Women’s Programs at Resorts Across the Country Help Remove Barriers and Fall in Love With Skiing

Women’s Programs at Resorts Across the Country Help Women Remove Barriers and Fall in Love With Skiing

by Bobby Monacella

In the first of our three-part series on skiing for women, we’ll focus on women’s programs at resorts across the country. Stay tuned for our next installments on women’s-specific gear options and on ski travel planning made easy.

When it comes to skiing, women wear the Gore-Tex bibs in the family. That’s according to SnowSports Industries America (SIA), which recently reported that women control 70-80 percent of all ski-related consumer spending. In addition, women’s participation in downhill skiing is on the rise, with a 12% increase over the past two years. Couple those facts with a recent increase in resort visitation overall, and it becomes clear why ski resorts around the country are hosting more and more women’s-specific events and clinics to help women get involved and stay with the sport.

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Photo Courtesy of Beaver Creek Resort

This is great news for us women, as long as we can take advantage of what’s offered. Research from RRC Associates and SIA shows that despite the numbers above, women who are new to the sport face significant barriers to their participation: (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’s programs at resorts across the country are working to solve these issues by focusing directly on these barriers and breaking them down to help women feel more comfortable. “Our Women’s Programs have been so popular because we focus on making our participants feel safe and comfortable,” said Emily Spiker, ski instructor and coordinator for the Women’s Day and Fanciful Ladies programs at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg PA.

“Normally, women are lugging the gear, getting kids into ski school and trying to keep up with their husbands. Or they’re too intimidated by the process to even get started. Our women’s programs give them the opportunity to slow down and be in an atmosphere where they can feel comfortable asking questions or voicing fears. It’s women teaching women – we use our top female instructors for these programs and we teach in small groups according to ability, from beginner to advanced. This helps build confidence and skills in an atmosphere that feels safe and comfortable, and that’s what helps women feel like they can enjoy the sport and want to continue,” she said.

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Photo Credit Alex Beard, Whitetail Resort

In addition, Spiker said her women’s programs make skiing logistically easy and help participants learn about equipment options. The participants have their own area of the lodge where they can leave their belongings and not worry about lockers or safety, and the programs start after the children’s ski school start-time so that there is no rushing or stress. The Women’s Day program includes continental breakfast, lunch and afternoon coffee and tea break. “During lunch, there’s a tech talk or presentation. We might have demos, boot fitting or what to look for in a women’s ski. They also get a gift bag and lots of goodies, so it makes it a really fun day,” she said.

Spiker added that over the fifteen years she’s been involved, she has consistently seen the programs build women’s confidence and help them enjoy the sport more. “In fact, just last Friday at our first Women’s Day of the season, we had a mom and two daughters participate who were new skiers. They loved it so much that at the end of the day, they went and bought seasons passes. This is our goal – to turn women on to skiing so that they can come and enjoy it on their own terms. That helps the whole family enjoy it, because you know that if mom isn’t having fun, then it’s not as fun for the rest of the family.”

Vail Resorts , which owns resorts across the country includingHeavenly, CA, Park City, UT, and Breckenridge, CO, has caught on to this concept and created a women’s program that is a daily offering at most of their resorts.

Over the course of the 2013-14 winter season, Vail Resorts conducted surveys and focus groups with female guests at its resorts, online and in several U.S. and international cities to better understand the barriers to the ski and snowboard experience for women. Common themes were familiar, including being overwhelmed by the process, having their hands full managing the experience for other members of their group or family, and being too intimidated to try the sports. One important thing they learned, for example, was that by the time moms had finished getting their kids into ski school lessons, the regular adult group lessons had already begun.

In response to the research, Vail Resorts piloted a new Women’s Ultimate 4 lesson at their Colorado resorts ( Vail , Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone ) during the 2014-15 winter season. The Women’s Ultimate 4 was developed exclusively for women and taught by female instructors in a small-group setting with only four students per class. Lessons took place during a four-hour time period well after kids were dropped off at ski school and ended before pick-up.

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Photo Courtesy of Beaver Creek Resort

As a result of the success of the ‘14-‘15 pilot program at the Colorado resorts, Vail Resorts expanded the availability of Women’s Ultimate 4 lessons during the 2015-16 season, to include Park City in Utah, and Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe, CA. The lessons are designed to instill foundation-building basics while navigating beginner trails and developing on-mountain camaraderie in “first-timers” through advanced-beginners.

“As a leader in the industry, Vail Resorts is committed to continuing to listen to what our female guests want and need in a ski vacation and investing in ways to enhance their enjoyment of it," said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. "Piloting the Women’s Ultimate 4 lessons helped us learn more about barriers that keep women from skiing and riding more. We want to make the ski experience more accessible to all women, and then empower them to make time for themselves to have the ski experience they desire.”

Similar women’s programs are popping up at resorts all over the country. There are different types of programs to suit whatever you’d like to do - from first-timers through experts, one-day offerings or week-long camps, there is a women’s program to fit everyone’s budget, experience level and time commitment. To get you started, below is a list of some of the most popular programs across the U.S.

Be sure to stay tuned for the next installment in our Women’s Skiing Series – Women’s-Specific Gear: Why is it Important, and What are the Best Choices?

Make plans to get out there during Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month – check out the list of great deals available in January and beyond!

Here’s a small sampling of Women’s Programs that take place at resorts across the country – find one that fits your interests and get involved this winter!

Telluride Women’s Week : This program is offered in three and five-day versions and in addition to expert ski instruction it includes yoga, meditation, wellness speakers, equipment fitting and après ski get-togethers. There is one session monthly from January through March and packages are independent of lodging, though the camps offer discounts at a variety of local hotels. Telluride also offers snowboarders one three-day women’s camp, SheRide, annually in March. It provides lessons to all levels, from never-evers to advanced double black riders. This is an adult specific camp for women 18 years and older.

Crested Butte Women’s Tips on Tuesdays ski clinics : These half-day, women-only ski school sessions are led by top female instructors, and are ideal for ladies looking for a guided group session with instruction and an informal, fun vibe. Each clinic concludes with a glass of wine at the resort’s new on-mountain Umbrella Bar. Sessions run from 1:30 -3:30. The Women’s Tips on Tuesdays clinic is available to female skiers levels 3-7.

Aspen Snowmass Women’s Edge : This four-day program helps women ranging from intermediates looking to build confidence to advanced skiers or riders wanting to take on double-black terrain meet their goals. Taught by PSIA-certified pros with an emphasis in women’s ski/snowboard instruction, the lauded four-day program is highly fun and instructional. Women’s Edge is held Monday through Thursday.

Big Sky Resort Women’s Ski Camps : Start ski season out on the right foot with Big Sky’s all-women’s two day early season ski clinic, December 2–3, 2017. Taught by women for women, this program focuses on an individual’s performance and works toward mastering new techniques before that first big powder day comes. Intermediate and above skiers are welcome. Big Sky also offers a three-day clinic January 12–14, 2018 meant to bring advanced-intermediate to expert female skier’s to the next level of their skiing.

Killington’s Women’s Weekends : Join Olympic gold medalist and world champion mogul skier, Donna Weinbrecht, and Killington Resort’s top female coaches for Women’s Weekends. This two-day camp includes a welcome party, lift tickets, all-female instruction, lunch and video analysis. Advanced reservations are required.

Women’s Alpine Adventures At Okemo : Women’s Alpine Adventures at Okemo has women returning year after year to take part in a program designed for women and led by some of the best female ski and snowboard coaches in the business. 2- and 5-day programs are available, and all program participants receive special lodging rates at Okemo's Jackson Gore Inn, with delicious meals prepared by the wonderful staff in the Roundhouse.

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