s not that cold. Just get out there and ski.

  2. Ha, interesting. About that statistic, though, I have to question. Seems like these days I see lots of older skiers, both men and women. Maybe it’s just my circle of friends. My challenge is to find a guy who skis well enough that I enjoy skiing with him, but who isn’t so hell bent on speed all the time that he can’t stop and wait for me once a long run. In other words, men who are good technical skiers are the most fun to ski with but I’m not quite as fast and strong. (that’s not saying I don’t have just as much fun skiing with good women skiers!) Recently lost my best ski dude/sorta boyfriend to another good woman skier older than me (she’s in her 50s and an excellent skier.) So the way I see it, my friend had his pick of good skier, age-appropriate women. I’m not seeing all the guys but I like the statistics if they are even somewhat true! Anyway, yea, that John guy sounds like a bit of a jerk who is not skiing with real women skiers.

    • Jill,
      I know where you are coming from. In my world, I there’s a lot of ripping ladies that I try to keep up with. But for the general public, I see it way too often. It’s the end of the day, the lifts have been closed now for 15 minutes, and we’ve started sweep. I come across a couple–a man and a woman. He’s an upper immediate and she’s just a few steps up from a beginner. They’re both frustrated and tired and just want to get to the bar as fast as they possibly can. Or there’s the men I talk to on the chairlift, always lamenting that their wives never want to hike into Southback. The problem I see is that most women are actually better skiers than their male counterparts. But they just aren’t keen to push themselves so hard. And I get that. I guess. But come on ladies. Don’t be afraid to upstage your guy. Even if he throws a tantrum. Because if he does, you know he wasn’t meant for you anyway.

      • Interesting observations from patrolling. and I now what you mean about women being good technical skiers, like my friend Julie who is a very good skier but doesn’t like to push herself unless she has to – I push her. And when I taught at the Crystal ski school, I remember having an advanced class with just one girl. She was just as good as the guys but freaked out when I took them up High Campbell (as of course the guys were pushing to do and getting bored with the lower slopes.) Frustrating.

        • It’s a delicate balance. I know plenty of women who are much better than they realize, but are so used to being pushed beyond their comfort level they dig their heels in. I see this more at Crystal than anywhere else. Perhaps because we have such challenging terrain. Skiing should be fun. Your friend is lucky to have another woman to push her. Our sex tends to be less threatened by other women.

  3. So, I’m not a skier, but I am an advid snowboarder. That being said, I went up a few times last year with a female friend I made who was from Denmark. Her skiing ability was not quite on the same level as my snowboarding ability, but we still had a blast together. Yes, I said together. Most of our day was spent playing on the mountain together. We had our moments where we wanted to take different lines down, so we did. It’s easy enough to meet at the bottom. Lunch was fine, we just picked a time, stopped, ate, and then went back to playing. Anyway, there is no reason that men and women can’t get along together on the slopes. If a snowboarding American male and and a skiing Danish female can do it, then I have faith that anyone can. 🙂 Oh, and if anyone doesn’t believe me, I’m always up for new riding partners to prove them wrong. 😉

  4. Well, to sum it up, let me quote my favorite t-shirt. “Just because I slept with you last night doesn’t mean I am going to ski with you today.” I think that stands for both sexes, don’t you?

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