Column, Living the Dream

Women’s History Month: let’s bring more ladies along!

I know Vermont loves to trick us with the weather, but come on! This week has been absolutely ridiculous! I don’t know if it was the viral stomach infection I got messing with my mind or what, but I think Sunday had about five seasons all rolled into one 12-hour period. Between the pouring rain, sunshine, hail, sunshine again, high winds and then back to another flurry, every time I looked out the window it felt like it was an entirely different day.

Today, [Tuesday, March 19] it is a right proper winter snowfall. The snow brushed off my car easily, it provided good traction driving and I have this itching feeling that it will ski fairly well this afternoon when I’ve finished all my appointments and have some free time to play in my secret woods spots that bring me happiness no matter how crowded the mountain is.

Because life in Killington is all about creating your own relationship with the mountain. Each of our relationships with the mountain are as unique as we are. Some of us are out there, racing up the Killington Road to get the perfect parking spot and making breakfast in the lift line (and stacking up those Gnar Points) while other of us are members of the Two O’Clock Club that show up at 3 p.m. Still others are there for the Annual Lift and Bar Tour, which is obviously a commitment given how many of those there are at the resort or spend all day hiking the one feature that they’re mastering in Dream.

Except that our level of diversity isn’t changing. In 2015-2016, NSAA reported that women make up 40% of the industry. Today, that statistic is still the same. What the hell? In the past half decade, women have made their own movies, taken over social media and created all kinds of programs to support other women in skiing. So many fathers have taught their daughters to ski and passed on their love of the sport, so why aren’t we skiing? Why aren’t we choosing this industry as a career?

Damn if I know. I am obsessed with skiing, and therefore, set an unrealistic standard of what a woman has to be to be a skier. I feel kind of guilty about that. A decade ago I wrote a column about not letting your boyfriend or husband carry your skis and had a girlfriend of mine chastise me for it. She was no less or more of a skier than I am because her husband likes to be a gentleman. Maybe that says something more about my spouse than her as a skier?

All the imagery coming out of skiing has been strong women putting themselves above others, living unattainable lives while at the same time claiming that women can do anything. Sure, we can, but does it have to be jumping off a cliff after breastfeeding their children? Because that is absolutely not something the average woman skier even wants.

In many ways, I feel like we are making these films to prove our space with men rather than bringing more women into the industry.

And we are losing women. Statistics show that while women are extremely active in snow sports in their youth, they back down as they get older, with women making up only 30% of skiers in retirement.

According to former Snowsports Industries America’s (SIA) Director of Research Kelly Davis (the current one is, of course, a white male), women back away from skiing for four distinct reasons: intimidation because they feel that they don’t have adequate skills, lack of confidence due to not having or knowing how to choose the right gear, uncertainty about planning a ski trip and price sensitivity because they think it’s too expensive.

We can — and we must — change this. I am certainly not against white males. In fact, my favorite ski buddy happens to be one, as are most of my ski buddies. But I would really, really, like more girlfriends to ski with.

I know here at Killington it feels like there are a lot more women than the average, but there are still not enough of us and we need to do better to encourage and support our sisters to ski.

How can we do this? I think the answers have to come from all of us, or maybe we all just have to make a commitment to ski one more day and bring one more girlfriend out skiing. As an industry, we still have a lot of work to do to make skiing and snowboarding a safe space for all women.

This Women’s History Month, let us pledge to do just that. Even if we have to help carry their skis.

Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident, local real estate agent, KMS coach, town lister and member of the Development Review Board and female ski bum.

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