Skiing ‘sisterhood’ pulls together women at 3-day seminar at Steamboat Ski Area
If you go
What: Steamboat Ski Area Women's Skiing Seminars
When: Jan. 13 to 15, Feb. 10 to 12, or March 3 to 5
Steamboat Springs — It’s 8 a.m. The Steamboat Ski Area doesn’t officially open for another thirty minutes. Nevertheless, there’s a ski race going on – a race to go skiing, anyway.
The sun peers ever-so-coldly on Mount Werner from behind distant peaks, and it’s obvious it will soon not peer at all. Masses of deep blue storm clouds loom just above the slowly rising sun.
Ski instructor Kathy Gayer stands with a group of women, three of the 10 signed up for the December Women’s Skiing Seminar. They’re all here for different reasons, all wanting different things from the three-day seminar and all packing different levels of skiing skills.
They all know how special it is to stand atop the mountain alone, and they all know exactly what to do with the acres and acres of untracked terrain.
“Let’s go ladies,” Gayer shouts, looking over her shoulder as she pushes away from the group with one mighty stroke of her poles. “Let gravity carry you away!”
The Women’s Skiing Seminar in Steamboat entered its 25th season last week. The three-day clinic costs $479 and promises to help women achieve their goals on the mountain.
Just what those goals are vary from woman to woman, and there was plenty of different factors motivating the three women trying to stay on Gayer’s heels.
Pauline Lamont first began skiing nearly 20 years ago in the mountains of New Zealand. Born in Great Britain, she now travels the world with her husband and currently calls Nigeria home.
She’s equally at home standing atop the Steamboat Ski Area, she said. In her second run through the clinic, she said she hoped to brush up on her technique and grow more comfortable skiing in trees.
“I always get nervous in the trees,” she said. “I don’t do bumps much because I have a bad knee, but I wanted to brush up on that technique, as well.”
Holly Nelson, meanwhile, hoped in the clinic to learn the proper way to pole plant.
“I haven’t had an instructor for years, so I knew I was ready,” she said, enjoying her first year in the seminar. “I really enjoy skiing properly, so that’s the goal.”
Marijean Whitcher came to the camp for a sixth time with no set goals. Rather, she said she just wanted to tune up for the new season, refine her style and ski in an atmosphere she’s come to love.
“I come each year with the same goals. I want to learn something new, get better at what I’m already doing and come away a stronger, more confident skier,” she said.
Blasting down pristine runs on the third day of the clinic, all said they were happy with their progress.
More than bargained for
It’s not just learning the proper way to crouch in ski boots that has made the seminar survive as long as it has.
“You create lifelong friends here,” Gayer said.
“There’s a bond between us because we’re all women,” Holly Nelson added.
Gayer has been teaching skiing in Steamboat for 25 years and was one of the instructors who originally helped the seminar get on its feet.
She’s seen it change drastically throughout the years. Now it comes complete with a breakfast on the morning of the camp’s first day, daily lunch at Hazie’s on the mountain and two cocktail parties.
The camp underwent a major facelift several years ago and now is affiliated with gold medal skier Deb Armstrong.
Armstrong wasn’t able to join instructors for the December camp, but plans on teaching at the remaining three scheduled for this ski season.
“When we built it, (it) was a lot different than it is now,” Gayer said. “Deb really has been awesome in taking what we built and helping us grow it. She has really taken the program and enhanced it. We had our biggest clinic last January.”
When not skiing with the clinic, which meets once a month during the season, Gayer teaches private lessons. She skis nearly every day and gets to ski First Tracks six days a week.
She said nothing is as good as working with the women’s seminar, however.
“Women learn differently than men. We learn in an environment where we encourage each other as a group,” she said. “When we face our fears, it helps that we do it together. When you teach a mixed group, you don’t get that sisterhood.”
Many of the women skiing in the seminar said they get frustrated trying to ski with aggressive sons or husbands. The camp offers the chance to learn to ski with other women, what they labeled a rare and valuable experience.
They each talked about the program helping build their confidence and make them better skiers. As much was obvious as they made circuit after circuit and the sun slowly climbed behind the gathering storm.
“These aren’t weenie skiers,” Gayer said. “We kick butt.”
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