I’ve met some pretty amazing people though Braveskimom.com. And one of my favorites is Wendy Clinch, the founder of TheSkiDiva.com, the leading site for women skiers and snowboarders on the Internet.
Wendy is a good friend, a fun skier and the author of two Ski Diva mysteries. It’s a privilege to share this interview with you today.
WC: The idea for the site came to me back in 2006. I remember waiting for the gondola at Steamboat, the only woman in a long line of men, feeling very much alone and thinking, ‘I can’t be the only woman who likes to ski.’
I didn’t have any friends who skied. And when I looked at ski magazines or went to one of the online ski communities, I didn’t see many women there, either.
Mostly, we were perceived as beginners, or interested only in ski fashions or in hanging out in the lodge. Women’s equipment or needs were barely discussed. And there was a lot of female sexual objectification. I found it all pretty dismaying.
So I decided to put together a place where women skiers could come together to talk about skiing in a comfortable space. Today, TheSkiDiva.com is the leading online community for women skiers. It’s fun, informative, and a great place to hang out. I’ve learned so much from the women on the site, and I’ve made tons of ski friends, too.
BSM: Do you think women approach skiing differently than men? If so, how?
WC: Definitely. I think women tend to downplay their abilities and are much more critical of the way they ski. There’s less of the testosterone-charged one-upmanship you find with men.
Plus women can be extremely supportive. That’s very evident on TheSkiDiva forum, where we help each other with all sorts of ski-related issues, from picking out equipment to dealing with family issues.
This translates to life, too. Here’s a example: on one of our Ski Diva trips, a group of us decided to go down something that put a few people a bit on edge. As each woman came down, the others stood by and cheered — yes, cheered. No one heckled or made snide comments. I’m not sure you’d find that with a group of men.
BSM: My favorite part of your site is the Forum. I can always find a ton of information and I’ve made some friends through the discussions. Please share some more about it.
WC: The forum is really the heart and soul of the website. Right now we have over 4,400 members from all over the country; actually, all over the world.
There’s everyone from beginners to the highest levels of experts; from women who know very little about equipment and technique to those with vast stores of expertise. We talk about anything and everything ski-related — gear, technique, resorts, and more. There are loads of firsthand gear reviews and discussions about various ski destinations. And there’s a lot of great advice, like what to do when you think your skiing has plateaued or how to handle fear or even why more women aren’t skiing.
It changes daily, so you have to keep checking back all the time.
One thing I have to mention is how blown away I am by the women in TheSkiDiva community. Some online forums can be pretty awful, with a lot of sniping and trash talk. This isn’t the case at TheSkiDiva. The members are supportive, friendly, good-natured, and respectful. It makes participating on the site an absolute pleasure.
BSM: You’ve been planning Ski Diva East and West gatherings for several years, where women get together for a ski vacation. What are your plans for Ski Diva gatherings in 2015/16?
WC: I started having SkiDiva get-togethers so we could get to know the people behind the user names. Plus there’s something freeing about skiing with a group of girlfriends. You laugh a lot. You have great conversations on the lifts. You’re free of the label of girlfriend, mother, wife, caregiver. It’s just you, the mountains, the snow, and TheSkiDivas. What could be better?
We generally have two events a year: one in the west and one in the east. In the west, we’ve been to such places as Solitude, Summit County, Steamboat, Tahoe, Big Sky and Snowbasin. And in the east, Sugarloaf, White Face, Sunday River and Killington. The trips are open to members of the forum and their families.
I can honestly say that every one of our meet-ups has been a blast. Women come from all over. And even if we’ve never met in person, it’s like getting together with old friends. The whole thing is a testament to the feeling of community that pervades the site.
This year, Diva West is March 5 -1 2 at Big Sky, Montana. Diva East is March 20-23 at Jay Peak, Vermont.
BSM: Please tell me about your skiing life.
WC: I grew up on the Jersey Shore and didn’t start skiing til I was 13 and we went on a family trip to the Catskills in New York. At first I absolutely hated it — I fell a lot, and the rope tow up the beginners’ slope was a nightmare. But I kept at it, mainly to get better at it than my sister.
I actually didn’t ski all that much — maybe 10 times a year — and stopped entirely in my early twenties. Life just got in the way. Fifteen years went by, and one morning my husband asked me if I wanted to go skiing. To put it in his words, it was like handing a crack pipe to an addict.
Now I live in Vermont and ski about 90 days a year. Most of my skiing is at Okemo, though I also manage to hit a lot of places throughout New England and go out west once or twice a year. Amazingly enough, my daughter doesn’t ski. She had a lot of health issues when she was little, which partly explains why I stopped for 15 years. When she was about 12 she took a few lessons, but it just didn’t click.
Hey, skiing isn’t for everyone, and I’m a firm believer that you can’t force your passions on your kids. It just creates problems. Now that she’s an adult, she’s starting to think about skiing again. So maybe there’s hope.
BSM: In addition to operating TheSkiDiva.com, you’re also the author of two Ski Diva mysteries. What inspired you to write these books? Are you working on any other books or have other interesting projects you’d like to share?
WC: DOUBLE BLACK came out in 2010, and FADE TO WHITE in 2011. Both focus on a young woman who leaves her cheating fiancé to become a ski bum in a small Vermont town. She’s looking for the life she’s always dreamed about, but stumbles instead into financial intrigue, bitter family warfare, and, of course, murder.
In many ways, and as funny as it may sound, the main character, Stacey Curtis, is the person I never gave myself the chance to be. When I graduated from college I got married and went straight to work and pretty much traded in skiing for the pressures of daily life. Not that I’ve regretted a minute of it, but I’ve always wondered what course my life would have taken if I’d followed a less-conventional path. Now Stacey’s doing that on my behalf!
I was inspired to write for two reasons: First, because it gave me a good excuse to think about skiing during the off-season, and second, because my husband, Jon Clinch, is also a writer. His first book, FINN, was named one of the best books of 2007 by The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Chicago Tribune. And his second book, KINGS OF THE EARTH, was number 1 on Oprah’s summer reading list in 2010.
But writing is really hard work and my off seasons have been kind of busy. So I think I’m done, at least for a while.
BSM: Finally, what puts the Diva in a Ski Diva?
WC: That’s a good question. Diva has come to have a negative connotation: it can mean someone who’s temperamental and kind of a pain in the butt. But the original Latin meaning of Diva is Goddess, and I like to think that all women who love to ski are ski goddesses in their own right.
More on Ski Divas and Women’s Skiing
- Do Women Learn to Ski Best from Other Women?, January 30, 2013.
- Some Good Reads for These Long Winter Nights, November 24, 2010.
- Update on Coalition Snow’s New Women’s Skis, April 6, 2015.
- Women’s Ski Jumping: A New Film Shares a Dream Worth Fighting For, May 22, 2012.
- It’s a Small Ski Diva World, July 19, 2011.
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