Sisters in the steeps
Sisters in the steeps Making connections while shredding Silverton Mountain

Kara Tatone drops into Rope Dee Chute No. 2 at Silverton Mountain last Saturday during the Sisters Meeting in the Mountains. The meeting is a “rendezvous for expert-only skiing, networking, inspiration and education.”/Photo by Christine Rasmussen

by Christine Rasmussen

A rare scene occurred at Silverton Mountain last weekend. Groups of all girls, six or more at a time, bootpacked up steeps and dropped into narrow chutes. Perhaps the most unusual part: there was not one hardcore “dude” among them.

No, it was all mountain “chicks” for the weekend-long Sisters Meeting in the Mountains. The fourth annual event is described as an opportunity for women to “rendezvous for expert-only skiing, networking, inspiration and education.”

Silverton Mountain co-founder Jen Brill started doing all-women’s events a decade ago, before the chairlift was even built. “I started doing Sisters events because there were no women in this town, and I was lonely,” Brill said jokingly. “No, there were women here, just very few in my age group.”

Since then, Silverton Sisters has evolved from a focused clinic into a more casual gathering, where ladies also can enjoy yoga, a massage, après drinks or “come to these cool talks rather than just learn how to ski, since most of you have that down,” Brill said to attendees of the evening keynote presentation.

Brill is often asked, “Why the need for an all-women event?” She answers simply by repeating what Leslie Ross, founder of Babes in the Backcountry, a women-focused backcountry guiding company, said at last year’s event: “Good female riders and skiers are almost always with the guys, so to have an event like this and bring together the yin and yang is a great way to balance it.”

Brill said she was inspired by another event with a “corny name” but one that offered a lot of useful information for women in the ski industry. “Gathering of the Goddesses” is a workshop that teaches women in the industry practical things like how to invest their money and how to market. “And they happened to be in places like Big Sky (Mont.), so I got to ride cool mountains,” she said.

Brill wanted to follow that basic format, where women could would have “an inexpensive way to ski Silverton Mountain and get some information as well.”

Adventure-sports photographer Re Wikstrom, one of two guest speakers at the Sisters Meeting, shared some of her work, seen in magazines such as Bike, Powder, Backcountry and Ski Journal.

Wikstrom’s inspiration to shoot mostly female skiers came from dissatisfaction with how women are portrayed in sports media. “It was either really cheesy, like, ‘Woo, look at me, I’m skiing!’ or you had to be in some sort of sexy photo – that was the only way you got in the media. I couldn’t understand why guys could get recognized for their skills and girls couldn’t.”

Kendall Reiley (foreground) and Kara Tatone set up to ski Slots of Fun at Silverton. /Photo by Christine Rasmussen

Wikstrom worked her way into the industry by interning at Bike and Powder. Yet even after shooting for six years, Wikstrom says it’s still a challenge to get photos of ripping girls published – especially if their names are not yet well recognized.

“Sometimes things have to come together randomly – submitting work at the right place, right time,” she said. “I always look at it as baby steps: I am building slowly, one relationship at a time.”

Silverton Mountain guide Maria Kallman said she was inspired by Wikstrom’s presentation. “I was just reading an article about (Olympic skier) Julia Mancuso, and it had three pictures of her all super sexed-out,” said Kallman. “Why do they need to do that when she’s such a good athlete?”

Probably 20 percent of riders at Silverton are women, according to Kallman. “Of them, a lot are more timid than they need to be and are better than they think they are, so to help women gain that confidence and know that you don’t need balls to have balls here, I think this meeting is awesome. I hope it grows every year.”

Graduate student Newsha Rostampour, who traveled from Denver to attend the Sisters Meeting, said the event is about more than sharing an interest in the outdoors, it’s about sharing the experience with other women. “I do mostly ride with guys; it’s not often I can get a group of girls who want to ride the same type of terrain I do. It’s a great weekend just for that.”

Rostampour added that having Wikstrom share her experiences breaking into ski media was inspirational. “It’s nice to have girls like that laying groundwork for other women in the industry.”

The second guest speaker was Annie Fast, the first female editor-in-chief of a major action-sports publication. At the helm of the most widely circulated snowboard magazine in the world, TransWorld Snowboarding, Fast’s journey to success included several seasons of in Bozeman, Mont., while attending college.

When Fast delved into snowboard journalism, she capitalized on connections she made while coaching at High Cascade Snowboard Camp in Mount Hood, Ore., and sought advice from other ski/outdoor journalists living in Bozeman. Her overall advice to the group: Have confidence in your skills, don’t hedge your opinions, and pick up the slack in the office when no one else will.

And what is Fast’s response since her promotion to the customary question: “What’s it like to be the first female editor of TransWorld?”

“It’s a hard question for me because I don’t know how to separate myself as a woman,” Fast said. “I used to try to answer it, but I felt like I was making stuff up. I just see myself as a snowboarder, and I think I’ve earned this job.”

Despite her established reputation and accomplished position, Fast still gets asked if she actually snowboards. “I don’t think that happens to the guys. It’s a funny question. Of course I snowboard.” •



In this week's issue...

July 21, 2022
Wildlife success or deal with the devil?

Land swap approved in Southwest Colorado, but not without detractors

July 21, 2022
Tapping out

The latest strategy to save the San Luis Valley's shrinking aquifer: paying farmers not to farm

July 14, 2022
Hey, good environmental news

Despite SCOTUS ruling, San Juan Generating Station plans to shut down