Drive around ski resort parking lots, river put-ins, and climbing crags around Salt Lake City, and you’ll see an increasing number of giraffe-shaped stickers on car windows. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice these giraffes have unicorn horns. And they only come in bright, boisterous, unapologetic colors.
There's a name for these curious creatures: girafficorns. And they're the brain-child of SheJumps, a Salt Lake City-based organization that furthers outdoor adventure among women and girls. This half-mythical creature, designed by founder and skier Lynsey Dyer, represents persevering jumping over the hurdles women can face as they pursue their dreams in outdoor sports.
Though SheJumps has strong roots in the West—it was started in Jackson Hole eight years ago by Dyer, Claire Smallwood, and Vanessa Pierce—its following is spreading around the country, with regional directors in the Pacific Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Rockies regions. It turns out, girls just want to have fun in the outdoors, building trad anchors, digging snow pits, and casting fly rods.
"We wanted to encourage women and girls to dream big and strive for excellence in the outdoors—whether that meant trying skiing for the first time or learning advanced ski-mountaineering techniques," says Smallwood, a co-founder and executive director.
"Our original mission was broad, and it manifested itself in a series of assorted events we held over the years in places like Jackson, Salt Lake, and Park city. These earlier events weren't as structured, but over the years we’ve honed in on some specific, well-thought-out programs that are vastly increasing the impact we can have. With regional directors and ambassadors in place, we can now share our programs consistently around the country. And people are showing up for it—there’s a hunger for this."
A chat with Smallwood unveiled some big plans for programs and events this winter in Salt Lake; each plan is crafted with the goals of Utah’s aspiring outdoorswomen in mind, whether they’re beginner-level or elite athletes.
“Our goal is to bring people together—to have friends lift each other up and push each other to pursue the next step," Smallwood says. "We mingle athletes, experts, and beginners so they can inspire and teach one another."
These concrete plans are a way to help the girafficorn evolve from a mascot to a movement.
Here’s an overview of SheJumps’ current major programs—and a few highlights in Salt Lake and Park City in the coming months. You can get the latest info on their site and social media. Some of these events don’t have firm dates yet—which gives you an excuse to follow their Facebook page for updates.
Outdoor Education: Teaching Women Who Want to Shred, Send, and Stomp
One central component of the group’s initiatives is to give women opportunities to learn a range of foundational outdoor skills in a supportive setting—anything from wilderness first aid courses to Alpine Finishing School, an all-women ski mountaineering course.
This winter's Outdoor Ed lineup includes a nutrition workshop in late October, which will teach participants easy recipes and fuel tricks to keep their bodies cranking hard through long, epic days outside. A mid-November SheJumps Wilderness First Aid Certification Class is filling up fast as well: It will teach the fundamentals of first aid in remote and mountain settings—and participants will leave with an official WFA certification.
And once ski season is in full swing, SheJumps will hold a Beacons 101 clinic at Alta to introduce backcountry rookies to beacon basics, as well as a Ski/Snowboard Tuning Workshop in January to teach women to wax, tune, and maintain their own planks. There will even be an Ice Climbing Clinic in January and February to introduce first-timers to the basics of ice climbing, which is viewed as a fairly intimidating variety of climbing to break into especially if you're not part of the male majority of ice climbers.
Community Initiatives: Gathering, Celebrating, and Plotting Adventure
Socialization and outreach form another key component of SheJumps’ activities. These can mean anything from a movie showing to a speaker series.
One highlight will be a SheJumps Gear and Goodies Bake Sale at the annual Black Diamond winter gear swap on Oct. 17, with tasty breakfast treats and primo gear for sale, all to benefit SheJumps' programs. (Treats and a good cause? Check and double-check.) There are also two December showings, one in Salt Lake and the other in Park City, of the all-female ski movie Pretty Faces in the works.
And Dec. 12 will bring an annual favorite: International Women's Ski/Snowboarding Day at Brighton and Alta, where SheJumps will bring experts and newbies together to mingle, share tips, and, of course, shred.
Youth Programs: Teaching Girls the Wild Skills They Want
The first two adult-oriented SheJumps programs fund the program that invests in the next generation of outdoorswomen. Wild Skills camps and seminars are targeted toward elementary- through high school-aged girls who want the skills to get outside and play.
This winter will bring a Feb. 27 "Get the Girls Out" fundraiser for SheJumps' youth programs in Utah, supporting the Wild Skills camps for girls over the summer. And every Saturday in March will feature a ski outing for local Boys & Girls Club teens of Salt Lake, many of whom have little or no other access to skiing or snowboarding.
Be sure to follow SheJumps’ Facebook page to stay up on upcoming event details—and support what they’re doing to shape the next generation of outdoorswomen.