Peeking over an unfamiliar cornice, tackling a steeper-than-comfortable run and skiing big lines with confidence are personal challenges faced by any skier looking to improve.
Having a group of friends, and an instructor, there to silence the doubt can make all the difference.
That’s the idea behind Women of Winter sessions at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The popular clinics, designed for intermediate and advanced female skiers ages 13 and up, return to the resorts this week.
“It really helps them break through that plateau and become a black diamond skier,” said Francine Tone, a longtime ski instructor at the resort and founder of the Women of Winter program. For those that already ski black diamond runs, the program will help them tackle difficult terrain with even more confidence, Tone said.
The program, led by new coordinator Lynn Douglas, started a few years ago at Squaw as an every-Wednesday session, but has expanded to also include three-day camps. A similar program takes place Sundays and Thursdays throughout the winter at Alpine Meadows.
The 2.5-hour group clinics are taught by one or two instructors, depending on ability level, and are designed to run at a fast pace, in line with how participants are already used to skiing, Tone said. More advanced groups are team taught, allowing at least one instructor to keep an eye on participants during a run and maintain the quick pace of skiing the courses are designed around.
“They really push women to challenge themselves for whatever level they’re at,” said Squaw spokeswomen Amelia Richmond, who has participated in the clinics herself. Even though she considers herself an advanced skier, the clinic left Richmond with a catalog of advice she’s able to replay in her head after the session is over, she said.
The program has probably instructed about 200 women since its creation and attracts mostly locals, Tone said. It also gets plenty of drop-ins from around the country.
Three-day Women of Winter clinics, offered twice a year, include similar teaching techniques but allow women to make the changes to the skiing more permanent and faster, Tone said.
Beyond the technical aspects of the program, Women of Winter also builds friendships between participants and often times gives women skiing partners of similar ability levels they might not otherwise come in contact with, according to the instructor.
“It’s developing a team and a family that goes beyond the program,” Tone said.
And, just like skiing itself, it really comes down to fun.
“Why do it if it’s not fun and adventurous, you know,” Tone added.
One-day Women of Winter clinics at Squaw cost $49 plus lift access. Two-for-one deals on the clinics will be offered Wednesday Jan. 8 at Squaw Valley, as well as Thursday Jan. 9 and Sunday Jan. 12 at Alpine Meadows. People should contact ski schools at the resorts to check availability of the clinics. Drop-ins are only allowed if space is available. Groups of eight or more can also schedule their own custom WOW session.
Three-day camps cost $536 without lift tickets and take place Jan. 26-28 and March 2-4. The three-day camps include time at both Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley.