Dear ski daughter, things I’d teach my snow child

I have no children. I now consider that to be a choice. The very act of not making a choice is, in itself, making a choice. So I remain, without offspring.

The irony of taking up a life chasing the snow globe during my fertile thirties is not lost on me. While I wrote of ski towns filled with Peter Pans, I was living my own never-ending puberty as I hurtled towards middle age.

Relationships were, in those early ski writing years, fleeting thanks to multi resort itineraries each winter. I barely had time to say hello before I had to say goodbye, even with seven men to every woman in many ski towns, I just wasn’t finding my mojo. Some say I was chasing the snow but I know I may simply have been running away from a life more ordinary.

If my choices had been different and I did have a daughter, and I taught her to ski, brought her up with a mountain life filled with intrepid travel, arts and people and joy, then I could pass on what I have learned myself skiing in a male dominant leisure world.

Around 58% of skiers and boarders are men, so chances are you’ll be skiing or snowboarding with more of them than women. The odds are even greater when you step into a helicopter. It can make you a better (or worse) skier depending on the day and the style of testosterone you are sharing the snow with.

Speaking up as a woman, being heard, making change, pushing for diversity and respect is as important in the outdoors world as it is in the #metoo world of Hollywood. The more diverse the skiers and boarders are in gender, color, size, creed, the better it is for the growth of the industry.

So, here goes, dear imaginary snow daughter, heed my lessons well.

  1. Ski like a girl because you are one. Ski big, ski hard, ski soft, ski mellow, ski however you damn well choose because it’s your ski life, not someone else’s.
  2. Take time skiing away from your phone. Leave it behind when you can. Take a camera instead or leave that behind too and make pictures in your head.
  3. You and your vagina have every right to be in the terrain park. It is not a mass domain for testes and swagger. You bought your lift pass and it’s worth the same as everyone else’s.
  4. Drink water, whenever you can. Water is your life source and you are privileged to have it clean and accessible.
  5. Step out of your comfort zone but listen to your gut, not peer pressure, as it will save you when needed.
  6. Volunteer some of your ski time to help others. Spend time with the adaptive program, campaign for Protect Our Winters, run a ski race for charity. You are privileged to ski, so give back where and when you can.
  7. Know your limits, physical, emotional and mental and listen to fatigue.
  8. Don’t ski with music in your ears, you won’t hear the skier or boarder behind you or the avalanche above you.
  9. Wear a helmet. it’s cool to be alive.
  10. The size of your ski pants, speed of your turn, color of your run does not define you.
  11. Don’t try to keep up with the boys, yawn, but do let them keep up with you because kindness is key to all relationships in life.
  12. Take snacks. Good snacks. Nuts, home made protein balls, coconut butter sachets.
  13. Talk to people on the chairlift. Ask questions, don’t just over share. Life is about others, not just you.
  14. Put the safety bar down. It’s cool to be alive.
  15. Stop if you hit someone on the slopes. Make sure they are ok.
  16. Stop if you see someone crash on the slopes. Make sure they are ok.
  17. Put ski patrol’s phone number in your phone at every resort you visit.
  18. Learn to ski first, take up snowboarding second, then decide which brings you the joy.
  19. Ski the powder and the trees with a buddy, lookout for each other, no powder run is worth more than your friend’s life because you missed them falling into a tree well.
  20. Do an avalanche course. Then do another.
  21. Stand up for yourself and other adventurous women. Collaborate on projects that encourage more females to ski and snowboard.
  22. Report bullies and save abusive emails.
  23. Tell stories. Life is a narrative not a series of selfie images.
  24. Look after your body, stretch, move, stay strong so you can ski late into your life.
  25. You are not #blessed you are #privileged, know the difference.
  26. Thank people. Life is a team effort, you didn’t get here alone.
  27. Be open to learning from those more experienced than you, at all stages of your life. A life not learning is an insular one driven by ego.
  28. Experiment with alcohol, because you will, but don’t take mind altering substances while skiing, reality is a better high than any synthetic fake peak.
  29. Make mistakes. It’s ok. You’re ok. But own your mistakes and choices on the mountain. Don’t blame others if it’s your error at play.
  30. Be a bad ass.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017, a former columnist for Mountainwatch and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I have travelling snowboarder and stay at home ski daughters. I have always instilled a sense of you are a woman with choices and a brain, so use them. I hope this article makes it onto the Aussie press circuits. It is needed to help get people to awaken to the fact that women are people in all walks of life and especially on the ski fields.
    Well written, a message that translates well, even to protective fathers like me.

  2. My girl started skiing at 2yrs, we lived in Jindy for most of the 1990’s. Since then she has grown and been amongst other things, a ski instructor in thredbo and whistler and now a flight attendant with a major international airline. What I love about snow sports, is that you still get to holiday with your kids (adults) on a regular basis, what else offers that? Now Rachel your biggest nuggets of wisdom in my humble………10 & 18 ?

  3. Number one for my kids pretty much was: “Kids, you’re in the mountains. Look around, breathe in the air, let the scenery wash over you. Look beyond the area rope–the resort is an artificial construct, but the ropes are there for a good reason. Feel how your nostrils pinch when it’s 20 below. Notice EVERYTHING when you ride the lift, ‘why is there snow on that tree and not on that one?’ Where the wind is blowing from. What the pellets look like on your jacket. As you ski, really try and feel the texture of the snow; skiing is a sensory experience (hooray for no headphones!) Fall down. Laugh. Get up again. At the end of all of this, you might not ski when you are older. It is an expensive, often elitist activity (consider yourself lucky). But the mountains, always. And the snow. And your surroundings. Be aware. Ski with care.

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