Hard-charging, with Hugs: The Elevate Women's Camp

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I very purposefully stayed away from women’s camps. It didn’t matter if it was mountain biking, ice climbing, skiing, or Pilates. If it was all women, I wasn’t interested.

I’m not a girly girl and feared women’s camps would be more rah-rah than ripping. More group hugs than getting after it.

But, last year, when Jackson Hole locals and former Freeskiing World Tour Champions Crystal Wright (2009, 2012) and Jess McMillan (2007) both signed on to teach at a women’s camp at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, I figured they’d be happy to kick my ass. And then maybe they’d give me a hug.

Happy Campers
Happy Campers

The camp started off as I had feared though.

The first morning, these words came out of the mouth of the other campers in my group. And also out of the mouth of our instructor Kori Richards, a 30-something PSIA-certified Level III instructor and trainer and NOLS grad overflowing with infectious positivity who has taught skiing in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Jackson Hole, and Tahoe:

“We are the Princesses of Powder!!! Yeee-aaaahh!”

“You are so killing it! Woooo-oooo!”

“Something magical just happened back there! You were shredding! Wooo-ahhhh!”

“I don’t know what I’d do with big boobs. It’d kind of suck.”

“We’re are going to rip this like a posse of crazy women! Yeee-aaahh!”

“Ha! Look at that loner with a boner tumbling down Tower 3!”

I’m not a princess of power. I’m more comfortable ending sentences with periods rather than exclamation points. “Yeee-aaaahh” doesn’t naturally roll off my tongue.

Crystal Wright
Crystal Wright

One run was all it took to see that these women ripped. Still, I feared princesses might practice more on-slope hugging than I was comfortable with. (Full disclosure, the number of on-slope hugs I deem to be appropriate is exactly zero. Unless I happen to ski into Robert Downey, Jr.)

Tensed, I kept waiting for someone to hug me while we waited at the top or bottom of a run. Or for someone to whip out some glitter. But there was neither glitter nor hugs.

There was a day we skied Rendezvous Bowl and Mushroom Chutes in bikini tops. It was only several degrees above zero. In the bowl, winds were blowing mightily. Still, it was fun. And a very good incentive not to fall.

On the way up at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
On the way up at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort dennis crowley

We admired Kori’s red long underwear dotted with sumo wrestlers. We fell. Lots. We laughed. Under Richards’ amazingly watchful eye, we learned to ski more aggressively and more in control. We shared cookies. And wine. We sympathized when one of us broke her humerus. (FYI, there were no tears and she skied herself down to the clinic.) We hiked into some of the resort’s side country.

I guess I am a Princess of Power.

By the closing night banquet, I was wearing a tiara. (All of the Princesses of Power were.) Also, I was counting down the months until I could again do a JHMR women’s camp.

Camp Instructor
Camp Instructor

Last week JHMR held its first Elevate Women’s Camp of the 13/14 season. I was there. (There’s another one this season March 3-7.)

This year, my group of five were the Big Macs instead of the Princesses of Power. Big Mac came from our instructor, Jamie Mackintosh. Jamie, a five-foot-tall ball of muscle and grace, is one of the smoothest skiers any of us had ever seen. Better yet was her immeasurable patience and preternatural ability to know just when to push us.

We skied with world champion extreme skier Jess McMillan (I recently wrote a Q&A piece with Jess) our very first afternoon. Jamie told her we wanted to practice straight lining.

Jess McMillan
Jess McMillan

Straight lining is a necessary skill for skiing lines with constrictions so narrow you can’t turn in them. Straight lining not only requires confidence to point your skis through the narrow section but also the skills to, once the line opens up to the point you are able to turn, quickly shut down the speed you gained while going straight.

Straight lining—and the terrain it must be done in—is not for the faint of heart.

Jess McMillan Powder Smile
Jess McMillan Powder Smile

Jess found us a rock outcrop whose eastern face had several short lines that required straight lining to get through. None were longer than five feet and all opened into a wonderfully wide slope that wasn’t particularly steep.

Jess McMillan
Jess McMillan

As far as straight lining goes, we couldn’t get any easier. Still, looking at the pinch, my skis hanging over a tiny lip, my stomach was in my throat. Another woman remarked, “This is when the voices in my head start.” She paused a few seconds and then dropped in. And nailed it.

Kim Havell
Kim Havell

We skied it one by one. Gathered together again at the bottom there was whooping and cheering.

At the bottom of the next run, there was also talk of how good each other looked. “You had great flow through the bumps at the bottom.” “You’re a really beautiful skier.” “You nailed those trees.”

Serious shredding and support. Why had I stayed away from women’s camps for so long?

When I’ve done Steep & Deep camps at JHMR—I’ve done four—the talk at the bottom of a run was very different: “Damn, I killed that line.” “I’ve never skied so well.” “God, I felt good.”  My women’s camp groups skied at least as hard as any of my Steep & Deep groups.

Kim Havell Hiking Headwall
Kim Havell Hiking Headwall

I missed the final night’s banquet this year—I was so beaten up from four days of skiing bell-to-bell that all my body was capable of was lying in bed, whimpering a bit like a baby bird fallen from its nest. But last year, post-dinner, the Princesses did finally bring it in for a hug. Kori sprinkled glitter on our heads.

The Elevate Women’s Camp is four days of skiing over five days. Day three of the camp is a rest day. With lift tickets, the March camp is $1255. Without lift tickets, the camp is $1050.

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