Over 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
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.
How to Succeed in Ski or Ride Lessons
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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