Women who signed up for the KEEN Rippin Chix Steeps ski camp last weekend instructed by World Freeskiing Champion Alison Gannett and two time US Telemark Champion Karen Reader, discovered there is more than one way to conquer a cliff.
“Be prepared to learn ‘stab the frogs’, ‘shine the flashlight’, ‘serving martinis’, and ‘squeeze the thong’,” said Gannett.
“It may not be PC [politically correct] but you won’t find yourself forgetting your new ways to master the steeps.”
Tawnya Hewitt from Revelstoke conquers the cliff drop on the double black diamond run Sproulers, during the KEEN Rippin Chix Steeps Skills ski camp at Whitewater last weekend. Photo by T. Hynd.
Skiing at Whitewater on double black diamond [expert] runs such as Sproulers and Terra Ratta, ladies learned how to do an airplane turn off a 10-foot high rock bluff alongside teenage boys who just happened to be launching themselves while their Go-Pros filmed their antics.
Progressions were taught with non-intimidating baby-step methods – how to catch air five different ways, ski faster, make bigger turns and/or to straight-line, hop turn in tight places and power slide and scrub speed in others, save energy, and tackle those yucky double-black entrances.
Alison Gannett/photo by T. Hynd
Gannett has a large presence on the mountain slopes, and one almost doesn’t notice her petite form standing at 5’3. Her transition from competitive skier to instructor began while training for the World Freeskiing Championships years ago.
“When I was training to win the World Freeskiing Championships in Whistler, I got very frustrated when asking the men technique tips for straight lining and catching air,” she said. “So I observed them and created my own progressions. Since I was a fat dorky math geek and overcame my biggest fears and insecurities, I wanted to share that joy with other gals.”
Rossland resident Karen Reader has skied and worked with Colorado resident Gannett for almost 15 years. Gannett began skiing and teaching camps at Whitewater three years ago but has been doing the same at Rossland since 1999.
How did this dynamic duo meet?
“Karen was competing in the Telemark extreme championships and slaying everyone,” said Gannett. “We love skiing together, pushing to do harder lines and bigger airs, and also are like-minded in our coaching backgrounds combined with extreme competitions, and love watching gals become rippin’ chix so fast! We’ve created a very unconventional teaching lingo and rapid baby step progression that is super effective and hard to forget! It’s a magic combo that is hard to find.”
Karen Reader of Rossland
Reader will admit she’s the PC and less X-rated Canadian side of the team. She is a playful skier and she teaches with a similar enthusiasm. Teaching for over 15 years, she is fully certified in Telemark in the US and Canada and also holds Alpine and Adaptive certifications in both countries.
She has twice earned podium finishes at the US National Telemark Freeskiing Championships and is two-time champion of the infamous Al Johnson Uphill-Downhill Telemark Race.
She has also coached the Rossland Freeride Team for eight years, is currently a course conductor for CANSI, coordinates skier development at Black Jack Ski Club, travels to teach ski clinics in the US and Canada, and is one of the organizers for the Coldsmoke Powder Festival at Whitewater.
In addition to Gannett’s title of world champion big mountain freeskier, she is also founder of The Save Our Snow Foundation, champion endurance mountain biker, and an award-winning global cooling advocate.
But why would Gannett travel from Colorado to teach ski camps?
“I love the area so much that I plan my own personal ski vacation at both places every year, and every season think about moving,” she said.
“Whitewater and Red Mountain are two of my favourite resorts worldwide. Whitewater tends to have more powder/bowls and Red Mountain has more steep trees, pillows and chutes. Rossland and Nelson are two quintessential charming ski towns.”
Gannett wasn’t the only person who travelled far. Women came from California, Colorado, and Haines Junction, Yukon for this ladies-only, intermediate to advanced ski camp. The only local was a woman from Vermont who is living in Ymir with her young family for the winter with the goal to ski everyday.
For many it was specifically Alison Gannett’s reputation that brought them here.
Amethyst Robinson from California said, “I wanted to learn from her [Gannett], a professional. I’m here to work and learn. I’m getting very specific tips and what I can do to improve. And where I live, there isn’t a group a women who I can ski with at this level.”
Originally from Australia, Bria Gibson traveled from the Bay area of San Francisco, with her snowboarding husband in tow. At the end of two days she said, “I knew I needed better form but I had no idea how bad my form was and how much better it could be.”
Jasmin Dobson drove from Squamish for the technical skills training and to push herself. After taking a camp with Garnett last year, Dobson knew she would get what she was looking for.
“I wanted a camp that pushes yourself, not crazy girl power and fluffy,” said Dobson. “I don’t want a high-five after a crappy run. I want feedback.”
Practicing the “flag drop”.
“Their instruction is very consistent so you can tell they have spent many years working together. We have exposure to two different instructors. It’s a mix of skiing and instruction in terrain we need to be in. Everyone had something that they wanted to work on. Everyone had an a-ha moment this weekend.”
For Sarah Chisholm from Haines Junction, she was inspired to ski like the pros after watching the all-women pro-skier film Pretty Faces.
“I watched that film and I thought, ’I want to ski like that, I want to ski like the pros.’”
Gannett and Reader are holding a second Rippin Chix camp this weekend at Red Mountain. At the Coldsmoke Festival in February, there are one-day clinics with either instructor on February 21 and 22. Another all-ladies ski camp is Girls day Out presented by Girls Do Ski, available at Whitewater in March.