Admittedly, I was up loooong before the alarm on Saturday, Day 1 of Alison Gannett’s Rippin Chix Steeps Camp. Event though it was still dark, I could tell Crested Butte was shrouded in the storm that NOAA predicted every day I obsessively-compulsivly checked the week prior to leaving. Nothing like sideways wind and snow coupled with low visibility for a confidence booster…. Awesome!
We had a curtain call of 8 am, and my nerves and seven cups of coffee fueled an on-time arrival. Wound up like a five-year-old on Halloween candy, I had no clue what to expect.
Walking into the sign up room was a jolt stronger than the buckets of caffeine I’d consumed. There were 60 women in the clinic. … You read that correctly, 6 – 0!
I was intimidated, sure, but also in awe. Why? One good reason would be the instructors. I was a cartoon junkie when I was little, and one of my favorites was the Superfriends. The Rippin Chix instructors comprised a fem version of the superhero Hall of Justice, 2009. Every single one of them was super approachable, fun, gorgeous, and positive. … But there was also the unmistakable air of bad-ass about each one. Let me capitalize that: BAD ASS! I found my group and we headed up the lift.
Our instructors, Shelley and Autumn, were surprised when they ran us by our first black diamond run on the front side that morning. Out of the eight skiers in our group, not a single one was jumping up and down begging to charge down that sucker. Shelley and Autumn threw each other a sideways glance, and reminded us that our prerequisite for the class was black-diamond run experience. Secretly, I checked that box about four days prior to the camp at Purgatory with my friends Claire and Theresa. I got down the damn thing, but it was far from pretty.
Thankfully, they took our group to “work on some skills” (read: get more confidence-fast!). I realize why they took the time when I heard them talking about taking us to the storied/fabled/mythical/famed North side of the mountain.
It was nuking snow as we headed out after lunch (locally grown and home-made food, awesome!) – literally it was blowing so hard that I thought the T-bar to the North side would be closed down (okay, hoping). “Do NOT sit down,” Autumn said to me as I parked it and clung like hell to what looked like a PVC trapeze flapping in the wind. It was such low visibility that I literally couldn’t see the people on the T-bar in front of me. We traversed to a black diamond run that redefined declivity. …
Something had already shifted in me though. … I knew that my group would not be led down something that they thought we could not do, or something we’d die a gruesome collective death on. The old me would have been writing the headline for that story as I looked over what was much closer to “precipice” than “slope.” Thanks to the instructors’ confidence in us, I actually relaxed (although you could not tell that from my form). This, I discovered, was one of the tricks Alison knew about getting women to bust past their own barriers by skiing and learning in a group with other women.
The afternoon was spent on nothing but blacks, it was almost like I was watching a show about someone other than me, skiing in a group that I wished I could be a part of, but I was there doing it! I had some flashbacks to that Osprey hut trip with Alison three years prior… I beat the tar out of myself on that trip every time I couldn’t get down something, and Alison would just ask me, “well Kristin, are you having fun?” It literally should be distilled just to that – every single run. In skiing AND in life.
Somehow being with my peeps in my group enabled me to shut the trap of my inner self critic. Again, I was not exhibiting Olympic form or anything, but I was getting down stuff that I normally would have NEVER considered skiing.
The day ended too soon, and I found myself secretly pining for the next morning’s sure-to-be-powder conditions, and remembered the forcasted blue bird skies on tap.
Checking myself, I wondered if I had suddenly developed multiple personalities, as I normally would not be frothing at the mouth to get back after the steeps. Instead, I realized that I’d had the shift Alison told me I’d have. She told me that Rippin Chix would change me; it already had.
Because Alison knows her customer so very well, she had a wine, cheese and gear mixer in the lodge to close out the day. I was struck by the fact that the evening’s theme was about celebrating those women in the clinic who worked to reduce their carbon footprint! Once again, it removed rippin’ from the focus, and put it on the environment and considering climate change. We were all equals once again; something I’d never felt following skiers much more experienced than I into the San Juan backcountry. I literally couldn’t wait to get out the next day!