Op-Ed: Send It for the Girls

A call for female friendship in a male-dominated industry

For me, working at a ski resort and moving to a mountain town from Denver was a leap. I was exchanging a community I had grown to know and love for a job in an industry that I’m passionate about. I had heard all the jokes about moving to a resort town with warnings to prepare myself for the change of pace and lifestyle. I was nervous to leave behind all the deep and strong female friendships I had in Denver for a new opportunity where I knew very few people. Still, I was eager to find new women to relate to and make friends with.

Making strong female relationships in resort towns is a challenge because of the ratio of men to women in the ski and snowboard industry. Only 41 percent of alpine skiers, 41 percent of freeskiers, and 38 percent of snowboarders are women, according to Snowsports Industry America (SIA). I’ve noticed that this disparity is even more pronounced within the populations that actually live in resort towns. Simply put, there are fewer of us. If you search “women in ski towns” on Google, you find the following headlines:

The Six Women You Will Date While Living in a Ski Town
6 Best Ski Resorts for Picking Up Women
Scooping a Ski Bunny: How to Pick Up Women in a Resort Town
Thread: What Ski Town Has the Best Ratio of Women to Men?

Suffice to say, women who live in ski towns are a hot commodity. From what I’ve read online and seen in action, for many, the main priority revolves around dating, not friendship.

At a recent dinner for resort employees, my roommate, Brooke, and I shuffled our way through the crowd, careful not to drop our plates of food on the fleece and base layers that whirled past us in a multicolor blur.

“This feels like college all over again,” I said nervously. We stared at our feet and tried to look casual. Women were peppered throughout the groups of men, and we craned our necks to see if we recognized any of the goggle-tanned faces.

“I’m always riding with the boys because that’s who is around, but I’d like to have some girls to go with.”

We walked around, talked to people, and an hour and a half later, we found ourselves in a small huddle of women emphatically exchanging numbers and rapidly detailing our days off. We formed a circle around each other and talked about where we came from and what we skied last and made plans to ride together to help each other improve on technique.

“I don’t have a lot of girlfriends up here,” one curly-haired blonde named Emily sighed, “and I’d definitely like to change that. I’m always riding with the boys because that’s who is around, but I’d like to have some girls to go with.”

Sometimes, we don’t click with everyone, or we don’t work in the same space. “I just don’t interact with many girls in my department,” another woman told me. “Day in and day out, I just hang out with the guys because that’s who I know and spend most of my time with.”

But the struggle seems to go much deeper. For many, it’s hard to stop trying to impress our male counterparts. Another woman told me, “I always feel like I’m being watched. Sometimes, I love it for the attention, but I feel I’m always having to watch what I do.”

Oftentimes, I find myself temporarily satiated by attention from guys but, in the end, it’s not as satisfying as receiving praise from someone I look up to, and in many cases, that someone is a woman. Furthermore, relying on affirmation from the dudes who seem to dominate mountain towns is unsustainable. I find myself clawing to keep up, to prove myself, to be the Cool Girl, even when I want to cry or yell instead. Sometimes, I feel like it’s not enough to be learning or training in a ski town. There’s pressure to come out of the gate as a girl who can keep up.

What if it’s not about “keeping up” but sticking together?

Keeping up is exhausting. Consequently, we compare ourselves to other women to make ourselves feel better. The result? We miss out on the powerful community of women pushing it solely for their own growth and enjoyment.

What if it’s not about “keeping up” but sticking together? What if the goal is camaraderie, not competition? Instead of sending it to impress the boys, maybe we try sending it for the girls. We can still push our limits in the mountains, but we can do it for ourselves and for the women waiting at the bottom of the run who are just as out of breath and sweaty as we are. High-fives from our female friends are worth more than an approving male gaze.

Spending time with other women is the best way to develop this mentality. Go to the gym together and do squats until your legs feel like they’re going to fall off. Help each other prepare for clinics and exams, or share beta on your favorite skins and your latest uphill access. Plan local events and female demo days. Refuse to knock down another woman in conversation just to seem slightly more knowledgeable or skilled. We become better mountain athletes through camaraderie as we openly share our skills and assure each other that we can push past our fears.

We practiced this mentality at that dinner for resort employees, as Brooke, Emily, and I sprawled out across the couches in employee housing and spent time together. We talked about the future. We commiserated, laughed, and made plans. We talked about the emotional struggles of living in a ski town. “Here’s what we’ll do: We’re going to write out everything we’ve ever wanted to say, everything that frustrates us, and everything we want to do and hope for in letters. We’ll read them out loud and burn them at Loveland Pass,” Emily said that night. “And then maybe we’ll get a couple of lines in.”

This post is part of a series about women in the outdoors by the Outdoor Women's Alliance.