Tag Archives: Claire Smallwood

What Does it Mean to be a Woman in the Outdoor Industry?

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When SheJumps asked me to be a part of the defineFEMININE event this week at the Seattle Artcteryx store, I wasn’t quite sure what I had to bring to the table. Sure, I’m a woman in a pretty testosterone-heavy industry. Only 20-30% of ski patrollers are women. But I’ve never really thought of myself as all that unique.

I just finished my 26th season as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain. That’s more than half my life (just barely, but who’s counting, right?). While considering what wisdom I might have to add to a group of amazing ladies offering support through participation in outdoor adventures, I realized that my attitude toward myself and my job have changed over the years. I never used to think about what it meant to be a female patroller.

The women of Crystal.

The women of Crystal.

I just put my head down and acted like one of the guys.

In fact, I probably pushed the testosterone level up a notch. If a group of us were headed into Southback for avalanche control, I’d be at the head of the pack, breaking trail in waist-deep snow. If another patroller laid down an auger challenge*, I’d be the first one out the door with my skis on. Race to the top of the Queen via hiking up from Powder Pass? I’d push myself until my lungs burned. The stairs to the Summit House were buried in two feet of snow drift? I’d be out there with a shovel and Pulaski until ever speck of ice was gone.

I didn’t want to be known as a good female patroller. I wanted to be known as a good patroller, period.

And I still do.

The climate for women in the outdoor industry is changing. Through groups like SheJumps and with the examples of badass professionals like Lynsey Dyer, Lel Tone and Elyse Saugstad, women are banning together to create a sisterhood.

Today’s sisterhood is supportive and inclusive. The rules of engagement haven’t changed. Professional outdoor women still have to be twice as strong as the guys, and we can never blame our PMS. At least not in front of the guys. Instead, we can rely on the burgeoning sisterhood of others like us–those that have forged the way and those that are just dipping their toes in for the first time.

At the defineFEMININE event Thursday night, I shared the stage with some amazing women. Diane Hoff paved the way for female climbers in the Northwest and served as the first female president of the Mountaineers. Kristina Ciari found her outdoor passion in backcountry skiing and is going on 43 consecutive months of turns all year, all while wearing a pink tutu. Jenny Abegg is coming off a year of van life, chasing the climbing dream across the globe. One of my favorite moments of the evening was Jenny’s description of some of the setbacks she had on her trip. She said, “the way I react to this matters.” And she’s right. We make our reality moment to moment. Claire Smallwood, co-founder of SheJumps shared her journey of shifting self-perceptions. Sometimes we never truly see our best self until we risk jumping in. Claire did that with SheJumps and a sisterhood was born.

I was honored to share my story with this amazing sisterhood. My hope is that more women can find their true strength by jumping into adventure.

*The auger is a designation held by the patroller who most recently fell while skiing in uniform. If one holds the auger (or actually is wearing the wooden auger bit around his or her neck), he or she can challenge other patrollers for a run. If the other patrollers refuse to join the challenge, the auger holder can simply pass it over to the refusee.

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Weekly High-Five Report: SheJumps Empowers Women to Get Outdoors

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Claire Smallwood at Crystal Mountain, photo by Brian Stevenson

In the outdoor world, women far too often sit back while their male counterparts jump cliffs, climb granite walls and stomp gnarly lines. I’ve watched as women and girls doubt their own strength, take laps on the intermediate runs, belay for their boyfriends and watch as their husbands fly off to go heli-skiing while they stay home sure they could never meet the challenge. There’s a whole world of fun and adventure passing them by.

That’s where SheJumps comes in.

A non-profit organization started by professional skier Claire Smallwood, SheJumps “strives to increase female participation in outdoor activities by building upon a supportive community that inspires its members to reach their highest potential.”

SheJumps wants to empower women of all abilities and focuses on three stages of women in adventure.

  • Those are: 1) Elite female athletes looking for a network 2.) Already actives looking for a community 3.) And never-evers, girls and women who would otherwise never have the chance to experience the benefits of an active outdoor lifestyle.
  • For elite level female athletes, they are a voice and a place to give back. They work to recognize the “jumps” (i.e. risks) women have taken to follow their passions and the accomplishments of those who are an inspiration to others. They also offer a network for girls and women looking to get into the sports industry with intentions of elevating females in sport and mainstream media. With the goal of offering young girls real role models, these athletes are often times called upon to be “coaches” in events that support the development of all women involved.
  • For already active women, they have groups all over the country getting together for everything from day ski tours to overnight canyoneering adventures. They welcome you to develop your own group and post your outings on their “Jump In!” page.
  • For never-evers, they create activities and events that directly help those who might never otherwise have the chance to experience the benefits of challenging oneself in the outdoors.

With local clubs in several cities across the West, an online chat room, and the Jump In page, these Jumpers are showing women how to get involved in and give back to a growing community of outdoor adventurers.

Bravo Claire and all SheJumpers out there. Way to aim high and take that leap towards a life of adventure and personal growth.

Now go check out their website and get ready to Jump in.