Loving (and hearing) the women you ski and snowboard with

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Stock library image.

We write about women’s issues in the snow world often, so my writer’s block around International Women’s Day this year surprised me. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find an angle that inspired me to write with passion. 

I didn’t want to write another fluffy piece about the many great chicks who rock the outdoor world when there are so many bigger issues at play, though I did want to celebrate all the cool women in the ski and snowboard world without it feeling gratuitous. Then, as I thought about what makes being female different and/or better in the outdoor industry I just got sad and maybe, a little bit angry. 

I hate that we get excited because a woman finally features on the cover of a ski magazine or a ski film was created by an all female crew and featured all female athletes. Because I dislike more that we have to create those films because we’re under represented in the mainstream snow film and magazine industry.

I love that many ski and snowboard brands have moved away from just pink hued top sheets for their women’s range and that others have finally stopped using naked women on their men’s top sheets (what were they thinking!). I love the growth of the women’s outdoor industry and the female only backcountry programs designed to help women navigate a life threatening outdoors world without the added pressure of testosterone.

But I loathe that still, as a female, if you’re not twenty something, a size 10 or super babe muscle buff then chances are you won’t see yourself in the brochures for the ski and snow brands, in the magazines and on the social media sites that want your dollar. Where are all the size 14 plus women, the beginner women, the middle aged women, the older women? Because they’re not in the standard stock image library. Let’s not even start on skin colour and able body diversity.

I could have written about the inspiring women behind Coalition Snow, of Rose Macario CEO of Patagonia, of Belinda Trembath mountain manager at Hotham and Bridget Legnavsky GM of Cardrona, Jo Buckle of ROJO Outwear, Monica Balon from Plus Snow. It is they that got me thinking about the females I have met in my 15 years as a full time ski journalist, the ones that don’t always get the spotlight, the ones that make a difference at a grass roots one to one level.

The ones that scream resilience, vulnerability, grace and humour. They may be loud, they may be quiet and under the radar, they may be hard core or super soft but they play in the snow their way. The ones that have personally impacted my own snow life, the ones I’ve skied with, laughed with, cried with, worked with, the ones who take big risks, emotional risks, physical risks and mental risks that pay off or don’t and then they start again.

We all have snow women who have made our ski life a better place. These are the women we need to also write about. I have a gazillion but for now, here are just a few of mine.

Heather Dent

Heather is currently a full time ski patroller at Kirkwood, a ballsy American chick who married a laid back kiwi from a farming family in Canterbury. She digs out chairlifts in wild wild storms, hangs around dynamite daily, runs her blue heeler Momo through avalanche training, saves people in crisis in the snow and does it with a smile even when life gets trauma tough, which it does.

She taught me the importance of listening to my guide while in avalanche terrain in New Zealand club fields, that mountain women may be tough on the outside but can be as kind hearted and generous as the most spiritual soul, that there is always a way through and that life is better, always, with a dog.

Jacquelin Magnay

The world of media is cut throat. The world of sports media, even more so. Jacquelin navigates a male dominated world with grace and respect as an Olympic Editor, Sports Editor and Columnist for the world’s best mastheads. She single handedly set the standard for gender equality in sports journalism in Australia and received major public flack from male colleagues in the process and told to go home and wash the dishes. Which, she didn’t because who has time to clean those dishes when you’re on the rise to Olympics Editor for Telegraph Media Group in London? 

She is generous to a fault, open hearted and tough as nails when the moment calls for it. She stands her solid ground under fire and is not afraid to share her success with lesser mortals such as me. Witnessing her work, passion and mental fortitude in PyeongChang was inspiring to say the least. 

Zoe Jaboor

FIS World Cup and Olympic moguls and aerials judge, Aussie Zoe Jaboor, approaches this life with enthusiasm and understanding. She knows her stuff and exercises it on an international stage without ego or complaint. Skiing with Zoe is fun, it’s not about who gets down fastest or who gets the most air, it’s about enjoying what’s underneath you, snow, whether powder from the sky or human made from a gun. She’s taught me to laugh under pressure and be thankful for whatever snow you’ve got.

The girls in #showusdagirls

We started this group on Facebook just over six months ago and the women consistently inspire me. The theme of the hashtag is to encourage more women of all ages, all sizes, all ski and snowboard ability levels to get in front of their social cameras so we can all see others akin to ourselves. 

These women are amazing. They post videos of themselves snowboarding on beginner slopes for the first time, hitting expert powder runs like pros, skiing and riding with their kids and their mothers. They ask questions of each other, knowing they will receive supportive encouraging responses. Some have even met up to ski or snowboard together. It’s like a giant hug in and we can all do with a hug, always.

The truth is as humans we are privileged to ski or snowboard. As women we can ski and snowboard where and when and how we want in first world countries of the globe. Once upon a time we couldn’t do that. 

There are far more women in this world that cannot afford the luxury of skiing than those that can.

We have a voice, it may not always be heard, but we have a voice and we can use it to help shape a future outdoor snow world for girls that come after us. We can start ski companies that actually pay women appropriately, we can create women specific ski and snowboard programs that address the gender difference in the way we process learning and we can create foundations to help other women who don’t have access to the outdoors in the way that we do.

We can, because we do.

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 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

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