May 6, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Alexis Cornachio | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
In November of 2021, Cat Krupka ’23 took a leadership position in the start-up of an all-women’s freeride team. Krupka had been integrated into the competitive ski world early on in her life and had recognized the gender differences in how individuals were treated within the outdoor industry, especially within competitive ski culture. These experiences were among some of her motivations to separate from the Colorado College freeride team and create an all-women’s team.
Freeride skiing has always been a sport dominated by men. Maybe it’s because they’re typically “sendier” or just physically bigger. While the sport is already inaccessible in its nature and is largely composed of groups of people coming from the same socio-economic class, within the ski world, gender divisions continue to be an issue.
For Krupka, coaches separated teams into heteronormative gender categories from an early age.
“In the ski racing world particularly, which is a very white male-centric space, there is no gender spectrum at all. And like no LGBTQ representation at all,” said Krupka.
“The groups were separated by gender, the coaches just aren’t taking the girls into as hard of terrain because they don’t think they will like it as much. But all of a sudden when the girls are with the boys, they are pushing themselves harder, especially when they are little kids,” said Krupka.
“When the younger girls aren’t pushed to do that, then I think they just don’t have that courage as they are growing up, so they never reach those levels,” she said. These experiences of gender in ski racing impact individuals throughout their careers as athletes.
Ellie Gober ’24 grew up in Silverton, Colo. and participated in a multitude of outdoor sports like ski racing and kayaking.
“I was always the only girl going skiing or kayaking with my brother and his friends… At CC it’s actually a lot better than some places, but there’s definitely still toxic situations,” said Gober.
Gober collaborated with Krupka to start up the all-women’s freeride team. In addition to skiing, Gober has worked as a kayak instructor and enjoys biking with the bike team because of the inclusivity aspect of the team.
Noah Goin ’24 and Cole Pietsch ’24 both went to Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, Colo., and competed on their school’s big mountain tele ski team. Their experiences of the culture surrounding masculinity in skiing and rafting reflect more about the gender dimension of the outdoor industry.
“Every girl on the team I heard from at one point or the other that their least favorite thing about the sport was the team dynamic, and how it was just unnecessarily ‘bro,’ really loud and intense. I also felt like the team dynamic wasn’t necessarily what the team had to be about,” said Goin.
“There are social elements that can’t be removed. It’s just the nature of those social elements that need to be examined if they’re harmful to how accessible the sport is to everybody,” said Pietsch. “You can’t remove gender from experience.”
At CC, both Goin and Pietsch have continued their involvement in outdoor activities and enjoy the social aspect of outdoor activities over the competitiveness that was experienced in high school.
If you have been fortunate enough to experience and access the outdoors, there is no denying the gender dynamics prevalent within the outdoor sports culture.