But let's face it, when it comes to backcountry skiing there are a thousand excuses why a "girl" shouldn't go. We have all heard them said: "It's dangerous. You could die in an avalanche; you could freeze to death; you could encounter wild animals or rapists; you should really carry a gun.”
I actually ran across a well-meaning fellow on one outing, who was also alone in the woods, who told me, "you shouldn't be out here alone," which was precisely why I was.
There are lots of NOs in the world. Not because people mean to dash your dreams, but because people live in fear. Humans are inherently scared of the dark. Our instincts keep us safe. But if we listen closely, our instincts can guide us to do things, like go on that adventure. But start with friends or a guide (thank you, Three Sisters Backcountry), and take that Avalanche 1 class so you are informed.
We all need practice. Life is practice. So when you have the opportunity to scare yourself, you should. When you have the opportunity to say "yes" or tell another person "yes," you should. As humans, it is our responsibility to support one another. It just makes the world a better place.
Women, more often than not, may not feel it is possible to get into the backcountry. Many don’t even know where to begin. We tend to be a safer bunch by nature. It may be a testosterone thing, who knows? The more we push ourselves into adventures the more courage we will have in daily life.
Plus, backcountry skiing is really flipping fun. Being out with a group of supportive, jazzed women is invigorating. We practice working together. We take turns pointing out the beautiful miracles of nature that surround us, and we laugh. A lot. We solve problems and we rip it up.
Carol Mergenthaler is a local backcountry skier and artist. She gains courage and inspiration from her adventures in the backcountry. You can contact her and read more about her adventures in the mountains at skimum.com.
Carol’s Six Easy Tips to Get You Out There
- Demo a set up for under $50 from Pine Mountain Sports. They'll give you the gear low down.
- You can "Side Country" up at good old Mt. B on The Cone. Check the website (mtbachelor.com) for more on the route. It's a great way to practice.
- It's very important to layer your clothing. You sweat on the way up, so you need a fresh shirt for the way down. If you tear your gear, like with crampons, Kim Kinney of ruggedthread.com, a fellow backcountry chic, will fix your outdoor gear or customize it.
- For inspiration, check out other chics who backcountry, like Sophie Nicholson (sportsister.com).
- Gather likeminded girlfriends and take a guided trip. Tam MacArther Rim outside of Sisters is a good one. Book the trip with ThreeSistersBackcountry.com. They can teach you how to use your gear as well as show you some good turns.
- Lastly contact me anytime at
Photo taken by Carol Mergenthaler.