Do Women Learn to Ski Best From Other Women?

alta women's ski camp

Alta Women’s Ski Camp. Photo courtesy Alta Lodge.

brave ski mom logoOver the past few years, no matter where I ski, I see them: Flyers and posters encouraging women to get out and ski and ride together. Women’s Wednesday, Shred Betty Clinics, Mommy and Me, no matter what you call them, almost every resort has a special program targeting women and moms.

What The Pros Think

This fall, I met Robin Barnes, a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America Alpine Team, an instructor at Heavenly and the director of the Portillo (Chile) Ski and Snowboard School. While I know from personal experience that women’s ski days are a blast, I wanted to find out if there is something about how women learn that makes it easier, or more enjoyable, or more effective, to learn from other women. So I asked Robin. Here’s what she shared.

Women Learn Differently

robin barnes psia and portillo ski school

This is Robin! Photo courtesy Portillo Ski and Snowboard School.

When I asked Robin about women learning to ski or ride from women, she started by saying that “While women don’t always learn better from women, I think that at some point, women need to learn from women.”

While there are certain types of learners, everyone learns differently. In general terms, women learn differently from men, but women learn differently from other women as well. Still, Robin explained, studies have shown that women use language differently and in a teaching and learning environment, women progress more effectively if the language they are hearing and using is descriptive.

For example, in a women’s clinic an instructor might ask the group, “Is you goal to ski more strongly (or, for example, more efficiently or elegantly)?” The same instructor might ask a group of men “Do you want to learn how to bash the bumps (or, for example, carve your skis)?” Loosely put, many men respond to verbs. Women respond to adverbs.

Collaboration is Important to Women

Through her studies and profession, Robin has also learned that women thrive in a collaborative environment. A women’s ski group, or clinic, is a small community. Even if they are strangers, women will begin to nurture and support one another. Watching each other, they will grow in confidence thinking, “If she can do that, I can do that.”

A technique that Robin has found successful working with women is giving everyone in the group a role. For example, she might praise one women for her short turns and ask her to lead another woman down the mountain. At the bottom, she will ask the woman who was following to provide feedback. This gets both women engaged in learning and teaching one another.

psia woman skier 2

Photo courtesy PSIA.

How to Succeed in Ski or Ride Lessons

heavenly women's ski lesson

Photo courtesy Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Whether you’re participating in a group or private lesson, communication with your instructor is important. As an instructor, Robin believes that her role is to listen, to connect with her students and to find out what they want to learn and how they learn. Again, everyone is different, so a good instructor has to be able to adapt along the way.

As for the student, Robin believes that the most important thing for any ski or ride student, female or male, is to accept a feeling of vulnerability. Taking a lesson is risky — you will have to step outside your current skill set and try some new things.

The instructor isn’t there to judge your skills, but should be your partner. She is there to analyze your skiing, break it down and help you make it better. Create a partnership with your instructor, let her know what you want to learn, and if something isn’t working for you, speak up.

PSIA woman skier

Showing some perfect form! Photo courtesy PSIA.

Taking It Further: Women’s Ski Camps

As I wrote above, I like women’s ski days. I think they’re super fun and offer a totally different dynamic than skiing with my family and with other couples. So when I saw a flyer about Women’s Ski Camps at Alta, I was intrigued. As usual, this led me to fire off an email and pick up the phone. Soon, I was talking to Jen Scott, the Director of  Camps for the Alta Ski School.

Like Robin, Jen is a vibrant, interesting, intelligent woman who rips. She is also the mother of two boys, so immediately, I felt a tie to her. As she began describing why women come to these camps, something she said that completely resonated with me.

These camps have been popular because they give women a getaway for themselves. Even if you don’t know anyone else at the camp, you know you’ll have a ton in common with these women. Women love to come together when they’re passionate about something. These camps bring together women who love skiing, are serious about it, are invested in it and have a passion for it. It’s a special environment.

Alta Women's Ski Camp

Alta Women’s Ski Camp. Photo courtesy Alta Lodge.

 Girls Trip, Simplified

Bingo! Voila! Eureka! That’s it.

Just like men, women want peers with whom they can learn, improve and, yes, rip. They want to chat on the lift and laugh at stories their husbands and boyfriends wouldn’t understand. And, just like men, women want to get away.

Girls' Day Out at Telluride.

Girls’ Day Out at Telluride.

The beauty of a women’s ski camp is that you don’t have to do all the planning or round-up all of the participants. You don’t have coordinate your schedule with your friends’ schedules (all of which involve husbands’ and children’s schedules, too). If you want to go solo, you can, knowing that once the camp starts, you won’t be solo anymore. You’ll be with your new best friends.

powderhorn skiing linda

Skiing with my friend & fellow blogger Linda. Until we skied together, we’d never personally met.

When You Go…

The Alta Women’s Ski Camps are in their sixth season and are tremendously popular. So much so, that the January and February sessions were nearly full in August. March still has room, however, so if you’re intrigued, check it out.

Otherwise, check out the women’s activities at your mountain! From clinics, to classes to freeski days, there’s something out there, just for you!


© 2013 – 2014, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.


  1. says

    Who are those good-looking ladies in your last photo?? :) I enjoyed meeting and skiing with you last year and hope we can do it again!

  2. says

    I don’t know the why but I have to agree. My brother has been working with me in the bumps, and what he’s saying I’m not getting. I went with a friend over the weekend and she broke it down for me. I had a total aha moment.

  3. David Ballou says

    Robin, I look forward to skiing and working out with you at the Academy this year again. My neck has healed. Too bad I can’t be in the women’s academies.

  4. Susan Hoene Boyle says

    I run a Women’s ski group at a small area in Minnesota. It has been my experience that our students make great strides, whether they start out as Never-ever’s or come to us with 20 years experience. And while I cannot say that they would not make the same progress in a co-ed group, I can say with certainty that most of them would not sign-up for such a group. They were inspired to take lessons because the lessons were ‘for women taught by women’. I have studied the psychology of mothers and fear of injury, as well as learning styles, and the statistics showing where the majority of women fall within those styles. We have a lot of fun, a sense of camaraderie, and everyone learns a lot, including the instructors!

  5. Kate Fisher says

    Great to hear that there are so many clinics and camps for women. Good read. I am a mom of three kids, level III PSIA member and love the mountains. Go Shred Bettie’s!!

  6. says

    Susan Boyle and I both work at Hyland Ski and Snowboard Academy in Bloomington, MN. I work with women on snowboarding. I’d also say the women who teach women are also pretty special–my instructors range in age from late teens (!) to late 50′s (OK, only one in her late 50′s, and that’s me…) and the boarding bond is strong.

    • says

      Thanks so much Elaine! I think you’re right, the women instructors are special…and boarding or skiing, I think women really benefit from the bond! My brother and his family just moved to Minnesota! He’s got a wife and two daughters. I’ll have to let them know about Hyland! Cheers!