From an Idea to Reality: The Snowpack Scholarship Program

Updated: Feb 8

For the past four years, the SheJumps Snowpack Scholarship Program has stormed into the ski industry and undisputedly changed the game for snow scholarships specifically for women. Learn how it all happened with co-founders Krystin Norman, Yulia Dubinina, and Charlotte Guard.

SheJumps Snowpack Scholarship Founders

From left to right: Yulia Dubinina, Krystin Norman and Charlotte Guard


What happens when you combine backcountry skiing, craft beer, and the legendary Girafficorn? The winter annual SheJumps Snowpack Scholarship. In its 4th year of programming, the Snowpack Scholarship has become one of the most impactful opportunities for women of all ability levels to safely access the backcountry as well as inbound skiing at Ikon Resorts. As part of SheJumps' commitment to build a better place to belong for all women, more than 50% of all Snowpack Scholarships are provided to Black, Indigenous, Women of Color.


How did this all begin?


Back in the fall of 2017, Krystin Norman noticed that while backcountry skiing was becoming increasingly popular, it was staying relatively homogenous with far and few women in between. Inspired to make a difference, she brewed up the idea of creating a scholarship-based AIARE course to build the community of women skiers in Washington. Familiar with the steep prices of getting into backcountry skiing, Krystin was inspired to create access points for others to safely recreate with proper equipment and knowledge.


“When I moved to Washington, I had no money of my own and also had a very low paying salary in the biotech industry fresh out of college. But I knew that I wanted to prioritize the outdoors and balance my work time with outdoor time,” Krystin explained. She was already delicately balancing student loans and day-to-day expenses with ski costs. “I knew that I needed the education to access the backcountry, and first signed up for my AIARE course and gave myself nine months to collect all of the ski gear.“


Krystin Norman, Snowpack Scholarship Program Manager & Founder


Recognizing that saving up for gear, courses, and having mentors to learn from isn’t a privilege many folks have, she decided to pitch the idea of the Snowpack Scholarship Program to Yulia Dubinina, SheJumps Washington Regional Coordinator at the time and Charlotte Guard, Program Director at Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC).


“Yulia is the reason why I know SheJumps exists, she is my main ski partner, and she is also one of the first women I started backcountry skiing with after I took my Level 1,” said Krystin. She also knew Charlotte through the snow industry as well. “I've looked up to Charlotte a lot since I first met her, and we ski and climb together at times.”


Yulia was no stranger to the importance of a community of women in the ski industry. Back in the winter of 2013, she stumbled upon a Get the Girls Out Event at Crystal Mountain and has been a part of the SheJumps community since. Even with an ACL injury at the time, she noted how, “I instantly felt like I belonged, quickly getting involved after further chatting with a few SheJumps volunteers at the time.”


Yulia immediately loved the idea of the Snowpack Program, in part because of the dedication and passion Krystin showed for the program. “I don't think I even let her finish before I said that I was all in,” Yulia said. “We had talked about how there really weren't a whole lot of opportunities out there for people who couldn't afford to just pay for a class.”


SheJumps Get The Girls Out Event

Photo by Ryan French


They also understood the importance of getting Charlotte on board. “NWAC was key to include in the program because they are the avalanche education and safety experts in our area and I wanted Charlotte's opinion on the program and key considerations,” Krystin said.


Already impressed by their dedication to bringing more women into the snow industry, Charlotte knew that combining NWAC and SheJumps forces would help address the lopsided gender ratio. “They reached out to me because they were having a hard time staffing the program as there are so few women lead instructors for AIARE, which was already an industry wide deficit we were looking for ways to help solve,” Charlotte explained. “This program seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring more women into the snow sports world and also add a mentorship component for women looking to work in the industry.”


The teamwork made the dreams work. “Without NWAC and Charlotte, we would not have access to the amazing educational resources and instructors that we currently utilize, and the mentorship side of the program would not exist,” added Krystin. Since those initial conversations, they have worked together to build out the program and create opportunities specifically for women.


Charlotte Guard, Snowpack Scholarship Program Founder


The Snowpack Scholarship Program initially launched in fall of 2018 with sponsorships from Fremont Brewing Company and K2 Women’s Ski Alliance. That first year, 30 low-cost or entirely paid-for Level 1 courses were offered to women in Washington and Oregon.


In four years, the program has more than doubled.


While initially starting in the Cascades, the Snowpack Scholarship AIARE 1 courses have expanded to Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado for the 21/22 season. In total, 62 spots. Montucky Cold Snacks is sponsoring the Teton Region and Dynafit with Pomoca is sponsoring the Rockies region. For the first time ever, the program will also offer six scholarship sports for an AIARE Level 2 Companion Rescue in the Cascade Region. Made possible by a partnership with Weston Backcountry and The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, 100% of the spots are for Women of Color.


2021 Snowpack Avalanche Scholarship Recipients

Photo by Diana Bartos


Claire Smallwood, Executive Director of SheJumps also feels passionately about the program as it helps change the snow sports community for the better. “SheJumps was founded on the principle of inclusion, and for that reason, we are very passionate about offering equitable opportunities for Black, Indigenous, Women of Color to find an educational pathway in the snow sports world,” she said.


Understanding that lift-accessed ski mountains are sometimes the first step before backcountry skiing, there will also be 15 Ikon Pass Scholarships offered specifically for Women of Color for the 21/22 season. It includes a gear package provided by Nordica.


“After this season, we will have helped 162 women get their AIARE L1 or L2 cert, and 33 women access resort snowboarding and skiing with an Ikon Pass,” noted Krystin.


“Building this program has been a collaboration with so many people, and I feel like every single one of them has contributed to the foundation of the program that exists today,” expressed Yulia. “I am named as one of the co-founders of the Snowpack Scholarship program, but the truth is - Krystin was the one who had the vision to build the program and make it all happen. It would not happen without her.”


Yulia Dubinina, Snowpack Scholarship Program Founder


Both Krystin, Yulia, and Charlotte noted that they hope to continue growing the scholarship and mentorship opportunities in new regions across the US. Added Krystin, “I'd love to see more folks step up and get involved with the program, whether with brand support, volunteer hours, or help with overall running the program and lending some fresh perspective on how to best reach more folks!”


As the program expands, the roots of why it all began remain the same. “Community is my largest rock, and I love that Snowpack Scholarship focuses on building community around supporting women who want to safely recreate in the mountains,” said Yulia. “The atmosphere it creates is everything I longed for when I was first getting into ski touring.”


To apply for a 2021/2022 Snowpack Scholarship before the deadline of October 31st, click here. To get involved with the program, reach out at snowpack@shejumps.org.


To apply for a 2021/2022 Women's Mentorship Program before the November 25th deadline, click here.


 

SheJumps is an inclusive organization. We welcome all women and girls (transgender and cisgender) as well as non-binary people who identify with the women’s community. SheJumps strives to be an ally in the fight against racism and acknowledges that our events and programs take place on traditional, unceded Indigenous lands.


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