Between Kikkan Randall, Sara Renner, Chandra Crawford, and Beckie Scott, there has been no shortage of successful female athletes in North American over the past decade. Step off the trails and into the wax room, and you’ll find even more involved in the sport as coaches for collegiate and club programs.
But during the May meetings of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association in Park City, Utah, an accomplished group of female coaches gathered not to celebrate, but to figure out how to get even more women involved in the sport.
“The barriers don’t exist like they used to, obviously—there’s been a lot of progress in this country over the last 30 or 40 years,” said Eileen Carey, a coach and vice president at the Maine Winter Sports Center, who convened the meeting. “What we have to do now is take a more nuanced look at it…what do we have to do to take it to the next step?”
Carey said that the conversations at Park City were preliminary, and honed in on some of the gender differences that persist in cross-country skiing. For example, Carey said that she has noticed fewer female athletes moving on from collegiate to post-graduate ski careers, as well as into careers as coaches.
The question for the six women at the meeting—Carey, New England Nordic Ski Association’s Janice Sibilia, Alaska Nordic Racing’s Joey Caterinichio, Bates College’s Becky Woods, University of Utah’s Abi Holt, and Jackson Hole’s Ali Deines—was how they could close those gaps, and they came up with a few ideas.
One, Carey said, was an award for the strongest initiative encouraging female participation in cross-country skiing. Other suggestions included holding a women’s camp during the summer, or hosting a panel discussion at a major event that would include successful female athletes, coaches, and event organizers.
While it’s important to make sure that avenues exist for women to continue participating in the sport after college—whether as a coach, an athlete, or in some other capacity—Carey said that it’s just as critical to make sure that they are aware of the opportunities that are already open to them.
“A lot of it is just getting the word out there,” she said.
The discussions begun in Utah will continue on an e-mail list that Carey is overseeing; she said that the group hopes to push forward with the creation of an award. She plans to bring the women together for another meeting at the U.S. National Championships in Rumford, Maine, next January.
For more information, or to be added to Carey’s e-mail list, contact her at eileen[at]mainewsc.org, or at (207) 227-4114. To download the minutes from the meeting, click here.
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.