Photos by Susanne Einzenberger
LORRAINE HUBER ON THE POWER OF WOMEN-SPECIFIC SKI PROGRAMS
Ever since I started working as a young ski guide at age 23, I discovered that my male clients often approach a challenge differently to my female ones. Most men generally believe that they will be able to manage the situation somehow and go for it. Many women, on the other hand, tend to want to do everything perfectly, which ultimately puts them under pressure and harms skiing performance. So many women believe that they must be super good at something before they can give it a go and hold themselves back from important opportunities to learn and grow. This is often true in sports as it is in their careers. Also, many women tend to be down on themselves when something doesn’t go well, and this further damages their confidence. The result is feeling doubtful and frustrated about not progressing, and ultimately experiencing less enjoyment on the mountain.
Do you see what the big problem is here? If we’re not willing to try something new and experience it, we can’t build confidence. Confidence is built through doing, through getting into action. It’s not a prerequisite to joining a certain activity, it’s a result. So, if I hold back on skiing with that group, entering that competition, joining that trip, because I think I’m not good enough, I’m robbing myself of precious opportunities to challenge myself and build that highly sought-after confidence in the first place. I’m no exception to this. For many years during my ski career, I battled with self-doubt and extremely high expectations of myself. Find out how I overcame these limitations here. Of course, overestimating our abilities is also something to be avoided – but in my experience, 90% of women do not have this problem.
I started asking myself what would it take to encourage more women to get into freeriding and develop their skills? I knew that most women were worried about not being good enough and that their biggest fear was holding up the group (a type of social fear.) The solution I came up with then was to create a unique environment which is encouraging and supportive of learning new things and challenging yourself: female-only ski groups!
I intuitively knew that women would be less intimidated to learn and develop their freeride skills if surrounded by other women. And I was spot on. When women get the chance to ski with other women, they often manage to stretch themselves more than when they ski exclusively with men, according to the principle “seeing is believing”. Watching another woman step up to a challenge and hit an air or drop a cliff is hugely inspiring and makes you want to try too. Also, compared to a group made up of males, the atmosphere among women is typically less competitive and more geared toward having fun together as a group, where no one is left behind. It’s so much fun!
So, in 2008, I founded the “Women’s Progression Days” (WPD), the first women-specific freeride camps in Austria. Today, the Women’s Progression Days have become one of the most sought-after ski camps in the Alps. Women from 18 upwards and of all off-piste skiing abilities come to Lech am Arlberg each year to experience the inspiring and confidence-building environment of our all-female groups led by our expert female local guides and coaches.
The WPD Freeride Camp focuses on skiing downhill and improving ski technique. We start with some fundamentals: reviewing and improving our basic skiing position, technical training in difficult snow conditions, powder, steeps and bumps, as well as learning a progression of exercises to jump on skis.
The WPD Ski Touring Camp focuses on the up as well as the down: efficient uphill skinning technique, kick turns, transitions, and technical skiing tips to improve confidence and fun. Both camps include half a day of avalanche rescue training as well as practical avalanche safety skills.
I believe that women-specific programs are important to create more space for women in snowsports in general. It simply gives them a chance to catch up. And when women are learning and thriving and creating space for themselves in the sport as well as the ski industry, it brings a broader perspective to the industry as a whole – which ultimately benefits everyone.
About the author:
Lorraine Huber is a professional skier, freeride world champion, and mental strength coach from Lech am Arlberg. She co-founded the first Austrian freeride school in Sölden in 2003 and pioneered women’s freeriding in Austria. As a fully certified ski instructor and ski mountain guide, she has helped hundreds of women hone their ski technique and confidence off-piste.