7 WOMEN-ONLY ADVENTURES
IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
By John Reid
Women are going harder, faster and farther in adventure sports today, and they’re blazing wider trails in the Canadian Rockies. With the support of regional businesses, it’s part of a revolution sparked by some gutsy, ponytail-clad pioneers. Writer John Reid digs into why women are looking for gender-specific experiences and recommends seven women-only, Rockies-based programs.
There was a time when female adventure athletes, such as Sharon Wood, were forced to take a tough route through the boy’s club to find their place at the top. Now that trend is changing. Women-only adventure programs are sprouting throughout the Canadian Rockies, encouraging a new wave of female participation in a variety of sports.
Wood is a guide at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and one of Canada’s most distinguished mountaineers. A true pioneer of women’s adventure sport, she was the first North American woman to scale Mount Everest in 1986, the inaugural winner of the Tenzing Norgay Award for “Professional Mountaineer of the Year” and The Banff Centre’s Summit of Excellence award winner in 1997.
Wood ran her first women-only mountaineering program back in the 1970s and continues to guide women’s groups today. “In my experience, women are more assertive in a women-only group,” said Wood, “so they’re more likely to take risks and be supportive of each other. Psychologically, it feels like a safer environment to ask questions and make decisions than with mixed groups… and that helps them learn faster.”
Other businesses offering programs in the Rockies think the same way. At the 2015 Calgary Outdoor Adventure Show, clubs and companies like Spin Sisters were keen to show off their women-only programs. Spin Sisters mountain biking group trains in Kananaskis Country and has seen tremendous growth in the last few years.
“We started out with members who just wanted to ride with other women and not be judged or feel intimidated,” said Lara Karl, executive member of Spin Sisters. “Now our numbers are around 350, which is over triple what it was just a few years ago. It’s to the point where memberships sell out in just a few hours.”
For women looking to find new training partners, learn new skills or hone old ones, there are as many options as there is time to try them.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
Women’s Intro to Mountaineering is an intensive week-long course out of Bow Hut on the Wapta Icefield, and covers rescue, geology, map work and route-finding. Participants have the opportunity to lead moderate level climbs.
Sarah Hueniken Guiding
ACMG alpine guide, Sarah Hueniken, offers women-only rock, ice and alpine climbing courses out of heavenly areas like the Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise group and Lake O’Hara.
Calgary Outdoor Centre
Join a fun and welcoming group of women for the Calgary Outdoor Centre’s mountain biking, climbing and solo canoeing, hosted in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley.
Based in the Calgary region, Spin Sisters is a women-only mountain biking club for riders of all abilities, and includes ride programs in Kananaskis Country, Canmore and the mountain parks.
The Powder 101: Girl Powder course is designed to help women find their powder legs in a supportive and encouraging group of female adventurers.
Rundle Mountain Cycling Club
With a variety of Women’s MTB Programs, group sizes with the Rundle Mountain Cycling Club are kept small for the best learning environment possible.
Canadian Skyline Adventures
Based in Jasper, this guiding company offers hiking trips, such as the Gutsy Girls Adventure, a three-day trek on the 44-km Skyline Trail.
Lover of limestone, lynx and larch! John Reid is a Rocky Mountain writer and usually the first to say something positive after the third false summit.