It’s funny how some words are pronounced the same but written and mean something completely differently. Homonyms right? Brake/Break, Cell/Sell, Cent/Scent, you get the idea. Ok so what about Ladies Backcountry Clinics? Ladies Backcountry Rides? Ladies Backcountry Workshops? I know they aren’t pronounced the same, or written the same, but why do people think they mean the same thing or “have to pay for a clinic when a ride/workshop is free”? I get asked this all the time…
I’ve seen females in the sport develop over the years (30 to be exact, go for it, call me grandma, I can take it), and its been a love hate thing for me. Take it back to the old school, where you wore boxy, non waterproof/breathable OEM factory name brands that matched your snowmobile and it would take you 3 days to “break trail” into a spot where today would only take 3 minutes. Back to when there wasn’t many women sledding on the mountain and whoever saw Dan Treadway ride by with his long blonde locks sticking out of his helmet would be in ouuuuuuu and ahhhhhhhhh thinking it was a girl. Back then, women in the sport were all under one umbrella and you barely saw them in the backcountry.
Then there was the evolution of clinics. Around 2010, the OG’s Steph Schwartz, Julie-Ann Chapman up here in Canada, then down in the States was Emile Morishead and Amber Holt. These girls were the pioneers. We had it tough learning to mountain ride “with the boys” and were just left to keep up. Ok yeah the snowmobiles were real hard man handle back then, but still, a lot of tears were shed and a lot of money was spent on wrecked sleds. I can’t speak for the other girls, but I can say for myself, I just wanted to create something for women to be able to learn the sport a little easier than the way I had it…This is why I created She Shreds Mountain Adventures Clinics and Avalanche Courses.
I spent years getting certified for avalanche safety (and still an ongoing curriculum as I am working towards my operations level 2…), so many hours over the years doing wilderness first aid training, an insane amount of time developing a safety plan for clinic operation (she shreds mountain adventures), so much time developing a business plan, finding the right insurance company to insure operations, developing a clinic guide curriculum, dealing with proper permitting to be able to operate legally, dealing with sponsors so that clients can get prizes at the end of clinics and the list goes on… It’s a job. Clinicians are the highest trained personnel for the best snowmobile instruction out there. You want to learn in a fast manner how to progress your skills on a sled, you want organization, you want reputation, you want to be insured, you want to be safe, you want to learn the most you can in a short period of time, you want to learn ALL the tricks and tips, you want to have fun, you want free quality stuff to go home with, you want experience and knowledge, you hire someone to teach you a CLINIC.
Then there was the “Ladies Ride” or “Social Ride” movement pioneered by Brandy Floyd. Usually no permits, no insurance, not the best organization, no safety plans, you don’t usually go home with a whole lot learned or new skills, but you do go home with maybe a few new sledding pals (I say usually because there are some organizers that do their diligence and get some stuff like permitting and insurance). Most don’t have their avalanche guide training, most wouldn’t be able to save someone in an emergency. Most of the organizers are on snow part time (once, twice maybe 3 times a week) where the clinicians are on snow usually 6-7 days a week. I would classify these as what they are, social rides. This is why they are free. They are still taking people out in the backcountry and teaching them things without proper certifications or liability coverage. They are responsible for you and your safety. In a court room, who would be liable?
Next is the Ladies backcountry Workshop. Pretty new school. Following the yoga workshops, macramé workshops, dreamcatcher workshop etc we have, with a little bit more liability and risk, the Ladies Backcountry Workshop. Free workshops! Wow! The definition of a workshop is a brief intensive educational program for a relatively small group of people that focuses especially on techniques and skills in a particular field. Pretty close to a clinic correct? BUT, these people putting them on are not professionals, they don’t have the permitting nor the certifications to do snowmobile clinics. No safety plan, spend part time on snow etc etc Would you want to risk your life with someone who can’t try their best at keeping you alive in the backcountry? Ok sure they might get away with calling it a nonprofit organization and not have to provide insurance or permitting, but when the word “donation” or “tips” are being used, is that really nonprofit? Meaning who is liable if something happens? Do they stand a chance in a court room setting? This is why the workshops free.
In all, you get what you pay for depending on the product and safety you want. One thing they all have in common is that the day(s) are put on with a passion for sledding straight from the heart and I give props to all of the women taking on these events. Women in the sport has bloomed and blossomed so much over the past 10 years and this I am loving!!! Stay safe out there and have a blast doing so!