A new sisterhood of female shredders has been formed in Fernie after a series of events to mark International Women’s Snow Day (IWSD).
Started in 2013 by SheJumps and K2 Alliance, IWSD encourages women around the world to get together to celebrate adventures in snow and the power of female camaraderie.
On Saturday, January 12, Fernie Alpine Resort marked IWSD for the first time with a series of events that attracted 42 women and girls. It was one of 40 celebrations around the United States, Canada and Europe.
SheJumps co-founder and executive director, Claire Smallwood, kicked off the day with an inspirational talk at Cirque Restaurant, where dozens of women gathered for a buffet breakfast.
“Stand up if you’ve ever been a mentor to someone,” she began.
“Stand up if you’ve ever had a mentor or been mentored by someone. And stand up if you’ve ever been told you can be anything you want to be. Stand up if you love snow.”
After urging the entire room to their feet, Smallwood explained that the not-for-profit organization she co-founded 11 years ago is not just about getting girls outside, but also about getting them outside their comfort zone.
She grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she fell in love with skiing through a school subsidized program.
It was a formative experience for Smallwood, who had to save $32 a week for lift tickets as her family couldn’t afford to support her passion.
“By the time I was in college, I had my sights set on living a life in the mountains but I really lacked role models and mentors, who could help me understand how that could be possible,” she told the crowd gathered at Cirque.
In 2007, Smallwood founded SheJumps with her friends Lynsey Dyer and Vanessa Pierce with the aim of creating a generation of role models for the outdoors.
“We’d all had that experience of being token females in a group of guys trying to get outside, trying to learn how to do something,” she said, adding that role models don’t necessarily have to be professional athletes or the “gnarliest, most extreme females”.
In 2018, SheJumps impacted 3000 women and girls through 130 events and with the help of over 100 volunteer ambassadors.
Smallwood said activities range from stand up paddle boarding and fly fishing to bike maintenance and avalanche training.
“Doing it in a group of supportive and encouraging women or girls is a way to bring a collective attitude to otherwise individual sports and activities,” she said.
“At the bottom line, our plan is to lower the barrier of entry to these sports, so that more women, regardless of background, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, they can learn and recognize the gifts that the outdoors provide.”
SheJumps is currently based in the U.S. but is expanding into Canada.
IWSD celebrations at FAR included yoga at Lizard Creek Lodge, a women’s only first tracks session, a mountain tour and avalanche education with Fernie Ski Patrol, concluding with apres and wrap up celebration at Slopeside Cafe.
Program to inspire next generation of ski patrollers
Female ski patrollers will become role models for young women and girls under a new initiative to launch in Fernie this winter.
SheJumps is a not-for-profit organization that aims to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities to foster confidence, leadership, and connection to nature and community through free and low-cost outdoor education.
Co-founder and Executive Director, Claire Smallwood, recently moved to Fernie, where she is preparing to launch the first Canadian chapter of SheJump’s junior ski patrol program.
“Junior ski patrol is our effort to bridge the disparity in careers in the outdoors,” she said.
“Starting at a young age, we expose girls to female ski patrollers, so they understand that not only is there a career in the mountains that they can do, but it also exposes them to mountain safety and understanding some more techniques, and skills to make them more self-sufficient in the mountains.”
Smallwood said the program will be open to girls aged eight to 17 and cover everything from avalanche and mountain safety to first aid.
It is expected to launch over spring break in March, with an exact date to be announced.
Smallwood also plans to host forums to hear residents’ views and ensure the program reflects the community’s needs.
“One of the big reasons we decided to move to Fernie is because of the community,” she said.
“… it was really apparent that people here are really passionate about their community and they really are anxious to give back and support each other.
“There’s a huge population of families too, so I knew that there would be a really good reception for a program like this that can really provide additional resources to lift all the girls up in this community.”
For more information, contact Claire Smallwood via firstname.lastname@example.org.