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Women’s ski and ride clinics – Why do they work?

Over the past few years, no matter where I ski, I see them: Flyers and posters encouraging women to get out and ski and ride together. In the Tahoe South area alone, you’ll find one-day Women’s Adventure Clinics and three-day Women’s Workshops at Heavenly and a special Expedition: Kirkwood Women’s Weekend coming up on March 8-10. On what is obviously a big weekend for women, Sierra-at-Tahoe offers their women's ski and snowboard camps on March 9-10.

Clearly, women like learning from other women and with other women. Otherwise, there would be no demand for these camps and clinics. But what makes an all-female environment so effective? For answers, I turned to Robin Barnes, a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America Alpine Team and an instructor at Heavenly.

Women Skiing Clinic Photo credit: PSIA

Different Learning Styles

One of the first things Robin brought up was the difference in male and female learning styles. According to Robin, studies show that women use language differently from men. This means that in a teaching and learning environment, women respond more positively if the language they hear and use is descriptive.

For example, an instructor might ask a group of women “Is your goal to ski more efficiently (or, perhaps, elegantly or smoothly)?” The same instructor might ask a group of men “Do you want to learn how to carve your skis (or, perhaps, bash the bumps)?” Loosely put, men respond to verbs. Women respond to adverbs.

Skiing and Learning Together

Additionally, Robin believes that women thrive in a collaborative environment. A women’s ski group is a small community. Women skiing and learning together will nurture and support one another. Watching each other, they will grow in confidence thinking, “If she can do that, I can do that.”

A technique that Robin uses with women is to give everyone in the group a role. Robin likes to ask some students to model certain skills and then ask the others to provide feedback. This gets the entire group engaged in learning and teaching.

Woman Learning to SkiPhoto credit: PSIA

Let's Talk

Whether you’re in a group or private lesson, it is important to communicate clearly with your instructor. Students should feel comfortable explaining what they hope to learn, and letting the instructor know what works and what doesn't. The instructor should be a good listener and skilled at connecting with her students. A professional instructor should also be able to adapt along the way, responding to student feedback.

In any ski and ride school program, the instructor isn't there to judge your skills, but rather to support you as you learn. She is there to analyze your skiing and help you make it better. Create a partnership with your instructor, let her know what you want to learn, and if something isn’t working for you, speak up.


Women on Chairlift Kristen Lummis is the owner, writer and head ski tech at www.braveskimom.com. The mom of two boys in a busy outdoor family, Kristen writes about skiing all year round, tossing in some biking, hiking, parenting and even a bit of reflection during the off-season. While her recreational passion is for all things snow, her real passion is for her family.

If you’re a brave ski mom, or know one, Kristen would love to send you some free BSM stickers. Just contact her here.

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