by Alicia Mau
As we made our way up the steep, northeast facing slope it became increasingly more difficult to sidehill. The wind scoured snow morphed into ice and my gloved fingers gripped my poles a bit tighter with every slip of my ski edge. We hoped switching to bootpacking would get us the rest of the way since we were so close to reaching the peak but even kicking our boots in started to become impossible. The weeks of snow drought and frequent melt-freeze cycles became all too apparent when we finally made the collective decision to forgo the peak. Instead we transitioned our skis, as well as our mindsets, to navigate our way out and back to a safe spot to dig snow pits.
This type of group mindset is one of the things that makes the Alpine Ascents x SheJumps courses such a special learning environment. The focus is on learning, safety, and community rather than hitting that “sick line” or bagging peaks. “I loved that we took opportunities to learn and discuss technical details without being objective focused-it was so great to tour with a group that felt safe saying ‘this peak isn’t seeming great in these conditions, let’s get out safely and go talk about snow science instead,’ ” recalled Kyra, one of the students attending the AIARE 2 course.
Alpine Ascents International and SheJumps team up for seasonal snow courses allowing for a unique all women (students AND instructors) environment to learn in. You are taught by exceptional instructors while surrounded by other adventure driven women seeking to further their skill set. With the AIARE 2 course you delve into snow science and build the skills necessary to take ownership of your outdoor recreation and safety. Student Tisha commented, “This course, and the instructors especially, really helped me feel more confident assessing the snow and terrain in the backcountry. I came away feeling that I could take ownership over my safety and travel in the backcountry.” Throughout this three day course in the backcountry, nine women learned to become their own leaders in their future expeditions from two powerhouse mentors.
Our course also highlighted the beauty in supporting women’s learning regardless of what stage of life they are currently in. Evgeniya, who is a new mom, showed us all just how badass you can be while continuing to pump on the go a few months after having a baby. She reflected, “As a new mom I felt comfortable being able to stop and pump and was not made to feel like I was slowing the group down or being a bother. Everyone was very accepting and supportive.” While Evgeniya may have felt supported by her fellow classmates, she in turn inspired all of us with her ability to meet every challenge on top of caring for her body and her baby at home between field days. As participant and SheJumps Event Planner Angela remarked, “Being with a badass lady who was out crushing with the rest of us while pumping-(it was) just so cool to see all women in all stages being able to go out and participate”.
The uniquely female experience of needing to pump while out adventuring wasn’t the only bodily function that came up on our ladies’ course. We candidly discussed the joys of peeing while standing by using pee funnels or the fact that facing the group while dropping trou exposes less of you than facing away does (bonus points for awkwardly making eye contact with a fellow team member!). Learning and recreating with women just hits differently. There is a sense of comradery that develops quickly and an amount of comfort infrequently matched in coed situations. It makes for a judgment free environment to pass on necessary knowledge that has previously been considered taboo or uncomfortable to discuss.
But really, when looking for the main reasons participants seek out the AAI x SJ courses it frequently comes down to searching for a sense of community with your fellow classmates and fostering connections with future adventure partners. When asked about what made this course great for her Devin summarized it by saying, “For me, the main reason and takeaway was because of the opportunity to find more community with other women who may be at a similar experience level in the backcountry. No specific moment stood out, but as a whole, it was so wonderful to be with a group of such amazing, welcoming, and supportive individuals.” If you are seeking more than just a course, but rather a community to connect with fellow adventurous women to further your skills with, look no further than these collaborative courses. You’re guaranteed to leave knowing more friends than you started with.