Where are the everyday female outdoor adventurers? The weekend warriors who hold down nine-to-five jobs? These women are everywhere, but they rarely give voice to their adventures. It's time for that to change.
You know she’s out there.
She’s that girl in the corner of your yoga class with lobster-red shoulders from the afternoon she spent at the crag last weekend. She’s the mom in your carpool group who may show up a little late because the route on her pre-dawn trail run required some unexpected bushwhacking. And that waitress you just under-tipped? She’s only working at this restaurant to make ends meet until her next season guiding whitewater trips down the Colorado. Maybe "she" is you: still riding that high from skiing powder all weekend on an all-women backcountry yurt trip.
She’ll talk about the number of bears she saw or how her new tent held up, glossing over the fact that she logged 25-plus-mile days.
You may not know how hard she sends it on the weekends. She doesn’t talk about it often, unless you ask her how her most recent backpacking trip went. Even then, she’ll talk about the number of bears she saw or how her new tent held up, glossing over the fact that she logged 25-plus-mile days.
Our social media feeds are full of Emily Harrington climbing remote peaks in foreign countries, Anna Frost winning trail ultra marathons, and equally awesome women who’ve given up the professional world to winter in vans as they live out their Powder Highway dreams.
Women crush. But where are the everyday female outdoor adventurers? Our friends, sisters, daughters, and mothers we know dominate in the outdoors on their off days? The women who hold down nine-to-five jobs but get out on the weekends? These women are everywhere but they rarely give voice to their adventures.
A common grievance I hear as the managing editor at Outdoor Women’s Alliance is from women who don’t know where to find these adventurous ladies. Women are seeking community in the outdoors, whether that means finding someone to hike with or someone to teach them how to ice climb. It’s not an easy feat—even in outdoorsy cities like Salt Lake or Seattle—because we don’t talk about our adventures.
Stories of weekend-warrior-style peak bagging missions fill magazines, and the internet is overrun with edits from pre-work powder sessions. But most of these are created by men. This doesn’t make the stories any less inspiring; it just overwhelms the average female outdoor enthusiast with the sense that she recreates in a male-dominated world.
We worry we’ll sound egotistical, garner ill-will from other women who adventure, or that some guy will show up and tell us we’re doing it wrong.
Among women, there’s a fear of coming off as conceited if we discuss our achievements. Most women I recreate with don’t consider their adventures cool enough to film or write about—even in the over-share world we live in. Avocado toast is a no-brainer Instagram post, but your dawn patrol doesn't make the cut. We’re happy to post an occasional shot featuring a spectacular mountain lake or alpenglow-lit peak from our latest adventure. But we won’t mention the 5.11b we sent or the cliff-bound couloir we skied. We don’t want to broadcast our success. We worry we’ll sound egotistical, garner ill-will from other women who adventure, or that some guy will show up and tell us we’re running, climbing, surfing [insert activity here] wrong.
I’ve noticed that I’m most motivated to succeed in the outdoors when I surround myself with hardcore gals who prioritize getting outside and having fun in the backcountry. Seeing my friends crush it on the rocks, trails, or at the ski hill makes me want to do the same. Even if I won’t match their abilities on the slopes, trying to do so will at least push me out the door and into my ski boots.
We can expand our outdoor community if women inspire other women like themseleves to get outside. Videos and stories created by and featuring women doing rad things are a good place to start. I’m not talking about a video of Angel Collinson tackling an Alaskan behemoth (inspiring as that is). I want to see footage of the girls in my community sending it at the local crag on their weekend adventure: everyday women doing extraordinary things.
It’s about women feeling proud of their adventures, confident enough to film, photograph, and write about them.
I started working in the ski industry as a lift operator in New Zealand in 2013, during the early phases of the GoPro dynasty that has since taken over ski resorts worldwide. Over the course of three seasons at two different resorts, I watched GoPro after GoPro (and similar devices) come through the lift line, strapped to chests, stuck to the tops of helmets like odd antennae, and clipped to the end of the selfie-stick. And yes, I fished the latter out of the pit at the end of the ramp on more than one occasion.
There was a time when I would have said everyone and their mom had a GoPro. The truth is, very, very few of those cameras were wielded by women. Of all of the ripper chicks in the ski town I currently call home, I can name one who owns and uses a similar device. The same goes for sharing the story of the blood, sweat, and tears it took to reach the summit.
It’s not bragging. It’s sharing, and sharing is inspiring.
And no, this isn’t about camera companies marketing to women. It’s about women feeling proud of their adventures, confident enough to film, photograph, and write about them, then broadcast the footage for everyone to see.
It’s not bragging. It’s sharing, and sharing is inspiring. If we shed the doubt that hides the secret lives we lead on weekends and after 5 p.m., we will strengthen our communities of outdoor women. We shouldn’t hide who we are and what we love. So here's to wearing the scars and wounds we earn on our weekend epics with pride. Let's talk about our adventures and share our stories with each other and the world.
This post is the first in a series about women in the outdoors by the Outdoor Women's Alliance.