Stratton Mountain's Women's Camps: Learn to Ride or Ski in One to Three Days!
by Christine Lynn Harvey

If you're looking to improve your skiing or snowboarding skills and you're a woman, look no further than Stratton Mountain's Women's Camps. Both the Women's Ski Camp and Burton's Learn to Ride (LTR) Camps are offered twice a season, usually in January and March and offer women a safe environment to have major breakthroughs in their skiing or riding. Participants return year-after-year for many reasons - the female camaraderie, excellent female instructors, small student-to-teacher ratio, and individualized groups for all ages and abilities.

Many women may have thought about taking up snowboarding, but have backed away because of fear of getting hurt, or have given up only after a few lessons. Society has programmed women to fear that if they get hurt or injured, it will affect their role as mother and wife. Learning to ski or ride is a powerful way for a woman to conquer her fears, overcome self-imposed limitations and cultivate a life-long sport that offers endless opportunities for self-empowerment. Women well into their 70's are taking up snowboarding for the first time providing inspiration for women of all ages.

Stratton Mountain, located in southern Vermont, makes it extremely easy for a woman to progress from a "never-ever" rider or skier to someone who can ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain at the end of camp. Women are placed in small groups according to their experience and ability and progress at their own speed.
Stratton's Women's Camps are run by women, taught by women and are designed specifically with women in mind. Unlike a mixed group lesson setting, Stratton's Women's Camps are geared to the way women learn best: in a noncompetitive, emotionally supportive environment. In a regular group lesson, students and instructors don't have the time to get to know each other, nor do they bond with each other as they do in a women-only camp setting. Stratton's camps offer 5 hours of daily instruction, video analysis, include breakfast and lunch, a wine and cheese reception, a goodie bag for each participant and raffle prizes. Students can opt for the one, two or three-day camp.

Holly Townsend, Staff Supervisor of the Adult Snowboard School, is an excellent instructor trained in Burton's LTR method and is a member of AASI (American Association of Snowboard Instruction). "Burton's LTR snowboard for beginning riders has a 3 degree edge bevel and a little softer flex which makes turning easier," she says. For women who are on the fence about learning snowboarding, Townsend says, "Our program is no pressure. We're very supportive. We're not here to show each other up. We're just a bunch of girls getting together and learning something new and having fun with it." One snowboarding student who had reservations about progressing from green trails to blue, said "Holly is so awesome! It all makes sense to me now. I know what I'm doing and I feel confident! I couldn't have done it without her."

"Some of the concerns women have is that they are not going to be physically fit enough," says Townsend. "There's no such thing. There's a little bit of work in the beginning. It's a slow process for some people while others pick it up right away. Everybody's different, every one has a different learning style. We teach for those different learning styles," she says.

These learning styles include kinesthetic, auditory and visual among others. Townsend gets to know each student by asking what they do for a living, what their hobbies are and where they live. "We see if they are a little more reserved and if they can relate snowboarding or skiing to something else they are familiar with, like horseback riding. There is a correlation there. If you are riding a horse, you can't be stiff. You have to have a "hunt seat," a good posture, that is ready for action." Townsend, who learned how to snowboard ten years ago, has not only taught women - she helped a 78-year old man master S-turns by relating the moves to sailing since he was a sailor. "He could do both edges, but he could not commit to linking his turns. I told him to fill up the sail gently, tack port, fill up the sail gently, tack starboard and he got it. Metaphors are my thing," she says.

Townsend says don't go out and buy equipment if you are a beginner, since the LTR camp includes LTR rental equipment. Opt for strap-in bindings since the step-in bindings, which appeal to beginners because they are easier to manage, sometimes cause mechanical problems. "Your boots should be snug, but not too tight which can cut off circulation. Waterproof pants and gloves are suggested along with a helmet and wrist guards when you are first learning since you will be sitting on the ground a lot. Beginners are taught proper body movement (flexion, and extension), speed control, direction change, heelside edging, toeside edging, stopping and linked turns - everything a beginner needs to progress from the bunny hill to novice trails.

"I use a metaphor for adults who are used to driving a standard transmission car in teaching them how to twist the board - you have a gas foot and a clutch foot so when you want to turn left, you push in the clutch and let off the gas. You want to turn right, push on the gas and let off the clutch." Once students have mastered all that, it's time for the chairlift. Just the word itself can cause trepidation in some people. "It's the adult fear factor, learning something new, that causes the brain to shut down the body. People tend to back away from something they are afraid of. On a snowboard, unloading is harder than loading. What most people do is bend their back leg which causes the board to shoot out from under them causing them to fall down." Townsend makes her students feel comfortable by talking their fears away and giving them the confidence they need to progress to the next level.

It's a lot of little things that make the difference in learning how to ride or ski with confidence. Stratton's instructors are trained to be highly aware and tuned into the issues that each student is dealing with. If you're a skier and you want to take up snowboarding, Townsend says you have to start from the bottom and be patient with yourself. Don't immediately expect to be snowboarding the way you now ski.

Taffy Morgan, Adult Ski School Supervisor, started as a ski instructor over 8 years ago at Stratton. "Snowboarding is a new sport and for a lot of women, it's similar to how they got into skiing. They followed their boyfriends into the sport and now, they don't want to be left behind when their husband and kids leave to go snowboarding. The nicest thing about the LTR program is, it's fun. It's wonderful to see women get it. It's like being reborn all over again. Working with someone like Holly takes all the fear out of it."

Lucia Wing, one of Stratton's very excellent female ski instructors, is also a horse riding instructor and competitive equestrian. "Skiing is very much like horseback riding. You need to be relaxed and flexible in the saddle and on your skis so that you can react to the changing terrain. Terrain feedback is an acquired skill and it's the mark of a good skier. Skiing is also like dancing - there is a certain rhythm to get into. "

Wing says "when you find out about a student and what they like to do, that's a clue for an instructor to take something you know about and are comfortable with and relate it to skiing, which you are less comfortable with and know less about. The student transfers what they know a lot about to what they don't know so much about." Wing also teaches in a very laid back manner so her students have time to "get it."

Wing relates a story of a skier who was a novice/intermediate skier and also a cellist. "Skiing is like playing the cello. If you take a flat bow across the strings, you get a flat sound. If you take an angled bow, you get a quiet noise." The skier immediately related and began to understand the concept of carving, the next step in her progression. One of her students had a fear of skiing moguls and was not comfortable skiing in spring conditions which has thicker, wetter snow. The fear factor sets in and automatically causes inexperienced skiers to get into the back seat which makes them lose control. Wing coached the student to treat the snow as "cutting through butter" rather than looking at it as 'mush' or 'mashed potatoes' as most people do. "A mental result is equally as important as a skill result," says Wing.

She then slowly introduced her student to moguls by side-slipping and pivot turns on black diamonds which the student was able to confidently do. Then, Wing had the student ski smaller moguls near the bail out lane of the trail. The second day, Wing had the student slowly follow Wing's line through the mogul field and by the third day, the student was picking her own line and now has the confidence to practice mogul skiing. She is no longer fearful of moguls. "Before camp, she said to me, 'No way am I doing moguls!' I've heard that a 100 times before. Women tend to underestimate what they can do. Confidence is the preferred result over the actual skill," says Wing. After taking Stratton's Women's Camp and having major breakthroughs in her skiing, the student will return next year to learn snowboarding.
Wing took that same student and another student through the terrain park and into the world's largest halfpipe (larger than Torino and where the US Snowboard Open was recently held) to stretch her student's wings. She also taught them to ski backwards, something they would have never had the confidence to do without Wing's coaching. "The terrain park can be so much fun to ski. You don't have to do crazy stunts, just enjoy the rolling hills and stretch yourself a little," says Wing. "Stratton's Women's Camps give women the confidence to expand themselves while having a great time!"

For more info on Stratton Mountain's Women's Ski Camps and Burton Learn to Ride Camps, visit www.stratton.com or call 1-800 STRATTON(787-2886). For information about accommodations, contact the Inn at Stratton at 1-802-297-2500 where great ski and stay packages are available as well as other seasonal packages.

Stratton Mountain's women's camp instructors offer excellent instruction for faster learning
Stratton Mountain's Women's Camp attendees & instructors
Holly Townsend (R) teaching a student snowboarding
Demo Day at Stratton
The Inn at Stratton offers great ski/ride and stay packages