One of the biggest trends in winter sports in the last decade has been the boom in women’s ski clinics, increasingly offered at big-name resorts across the country.
Typically lasting from three to five days, the clinics attract women of widely varying skill levels who, in many cases, have nothing more in common than their gender.
But with the advent of shorter, curved skis and improved instructional techniques — both of which make the learning curve for winter sports much easier than in previous generations — do women really benefit from special lessons designed just for them?
In a word, yes, particularly if the concept goes beyond merely providing pink skis and a Luna bar in the welcome kit.
Today’s women-only clinics are usually taught by female athletes who have achieved prominence in their sport and who are passionate about helping women skiers reach their potential. This doesn’t necessarily mean teaching them to ski faster or tackle black diamond runs, although those goals can be part of each woman’s program if she so chooses. The key, as most experts will tell you, is to get participants to think about what their goals actually are before letting an instructor set the program.
During my first women-only clinic in Colorado a few years ago, I was struck by the camaraderie that almost immediately sprung up among our group members, most of whom either liked to ski but had no one to ski with or were giving themselves the clinic as a present to commemorate a birthday or other significant event.
Instead of an embarrassing ski-off to separate us into levels, we were asked to rate ourselves, after which most of us were immediately promoted to higher groups because we had underrated our skills.
“This would never work with men,” our amused instructor told us, because underrating their athletic prowess is not typically something men do, probably to their credit.
Participants wanted to improve their techniques, of course, but mostly just to be able to enjoy the sport more and keep up with friends rather than impress anyone else on the slopes.
Of course, there is more to any ski outing than hitting the slopes, and instructors are well aware of this. Welcome receptions with wine, discussions of women-specific equipment — women have a different center of gravity than men and therefore do well with skis made especially for them, for example — and good-natured video analysis at day’s end are also usually part of the action. Optional add-ons like spa treatments and shopping for comfortable ski boots (if there is such a thing) add to the fun.
Travel agents who want to book women’s ski clinics for their clients have a number of options, ranging from programs in Deer Valley, Telluride and Steamboat to Crested Butte and Okemo, among others.
This Jan. 13 to 17, for example, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa will host a weeklong Elevate Women’s Ski at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort that includes four days of instruction, dinners and Pilates classes. The clinic will be taught by Crystal Wright, Freeski World Tour champion, and Jess McMillan, a winner of international Freeride competitions, and is priced at $1,580, including lift tickets.