One of my goals on this Ski Sojourn was to hit as many ski resorts as possible and also to hit new areas that I had never been before. Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole were both new, as was Steamboat Springs. I had a poster of Steamboat that hung in my hot tub room for years: a western wood barn with the mountains in the background and a cowboy riding a horse, snow up to its belly, skis strapped to the saddle.
To get to Steamboat, I had to head back to Kremmling, and drive Rabbit Ears pass. Rabbit Ears is famous for its iconic rock formation at the top, and its treacherous driving conditions in snowstorms. A storm was coming, but not before me, so my drive was copacetic. I was staying at the Worldmark Resort, part of the membership Scot had bought a couple years before. We hadn’t taken advantage of the points for resorts before he died, so I was anxious to use them as much as possible. Use it or lose it, as they say.
The Worldmark Steamboat Springs had a beautiful view of the mountain ski runs from my deck, a full kitchen, underground parking and a comfortable sitting area and bedroom. It was more than I needed or knew that I could use. The resort was less than a mile to the base and had a shuttle to the Steamboat Grand Hotel where the Women’s Summit was being held. The Grand was across the street from the mountain base.
We met the evening before to find our assignments and listen to three speakers: Katie Ertl, Senior VP Mountain Operations Aspen; Deb Armstrong, the 1984 giant slalom Olympic gold medalist; and Dana Forbes, CEO PSIA/AASI Rocky Mountain. Just a few years ago, neither Katie nor Dana would have had their jobs, all male dominated fields. They talked about the challenges being the first females in jobs that had traditionally been held by men. Deb Armstrong talked about how even after winning a gold medal at the Olympics, she constantly fights to be recognized as being top of her field. All the speakers were fun, engaging and fiercely strong women. I knew from the get-go this was going to be a great clinic.
Our final speaker was Dr. Shawn Worthy, a tall dark and handsome man in a room full of women. His task was to speak to “Being a Woman and Proud of It.” We all laughed that a man was charged with that mission. He had done research on physical, brain and personality gender differences. At one time he worked for Vail doing studies on fear and skiing.
Topics he discussed included differences between men and women: Fight or flight? The response we all learned about it in elementary school. What we didn’t learn is that the fight or flight studies were done on all male rats. When the same experiments were done on girl rats, the term morphed to “Tend and befriend.” We heard about how men focus on task completion, whereas women focus on technical expertise—That black diamond run we just completed? Men talk about conquering the black diamond runs. Women talk about how their technique could have been better and skip talking about the fact they also conquered the black diamond runs. It was a fascinating and empowering talk by Dr. Worthy.
I had signed up for Trees and Bumps, primarily because I had never skied trees, and I was a garage sale (a person who falls and leaves skis, poles, goggles, etc. strewn across the field) in the bumps. The second clinic I signed up for was Prioritizing Skills. Fortunately, the Trees and Bumps were the first day for me. It was day one and I was fresh and eager to hit the slopes.
OMG, Trees and Bumps. The first indicator of difficulty was apparent the first night. I felt like I had walked into a fitness class, where everyone was 25 and had been working out for years. You know that little roll of fat around your waist? As I sized up the room, it was clear I was the only woman in the room in possession of said roll. This was one buff group.
Of course there were probably other women feeling that extra little roll, but women, we discussed, are incredibly self-conscience of their body image. There were many women in my age range, too, I imagine, though I never did ask, nor tell.
On the very first lift up the mountain, four of us rode together in the Steamboat Gondola. As we began introducing ourselves to one another, Debbie mentioned she was recently widowed. “So am I!” I interjected. Thus began a friendship based on our love of skiing and common life experiences.
I gamely joined the Trees and Bumps group lead by Jo, whose home mountain was Snowbird. I had just come from Snowbird, and it was a difficult mountain for me on the blue runs. Jo was a tiny little woman with beautiful, graceful turns. She was neither young nor old but definitely an impressive skier.
Jo started us in the blue runs weaving in and out of the trees along side of the runs. Then we progressed to full on trees but still on the blue runs.
At the top of the mountain, where the Sundown and Sunshine lifts unload, a Steamboat ski instructor and his class of young kids were paused. We watched as the instructor pulled crackers out of his pocket and held them in his outstretched hands. Moments later a bird came swooping down and snatched the cracker from his hand. He placed a cracker on his head—seconds later it was in the beak of a dove grey bird. We watched this for several minutes, mesmerized by the waiting birds that were waiting for the proffered crackers.
Right before lunch we dropped off Sunshine peak to the backside and skied the trees on the Biscuits black diamond run, then after lunch we skied the trees on Closets. As the story goes, Closets got its name because a skier came in telling everyone he had been skiing the Closet run, only to find out he had been skiing behind the CLOSED sign. They later opened the area up as a black diamond run.
I was the laggard of the group and Barb, a kind member of the group, stayed with me as I traversed some of the steeper terrain. Barb told me when I got down, “You did it! You skied the trees on Closets!”
I said, “But I was struggling. I had to traverse.”
To which she replied, “Who cares HOW you got down? You skied Closets. That’s a black diamond tree run!”
Tend and Befriend. That’s what it’s like skiing with women.