Posted by: ingaaksamit | December 17, 2009

Squaw Valley’s Women of Winter on Wednesdays ski program a hit

By Inga Aksamit, Inga’s Adventures

Jonny Moseley at the WOW clinic

On a finicky weather day when snow, sleet and rain fell, a jazzed up group of women assembled at Squaw Valley to learn a few tips and enjoy the camaraderie of skiing together in the inaugural Women of Winter (WOW) on Wednesdays ski clinic. Jonny Moseley, 1998 Olympic gold medalist in moguls, hosted the first WOW group to ever convene, along with some of the top female instructors at Squaw Valley to test a concept generated by lead instructors Fran Tone and Julie.

The goal of WOW is to make skiing enjoyable for women, teach a few tactics, explore the mountain and ski. This is not a traditional clinic where you spend a lot of time doing drills one at a time, or stand around analyzing each run. These activities have their place in skill-building and several other clinics at Squaw offer in-depth training, but the focus of WOW is different. The clinics are fast paced, only last two hours and are designed for maximum enjoyment of the snow. Many of the instructors, like Fran and Julie, have more than 10 years of teaching experienced and are certified Level 3 instructors.

On the inaugural day the WOW instructors weren’t sure what to expect but the turnout was excellent, with 15 skiers and 1 snowboarder. Three instructors were present, with two on skis and one on a snowboard. They were prepared to split into different groups of women but the group was able to mostly stay together, occasionally splitting into two groups. The ability level ranged from intermediate to advanced, but with limited visibility and early season conditions (and conditioning) everyone was skiing a bit conservatively to start with. As Jonny said when asked what he does on the first day of skiing each season, “Try not to get hurt.”  

Lead instructor Fran Tone giving a tech tip

On the first ride up the Funitel Fran and Julie gave everyone a pep talk, describing the goals of the program and getting everyone psyched to get on the snow. They emphasized that it’s early season for everyone and that for today’s clinic it was all about getting used to the snow after the summer hiatus. Their enthusiasm was infectious and soon pairs and small groups of women in the Funitel were excitedly sharing their experiences of skiing with “the guys” as they couldn’t find women to ski with. From the first ride it was obvious that these women were going to be seeking each other out after the program.

Everyone was excited to spend time with Jonny and he did a masterful job of moving around the group so that everyone got a chance to talk with him and ask questions, riding up the chair lifts with different people and posing for photo ops. He has an easy, approachable style and quickly found common ground across a range of conversational topics. He freely shared anecdotes about his Olympic experiences, post-Olympic career as a broadcaster, narrator of the Warren Miller movies the last two years, current role as Chief Mountain Host at Squaw Valley, and upcoming role as Olympic commentator for NBC. He misses competing but admits that, after getting married and having a son, now two years old, he definitely has a different perspective on taking risks.

The instructors had hoped to take the group to the steep terrain that Squaw offers, such as the East Face of KT-22 and Chute 75, but because of the low visibility they opted for Shirley Lake instead. After a couple of easy tree runs the group split into two, with some opting to continue on the lower angled slopes while the other group tackled the steeper runs. Jonny managed to find some tight places under Little Rockpile to execute some teaching moments, showing the group how the narrow chute was starting to look like a mogul run, and demonstrating the technique of making short radius turns and stopping. Of course he looked incredibly smooth and graceful and the WOW group did a respectable imitation.

WOW group on the chair lift with Jonny Moseley

Over and over the participants could be heard exclaiming over how much fun they were having, and how much they were enjoying the program. A lot of women were looking forward to skiing with some new-found friends after the clinic. Since the program is new the instructors frequently asked for feedback and the only suggestion was to make it a little longer, perhaps extending the time to three hours. All in all, everyone agreed that the first WOW program was a big success.

The Women of Winter program is offered on select Wednesdays from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. Reservations can be made ahead of time or tickets can be purchased on the day of the clinic. Participants meet at the bottom of the Funitel at 10:00 am, except the Early Up program, which meets at 8:15 am.  The cost is $49 per session, or $159 for a book of 5 sessions, which reduces the cost to $31.80 a session. A book of 5 would make a great gift for women skiers. The schedule for the next WOW sessions is as follows:

  • January 6, 2010 – Hunting the GEMS of Squaw
    January 20, 2010 – Guest Appearance by Female Big Mountain Skier
    February 3, 2010 – EARLY UP (Pray for powder) Start Time: 8:15 AM
    March 3, 2010 – On the EDGE of Squaw
    March 17, 2010 – Pot Pourri
    March 31, 2010 – End of Season WOW Party, Place and Time TBA

See the Squaw Valley website at www.squaw.com for more details.

Photos by Inga Aksamit

The author wishes to express gratitude to Squaw Valley for hosting her at the WOW clinic.

See related articles at Examiner.com

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