Fear and courage are in debate. The choice lies between staying within the comfort zone, or, pushing forward, dropping in, jumping, climbing higher.
Daring to accomplish the seemingly impossible, this mantra has becoming the guiding concept of the intrepid tribe of young women known as SheJumps, the all-women, nonprofit organization stoking the fire of ambition and inspiring new outdoor pursuits.
Wearing bright and bold colors and ripping down a ski hill in tutus, this curious group of SheJumps creatures are known as “Girafficorns.”
Brook said SheJumps strives to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities, focusing on doing so with free and affordable outdoor education opportunities that will provide women with the skills they need to be self-sufficient in the backcountry.
“I think women have a hard time speaking up to both ask questions and be leaders when guys are around,” Brook said. “This isn't always the case depending on personality types, but it definitely makes it harder for women who still have a lot to offer to the discussion but are not as outgoing. Perhaps there's the ‘someone else will take care of it’ mentality as well.”
No matter what skill level, SheJumps opens the door to opportunities for women to jump in, jump up and jump out.
“Jump in,” Brook said, is for the never-evers trying something new. “Jump up” is for women who want to improve their skills and self-sufficiency. And “jump out” is for women who have the outdoor skills and knowledge to be supportive mentors, role models and pass on that knowledge to others in the community.
In October, Steamboat Springs hosted its first SheJumps event, an all-women introductory fly fishing clinic hosted by four avid anglers. The event was full just 72 hours after registration opened a month prior with 30 participants and a waiting list.
“Women can sometimes put themselves last take care of your kiddo first or your husband or your job first and sometimes we don’t necessarily take time for ourselves,” said Sancy Shaw, who recently went back to work full time this year as a teacher, is a mother of four who has lived in Steamboat for 14 years. “But that clinic was a full day to take for ourselves. It made me realize that I could do something on my own and that it’s OK to put me first.”
Whether skiing fishing, hiking, with a group of women who share a passion for the outdoors, Landes Randall, one of the fly-fishing clinic instructors said there’s an unmistakable sense of community, empowerment and encouragement present.
“When I was teaching the group of women to fish, one person caught a fish and everyone was excited and congratulated the lady who caught the fish,” said Randall. “There was this sense of encouragement rather than trying to out-compete each other.”
Nursing mothers, students and athletes, the women in the clinic varied in age and ability, yet each were there for similar reasons.
“Everyone seems to fish around here, and when you don’t but are interested in those activities, it can be intimidating to put yourself out there,” Shaw said. “It can be a deterrent for women trying a new sport or activity. There’s an intimidation factor when you’re walking in to anything new that you’ve never done before.”
The heli-accessed Selkirk Lodge and guide company has been owned and operated by the Devine family since it was constructed in the 1980s by Steve Devine, who died in an avalanche shortly after the lodge was built. His partner Grania Devine, her sister Reinet Shaw and his daughter Kate Devine, an ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) ski guide, carry on the tradition.
The all-female IFMGA (International Federated Mountain Guides Associations) and ACMG ski guides are known for teaching SheJumps courses on terrain management, glacier travel, crevasse rescue, route planning, companion rescue, navigation and more.
“Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and is intimidated by different aspects of the mountains,” Leskovar said. “When we were pushed beyond our comfort zones, and with encouragement and a supportive team, it was understood that being afraid is OK and that it’s even OK to talk about our fears. Finding strength through other people’s confidence in you is very revitalizing.”
Leskovar, Martin and Brook each took part in the course last spring. There, Leskovar said the guides challenged them to believe in their abilities, show team support, build competence and maintain positive visualization to safely get through what they needed to in a supportive, non-competitive, educational and enthusiastic environment.
“Community is essential to our sense of purpose and fulfillment in life,” Brown said. “I have moved a lot over the past few years, and it can be daunting to leave really good friends and strong communities for a new town with new adventures and a lot of new potential friends.”
“SJ helped me quickly integrate with mountain-loving endorphins junkies,” Brown added.