Sunday, October 13, 2013

Women's ski and yoga week defies cliches (except for girls just wanna have fun)


Ridgetop bliss at the 2012 Women's Ski and Yoga Week, Valhalla Mountain Touring 
If I asked you to picture a women’s backcountry ski and yoga week, what comes to mind? Bright ski suits, frosted braids and poufy toques, bouncing down perfect powdery slopes? Firelight glow on serene early morning stretching sessions? Wide smiles as wine glasses clink and flavours are savoured and recipes traded?
ACMG ski guide Kitt Redhead skiing like a girl.
Our own yoga teacher for the week Sarah Manwaring-Jones enjoys some fireside play.
Don't worry. This is just the first course. There is also dinner, and dessert. And did I mention post-skiing appies. You earn your turns up here, which means refuelling is an important and awesome part of the week. 
But what about chainsaws confidently (carefully) brandished to clear the path to our day’s skiing destination? Stuck snow machines hoisted from unimaginably deep drifts by dozens of arms so we can be towed home as the last pink light fades from the peaks. A conga line of rosy-cheeked girls carving a waist-deep trench as we head towards peaks and steeps. 
You thought I was kidding about the stuck snowmobile? This ain't Deer Valley, ladies! Time to push!
The fast-track to sauna and apres-ski goodies.
Sticky skins require teamwork!
Skiing in the trees also requires teamwork!
Last January, a group of 11 women took over Valhalla Mountain Touring for the first annual Women’s Ski and Yoga week. Ever since then I have been wanting to do a little post about what the experience was like, how it was different than hosting and guiding a mixed or men’s group at the lodge.  Despite the fact that the week was overwhelmingly positive and fun, I have had trouble coming up with good language to describe the unique qualities of a women’s week. It’s so hard to steer around the clich├ęs like “women are so much more supportive of each other” (they were) and “the bathrooms remained much tidier with an all women’s group” (they did). I just have to come to terms with the fact that one-liner universal truths about women don’t really capture what was great about the experience of hosting and guiding an all women’s group.
This owl kept an eye on us during our lunch break one day.
Shadow play on the ridge top
The week was about different things for different members of the group.  Some were go-getters new to the sport who challenged themselves by pushing their skis uphill and getting after it in the deep snow day after day for the whole week. Others were seasoned mountain women getting back into the sport after time off with babies. Some ladies came to push themselves. Some ladies came to chill.
Smiles
Smiles
Sunny smiles
Staff smiles
Snowy smiles

Sarah, our yoga-guide for the week not only found the most exquisite ways to challenge and ease our ski-strained bodies. She also gracefully narrated the classes with ski, snow and mountain metaphors from the day, and closed the practice with poems, some even originals like this one.

-ruby creek-
have you ever heard the voices of winter?
the dialogue between snowflakes falling through space
a ridgetop breeze
splintering trees
the thundering whumph
and, the space, 
where dialogue ceases
and there is a voice, a sound, a cellular experience of silence
i still feel it now, hours later, 
it touches some deep place inside of me
that yearns for endless quiet
where time and space stand still
and all I know is in(Finn)ity

The light in January is really special, in part because there isn't very much of it!
Cruising home after a day of sunny powder skiing.
It is a rare treat to get to spend a week in the mountains with a big group of women, and even more special to get to share my winter work space with my friends Kitt Redhead (the other ski guide for the week) and Sarah Manwaring-Jones (the yoga teacher).  Natalie Harris worked her butt off (small girl, giant camera!) to take these beautiful photos that capture the heart of the week.

Even in a big group, there is always solitude in the mountains. 
Got to go up...
To go down
And then back up...
For some more down. 
If you think you would enjoy a week of skiing, yoga, good eats and great company, there are still a few spots available in this year’s Women’s Ski and Yoga Week at Valhalla Mountain Touring. Fresh air, deep snow and lots of exercise-induced (and post-sauna snow roll induced) endorphins are guaranteed. Chainsaws and stuck snowmobiles are not.

What: Women’s Ski and Yoga Week, Jan 12-19, 2014
Where: Valhalla Mountain Touring, Selkirk Mountains, BC (near New Denver)
Price: $2120 per person (including tax). Includes transportation to the lodge by snowcat, 7 nights accommodation, guiding, all meals, daily yoga.
Open to: Good fitness and intermediate to advanced downhill skiing skills. Prior backcountry skiing experience recommended but not required.

If you think you could use some of this
And some of this
You should join us here Jan 12-19, 2014.