Why We Love Ascent Mentorships
Why We Love Ascent Mentorships
This season's Ascent Mentorships program kicked off on December 1st here at Skookum with a meet and greet, talks from the founder—Emily Wright, mentors, and a representative from the Revelstoke POW chapter. With name tags on and dixie cups full of keg beer in hand, it was a perfect opportunity for mentors and mentees to break the ice, mingle with fellow participants, and learn all about what the program had in store for them this winter.
Ascent Welcome night at Skookum - Photo: Olly Hogan
But let’s back up for a minute and chat about what exactly Ascent Mentorships is, and why we are hyped on it.
What is Ascent Mentorships
Ascent Mentorships is a non-profit society that pairs an experienced female ski tourer or split boarder with an aspiring female athlete into a five-month, season-long mentorship—There’s a total of 17 pairs this season. The goal is to reduce the barriers to entry into backcountry skiing and snowboarding in Revelstoke. The program is building a supportive community of bad-ass women by facilitating symbiotic mentorship relationships. The goal is to foster a comfortable environment to develop and elevate skills in the backcountry.
Testing snow conditions and transceiver training - Photo: Lara Shea
Founder, Emily Wright, jokes that her purpose for founding the program was a bit self-serving. She moved to Revelstoke from Whistler about three and a half years ago and was having trouble finding touring partners that she was comfortable with. She didn't know the area and had few connections in the community. She felt self-conscious about her ability in the backcountry. And she’s certainly not alone here—it’s a story we hear all the time! A lot of women lack confidence in their abilities and knowledge in the backcountry. Whether that’s feeling like they’re slow on the up track, are not fit enough, or just don’t shred hard enough in general. It can hold women back from even wanting to try.
It's hard to build that confidence when all you see is dudes out there. That’s why female leadership and visibility are essential to foster the growth of women in the outdoor industry. Emily hopes that the program builds confidence in the women in our community but also helps educate people to make safer decisions in the backcountry.
The Importance of All-Female Mentorship Programs
The outdoor industry is kind of like a song by David Guetta — Where Them Girls At? Ski guiding has one of the lowest percentages of females. The industry is approximately 15–20% female, according to a 2019 collaborative national survey.
Without mentorship, women can feel lost in the boy’s club that is pro (or armature) skiing and snowboarding. During her talk at the meet and greet, mentor and pro skier, Nat Segal, defined a mentor as “an experienced or trusted advisor.” She stressed how important it is in the backcountry to have someone you can trust and to help you on your journey. Girls can put a lot of pressure on themselves, and often feel like they need to push themselves past their comfort zone to prove themselves.
Nat Segal at the welcome night - Photo - Olly hogan
Emily believes that a mentorship program alleviates a lot of the pressure that women put on themselves. In the mentorship program, they are given a one-to-one connection with another female that (hopefully) they feel comfortable with. This allows them to speak up and ask questions but also provides them with the experience without feeling immense pressure to keep up or push themselves past their ability level.
3 Reasons Why We Love Ascent Mentorships
Here at Skookum, we’re stoked to be sponsoring Ascent Mentorships again this winter. Here are a few reasons why we love the program:
1. Ascent Mentorships helps build confidence
One of the most common goals seen in the Ascent Mentorships applications is to build confidence. Skier, Sabine Wimmer, participated in the program last winter with her mentor Emma Mains. Her goal was to experience a variety of touring destinations in the Revelstoke area and re-gain her confidence in assessing the terrain. And they absolutely succeeded! According to Sabine, learning from other females and getting out together is a huge confidence booster. It’s fun and empowering. Having female peers to look up to cannot be underestimated. Seeing other women slaying is inspiring and motivating.
Skookum shop rider Claudia Bambi is an Ascent mentor this year. In her opinion, the main advantage of having a mentorship program exclusive to women is relatability. In other words, if you only see men practicing a sport that looks physically challenging and risky, you could easily assume that it must be too hard for a small woman (she’s itty bitty). However, seeing women that look similar, doing the same sport, suddenly makes it look more attainable. The more you see it, the more you can picture yourself doing it!
2. Ascent Mentorships helps educate women to make safer decisions in the backcountry
Pro skier and Ascent mentor, Kim Vinet, notes that being a mentor is a lot of responsibility, but they are here to learn from the mentees as well. Some mentors happen to be guides (like Kim), but they will not be guiding their mentees in the mountains. This program is about forming a partnership where everyone is involved in the decision-making process.
Kim Vinet talks decision making - Photo - Olly Hogan
A lot of women who are in the early stages of their backcountry journey can be intimidated by the concept of what they don’t know. Lacking confidence in their abilities and knowledge, they often feel like they have nothing to contribute, and will default to going along with someone else’s safety plan and objectives. But Kim believes that everyone’s insights are important, regardless of training level. She stressed the importance of paying attention to your gut feelings, the tingle on the back of your neck, and always voice your concerns.
Bambi echoed this sentiment, “Whether you do all of your research about the forecast, the snow science, and the terrain you find yourself in, the risk is always present in the backcountry. To make the smartest decision, you must weigh your options and pick the safest route. It can be easy to put all your trust into someone else's hands during a trip if you judge that they have more knowledge than you do. But everyone should participate in assessing the risks.”
We all know that you need the safety tools: avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel, but the most important tool is knowledge. And this year’s mentors are excited to pass down some of their wisdom.
3. Ascent Mentorships promotes visibility for female leaders
In an industry that so regularly focuses on and is led by men, Ascent Mentorships is an opportunity to let women in leadership shine. When men are taken out of the equation, women who might normally step back are given the opportunity to step forward and reach their leadership potential. Bambi notes that when she’s out with her mentee, she will be leading the pack 100% of the time—something that doesn’t often happen in mixed groups.
Women approach things differently. They are often incredibly analytical and hypercritical. Diversifying leadership within the backcountry ski and snowboard space benefits everyone—men and women alike. And You Betcha that we’re on board with that!
To get updated on everything that the ladies are up to, follow Ascent Mentors on Facebook or sign up for their e-newsletter. If you're interested in sponsoring the program or donating, please visit the website here. We can’t wait to hear all the stories and successes from this year’s program.
If you’re new to backcountry skiing or snowboarding and need some advice on the gear you need to get started, come down to the shop and our knowledgeable staff will talk you through it all. Happy shredding!