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The Snowpack Avalanche Scholarship Program was founded by SheJumps and the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) with support by K2 Skis and Fremont Brewing in an effort to provide opportunities for affordable snow and avalanche safety education.

In 2018/19, the program provided 30 spots for AIARE Level 1 courses in Washington state. During the 2019/20 season, this program awarded another 30 spots to low-income women to take their AIARE Level 1 courses held in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado states, at 50-100% cost-paid. The program was cut short due to COIVD-19 and the participants who were unable to take the course last season will be given the opportunity to participate in a make-up course this season.

In 2019/20, recognizing an opportunity to have greater impact and address gender disparity across the snow and avalanche professions, NWAC and SheJumps partnered to provide a mentorship program aimed at aspiring female-identifying avalanche professionals. Mentees worked with active professionals in the avalanche industry to assist in a SheJumps AIARE Level 1 course, shadowed professionals in their area of interest, and received structured feedback and guidance.

Though gender disparity across snow sports recreationally is decreasing, women make up approximately 10% of those paid to work in avalanche avoidance or mitigation including: professional ski patrol, mountain guides, avalanche educators, and forecasters. Given the lack of clear pathways working in these professions, mentorship is an important component to gaining experience and learning the trade, but can be elusive and challenging to find. The Women's Mentorship Program was designed to address these challenges but helping women build the connections and experience necessary to advance towards professional avalanche work. 

Women's Mentorship Program

WHY MENTORSHIP MATTERS

APPLICATION

MT. HOOD LEVEL 1

Anyone accessing trailheads, ski areas, or parking lots within eyesight of a mountain knows that there is a lot of growth in the number of people accessing snow covered slopes. However, those of us trying to reach this ever-expanding backcountry user remain in the dark on exactly how many people are heading out, what their experience is, and who they are.

In 2017, NWAC started the Trailhead Outreach Project (THO) to, among other goals, help fill in some of these information gaps. A simple concept in design, staffed almost entirely by volunteers, we set up tents at popular trailheads and asked passerbys to fill out a quick survey. Those who did not want to participate we simply counted and recorded their method of travel.

From the NWAC THO project we know that while gender demographics are not equal, we are seeing growth in women traveling in the backcountry. Of the 1500 users surveyed, 40% were women.

As an organization, we are excited to see more female representation in the outdoors, however we are not seeing parody in the professional snow and avalanche industry. Across the professions that interact with avalanches including, ski patrol, mountain guides, avalanche forecasters, transportation mitigation, and avalanche educators, approximately 10% are women.

There are many factors that play into this lack of parody in the outdoor industry, but absence of clarity on the pathway into these professions is an often-cited problem. For many getting into the outdoors, and the avalanche profession specifically, mentorship in one of the most crucial connectors to gaining experience, linking to other professionals, and landing jobs. Mentorship is elusive, organic, and a not an issue unique to only women, however, we know that it is easier to find and cultivate the more commonalities you share, including gender.

That’s where this mentorship program comes into play. The program is designed to link women already in the profession with those exploring the career and finding barriers to entry. Mentees are paired with avalanche educators for an AIARE level 1, given concrete feedback and steps to pursue, and have an opportunity to shadow both men and women in the field.

NWAC’s role in the education sphere is to fill unmet needs in avalanche education. We view lacking female participation as a flaw in the avalanche industry, and believe that a nexus in the community we have the ability to help solve the problem.

We are deeply grateful for the work that She Jumps, and in particular the SJ volunteers in the PNW, have put in to raising funds and awareness for this program. Fremont Brewing and K2 are sponsors and their generosity in supporting the program, in addition to community backing through NWAC has made it a possibility.

The first weekend of the NWAC / She Jumps Level 1 ran February 20th – 23rd at Mt. Hood, OR. In total there were two instructors, ten AIARE L1 students, 2 mentees, and one NWAC program observer.

Mentees, instructors, and NWAC staff participated in a one-day training before the program to prepare for the course, learn more about the program, and get acquainted with each other.

Over the next three days, mentees taught portions of the curriculum under the supervision of course instructors and worked with students to offer tips and tricks from their own backcountry experience.  Additionally, mentees and instructors all stayed together where they were able to draw from each other’s experiences working in the avalanche industry and forming relationships. Following the course mentees and the lead instructor got out for an unplanned field day in a true testament to how quickly and meaningfully these connections can form.

Mentees will also be given feedback, be able to participate in NWAC educational events, and shadow snow and avalanche professionals. 

PC: Tommy Yacoe

The Women's Mentorship Program aims to support aspiring female-identifying avalanche professionals by providing concrete pathways to working in the industry. 

As a participant  in this program, mentees will work with active professionals in the avalanche industry to assist in a SheJumps AIARE Level 1 course. Mentees will meet together with the guides and instructors before the AIARE Level 1 to organize their involvement in the program and make a plan for continuing mentorship and feedback. 

Mentees will also have the opportunity to job shadow in their personal area of interest (i.e. avalanche forecasting, ski guiding, avalanche education, ski patrolling, meteorology, non-profit management). This program is open to any woman and female-identifying individual who is interested or curious in pursuing a job or career in the avalanche industry.

2020/21 Course Dates

Course 1
January 21 - 24
Snoqualmie Pass

Course 2
 January 28 – 31
Snoqualmie Pass

Course 3
February, 25 – 28
Snoqualmie Pass

Course 4
March 4-7
Mt. Hood

Program History

Application deadline extended to December 20th!