Park and pipe clinics now part of womens program
As skiing evolves into more big mountain riding and terrain park freestyle, so too do the ski programs evolve.
Just look at the new Women on the Edge program whose roots can be traced back 20 years or so with world champion freestyle skier Stephanie Sloan.
When Sloan first began her womens only ski program in Whistler she was teaching women to tackle the bumps.
From there the program evolved to taking clients through gates, into the steep stuff and teaching them how to float on powder.
This year, under the name Women on the Edge, clients are going places theyve never dreamed of going before like, the parks and pipes at Whistler-Blackcomb.
"Its the new school of skiing," said Sloan after Januarys two-day terrain park clinic.
"We started the terrain park/halfpipe program to entice girls and a younger skier who would like to learn some of those tricks in the park.
"Its a very intimidating atmosphere just to go in there on your own. There are a lot of guys in there for one thing, not very many gals. But gals want to learn how to do that."
Jump back 20 years to the bump clinics. At that time Sloan found that women shied away from clinics full of men because they were intimidated. Thats when she first came up with the idea of creating an all-female environment to teach the ladies to get to that next level in their skiing.
"Thats how it started. (the women) just felt that they werent quite good enough to keep up with the guys in the bumps in a group situation."
By taking away the intimidation factor, Sloan said the all-female groups generally tend to be a supportive and non-competitive learning environment, where women can truly flourish.
"Theres not a lot of competition amongst the gals whereas with a group of guys theyre always pushing themselves a little bit beyond their limits," said Sloan.
"We dont push women. We just make it easy for them to go to the next step in their skiing."
In order to join the Women on the Edge program skiers must have at least Level 4 ability. Sloan said many women sign up because they have reached a plateau in their skiing and cant get beyond it.
Helping them get to that next step are some big names in womens skiing. Freeski champions like Lee Ann Patterson, Jen Ashton and Lisa Korthals give up their tips and techniques as they lead clients through steeps, powder and bumps.