Fearless Females02/23/2021 11:48AM ● By Sophie Dingle
Women gather at a fly fishing clinic, which would go on to become the foundation for SheJumps Steamboat Springs.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – On a bright, cold winter day, shrieks of joy could be heard echoing down the trails of Mount Werner. Flashes of color flew past as, one by one, a group of neon-clad skiers raced down the run and came to a halt at the bottom, sending an impressive amount of powder shimmering into the air. This particular group of women – laughing, colorful and immersed in each other – was spending the day skiing together as part of an event for the SheJumps organization.
SheJumps is a nationwide nonprofit serving girls 6-and-up and women 18 and older. Its mission ranges from outdoor education to youth initiatives with the mission to increase female participation in outdoor activities.
Three friends – Lynsey Dyer, Vanessa Pierce and Claire Smallwood – founded SheJumps around the idea that, “If she can do it, so can I.”
In July 2007, Pierce organized SheJumps’ first event: a 14-woman climb of the Grand Teton, the largest mountain in Grand Teton National Park. At the time, this was the largest women’s-only group of to carry out an expedition like this. Over a decade later, SheJumps has spread to cities and towns across the U.S., using local ambassadors to help plan events and spread the word.
Steamboat Springs’ most recent ambassador, Britni Johnson, became involved with the program several years ago when a friend of hers, Laraine Martin, was the ambassador. Martin initially brought SheJumps to Steamboat, creating events for local women such as ski days, fly fishing clinics, collaborations with yoga studios and education-based programs such as a mountain-bike tuning clinic. All of the programs are geared specifically towards women with the intention to teach them new skills or hobbies and help them find confidence within their passions.
“One thing that defines my identity now is the recreational activities that I’ve picked up in adult life,” Johnson says. “It can be intimidating to dive into a new passion, but it’s important to build up mental and emotional confidence and to find your place in the space where you want to be. Building skill sets carries over into many different aspects of life, and being able to feel strong and competent as a female allows you to empower the next generation.”
Nationally, each branch of SheJumps is operated differently and geared toward different demographics. Johnson says the Steamboat chapter serves to provide a community gathering space, mostly of adult women aged 18-55, to engage with each other in the outdoors.
Alice Tesar was asked to guide a fly-fishing clinic for SheJumps in 2017, and she has been involved with the organization ever since.
“Personally, having focused and strong women to look up to and learn from has been critical in the development of all my outdoor technical skills,” Tesar explains. “But having those hard skills from early on in my life has given me the voice to say what I need in the workplace and in my relationships. Speaking up for myself came from being in critical backcountry situations where decisions for a team had to be made.”
The skills that girls and women learn through outdoor education courses and activities will serve them well later on, Tesar says.
“Women-led activities for young girls teach self-advocacy and self-reliance, which will allow them to take on leadership roles. From school council to ski patrol to the board room, we need more women leaders, and SheJumps, from my perspective, is making the tools to get there more accessible.”
After nearly a decade of expansion, the organization is undergoing several changes, designed to make the nonprofit stronger, even more accessible and even more inclusive.
“There has been a natural pause in events right now, due to COVID,” Johnson says, “When things start up again, SheJumps will be stronger and more relevant than ever.”