Girls Do Ski freeski camp is a leading program for women who want to take their ski skills to the next level, in the company of other amazing and supportive female skiers. I had the privilege of joining this years’ camp at Revelstoke Mountain Resort with GDS Director and badass skier, Leah Evans, and her tribe of talented female coaches. My role was to bring art into the mix by observing the camp groups, getting to know the women and sketching their experiences over the course of the 2-day camp.
Art and skiing…can you do both? Can you really be an athlete and artsy nerd? I believed the story that you can be one or the other, but not both...and certainly not at the same time. Leah set out to prove that yes .you. can. by inviting artists to join her camps and show that you can be a woman+skier+artist+anything! Skiing brought together this incredible community of supportive women, and art captured the experience that none of us could put words to. As a weird kid who loved to draw and stuck with skiing when everyone else was into snowboarding, I never thought these two worlds would meet…much less be celebrated together.
I skied with the first group on Saturday morning, watching them learn the basics of making a clean turn and holding their core strong in a ‘ready’ stance. Hold the basket, don’t squish the puppy, nose over downhill toes. The group found a soft panel of untouched powder at the side of the groomed run and our coach suggested they try some Revy pow. Many of the women in this group had never skied powder before. They were excited to try, but nervous about their own ability to ski deep freshies. Slowly they each ventured over into the panel, and their faces lit up with huge smiles as they picked up speed and confidence blasting through cold smoke, laughing and hollering “yeeeeewwww!!”
Push your boundaries and amazing things happen; you realize you’re better than you think you are. We’re holding ourselves back 99% of the time, but surround yourself with support and encouragement from a community that doesn’t judge, and suddenly it’s okay to try powder or drop a cliff or hit that jump. I headed straight to the warming hut with my pen and sketchbook to start on a piece to captured the moment. “Light the Way” was born, a sketch that celebrate pushing your boundaries and the pleasant surprise of realizing your full potential.
On the second day, I could tell something had shifted. There wasn’t much hesitation at the top of a steep run - instead of “maybe I shouldn’t” it was “this is going to be rad!”. Watching the women ski after learning to refine their technique and build confidence the first day, I saw so much improvement in not only the way they were skiing but in the shouts of encouragement and support for each other. They were pushing themselves further and having a blast doing it. My second sketch was inspired by a moment when the advanced group I was with decided to try a drop on one of the steeper, treed lines in North Bowl. The coach went first and scoped the landing from below, but it didn’t take long for every single woman to follow. No one stopped and said “I can’t” they just went for it and were cheered on by the rest of the group whether they landed it or not.
“Queen of Diamonds” is for the ladies who went for it, pushed past their comfort zone and left the camp proud as hell of what they achieved.
The camp isn’t just about women supporting women; behind the scenes at GDS, there were men supporting women too. Mike came with me on the trip, taking two days off work and driving 7 hours from North Vancouver to Revelstoke then skiing on his own while I was off at camp. He’d meet me at the B&B with a hug and a bubble bath ready for my tired muscles at the end of the day. My dad taught me to ski as soon as I could walk, and my brother is constantly promoting my artwork in his new restaurant. I spoke with many other ladies at the camp who also received incredible support from men in their lives. Their husbands were at the hotel looking after their baby while mom skied, or drove with their girlfriend from Calgary to keep her company or encouraged her to sign up for GDS in the first place. Women crave and thrive in a community, and community includes some extraordinary men and we are so grateful for them.
Photo Credit: Agathe Bernard
On the last day of camp, we gathered at the midstation lodge to swap stories over frosty Begbie pale ales while prizes were given away. Before the camp, I painted two oil on wood round pieces to give away and was so happy to present these to two smiling skier girls that afternoon. Everyone left with a smile, whether they won a prize or not. I’m so grateful to be a part of the Girls Do Ski community, to share my art with them, and for an experience I’ll never forget.