Form: Ski Lessons for Women

Say you’re a beginning skier. Or a more seasoned one who wants to brush up on her technique. Or even a skilled hottie who eats, breathes, and sleeps skiing.

No matter where you fall in this spectrum, a ski camp has something to offer you. While such gatherings used to be mostly male affairs, rife with show-off contests and boasts of heroic spills, women’s camps are quietly stealing all that thunder. Women who would never have felt comfortable in the old environment now have their choice of ski camps that cater specifically to them. About half the resorts in the country now offer women’s ski programs.


The Second Sex No More

First, a little history. Women long struggled with skiing because our bodies were not well suited for the techniques and equipment developed and used by men. The difference between the sexes in performance on the slopes was dismissed as women’s “natural” lack of strength, skill, and courage.

When women sought to improve their skiing experience, lessons only furthered the male paradigm. To wit: Struggle into some ill-fitting (male) equipment, listen to the (male) instructor, and watch the (male) classmates burn up the slopes. No wonder many women preferred to sip hot chocolate on the sidelines.

Today we understand that physiological differences between men and women accounted for most of those female “difficulties.” The Q angle (the angle from our hips to our knees), center of mass, length of bones, foot shape and boot fit, weight, and strength are all different in men and women — and all are critical factors that impact ski performance. But until recently, manufacturers considered only men’s measurements when building equipment. That left women to flounder in ill-suited gear, all the while wondering why the simplest of turns wouldn’t turn out as the instructor barked. Today, gear designed specifically for women has brought us to a level playing field.

Attitudes regarding women’s abilities have also evolved, resulting in a more pleasurable learning experience. Today we have our own successful female athletes to serve as teachers and role models. We have equipment built specifically for our bodies. And camps that cater only to women provide a holistic approach to skiing, incorporating support and a spiritual side.


Why Separate Can Be Better

Women-only clinics might sound too precious for some, but trust me, I’m not talking teatime here. There are many benefits to the single-sex environment. Women are typically less self-conscious when men are absent. That means those women are able to focus their energy on improving their technique, without being afraid to try and fail in the process.

That’s especially important because women tend to have a different style of learning. Women generally prefer detailed instruction, support, and encouragement. (With a nod to stereotypes, men, on the other hand, often prefer less instruction and regard to technique — the “let me barrel down the mountain and figure it out” approach to learning. Many men are happy if they’re going fast, style points be damned.) Women tend to relish technique and the finer points of the sport. This makes women eager and attentive students.

When women are surrounded by other women, intimidation is replaced by support and encouragement. In this environment, it is easier to express and confront self-doubt and fear. We help each other build the confidence we need to attack the slopes.

Women are also motivated by other women. When we watch a woman rip a line at high speed, gracefully attacking the hill with perfect technique, we’re inspired. We realize our vast potential as women and cease judging ourselves unrealistically by men’s standards.

It all adds up to a more holistic approach to sports. Our well-developed gift of gab allows us to learn from each other on a variety of levels. Women open themselves up, break down barriers, and strengthen themselves by what they’ve learned.

So if you’re interested in polishing your curves, consider checking out a class or camp designed just for women. Contact the ski resort of your choice. Chances are it will have a schedule of offerings or be able to direct you to a camp in the area.