ALPINE FINISHING SCHOOL: the details
G3's motivation for designing and engineering better backcountry gear is to enable skiers and riders to get the most out of their backcountry experience. Beyond the gear, upskilling your backcountry safety and mountaineering knowledge is a critical way to make the most of your next winter adventure. We were happy to support SheJumps.org's Alpine Finishing School this season, and Abby Cooper sent us this geat recap of the program...
Waiting for a heli bump with 11 strangers for a week of lodge life and ski mountaineering learning seemed a little bit intimidating. All signs of nervousness quickly evaporated when the red roof of Selkirk Lodge came into view from the copilots seat. What’s the worst thing that can happen in paradise?
Alpine Finishing School is the most surreal experience. Whoever thought "Hey let’s get some rad girls to learn mountaineering skills at the most beautiful spot in mountains and make life long friends really had their priorities straight" – thank you Ann Keller for the concept and to Claire Smallwood for making it happen 6 years in a row now!
Over the course of 7 days we were able to experience and learn a whole whack of skimo (ski mountaineering) skills that some take years to learn. The week was filled with learning both indoor and outdoor and a good amount of corn skiing. We focused a lot on proper travel, which is really the foundation for making good mountain choices. Knowing where to go, when to go there and how to get there is huge. Travel encompasses trip planning, route finding, glacier travel and rescue work as well. On day one, some of the knots of crevasse rescue were received as a “little hectic” by the group, but by day 5 we were setting anchors and rappelling without much more than a guide check to confirm we had our systems set right – that was an awesome feeling. Having 3 guides that are all dedictated to teaching new mountain skills, and offering support as you hone your skills is pretty special. Having a support team of 11 not-so-strange-strangers is an indescribable experience. Each girl came with her own individual list of things to learn, but part of the list was helping each other reach their goals. Turns out achieving your own goals and helping others achieve theirs is equally rewarding.
Not only did we focus on learning hard skills, but soft skills as well. Recognizing the human factor and offering or requesting a mental belay at times is no easy task. It takes time to find your own voice and to feel confident to share your thoughts. This is a life long work in progress and it’s definitely worth talking about again and again.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a ski mountaineering course doesn’t make you a mountaineer, but it does give you the foundation to become one. What we learned in those 7 days would take months and even years for some to learn on their own. Not only is the curriculum at Alpine Finishing School exactly what you crave to push yourself, it’s so much more. What they don’t tell you about Alpine Finishing School is that you’ll walk away with a bunch of new bad-ass mountain babes as friends, you’ll have a new confidence in what you know and recognize what you need to work on. You’ll eat like a queen, sleep harder than you thought possible, grow your skill set, understand yourself better and get sun burned at least once. But really, if you are looking to leap into ski mountaineering, there isn’t a better opportunity to foster your dreams.