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Junior Ski Patrol: Inspiring the Next Generation of Women Ski Patrollers

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

See for yourself the impact of Junior Ski Patrol, a program that teaches young girls the leadership and skills required for patrolling at their local mountain.

Photo by Ryan French, SheJumps Junior Ski Patrol, Crystal Mountain 2017

Here at SheJumps, it’s no secret we love skiing. We also love the patrollers keeping the mountain safe for us to ski. But who’s behind the goggles and strands? With Junior Ski Patrol, young girls meet, work, and learn alongside women patrollers for a day. The idea of a larger mentorship program began with SheJumps Creative Director Christy Pelland and former Crystal Mountain Patrol Director Kim Kircher in the winter of 2017.

Photos by Ryan French, SheJumps Junior Ski Patrol, Crystal Mountain 2017

“My daughter Harper was obsessed with patrolling and really looked up to our female patrol director at Crystal. She got to ski with her, hang in the patrol room, do sweep - many special aspects that enriched her love and respect for what patrollers do to keep everyone safe on the mountain,” explained Pellard. “Kim Kircher and I decided we needed to give other girls that opportunity so Junior Ski Patrol was born.”

A mission of SheJumps is to increase the participation of girls in outdoor activities. Historically, Ski Patrol has been a male-dominated profession; with programs like Junior Ski Patrol, the goal is to encourage a new generation of girls to carve out a career in the mountains. Under the umbrella of Wild Skills, JSP mentors and teaches young participants through the basics of patrol such as running a toboggan, first-aid, and snow safety.

“The JSP program not only opens the world of patrol to young girls, it also brings the enthusiasm of these participants to the patrol,” said Kircher. “There’s nothing like a group of keen girls whooping it up on the slopes to remind a patroller why they ever wanted to get started themselves. The excitement is contagious.”

The team at Crystal caught the excitement bug, as 2022 will mark the fifth year of the program. For Kircher, working with these young girls to learn about and potentially pursue a career in patrolling is inspiring. “I hope that patrol continues to draw men and women who want to help others and be a part of a cool community,” she stated. ”I’d like to see the patrols of the future be inclusive, hard-working, and enthusiastic.”

One of the more memorable aspects for Kircher was the toboggan skills section in past events. “Running a sled is challenging, and the girls that got in the handles were so excited and proud of themselves for trying it,” said Kircher. ”To think that when I started patrolling and doing sled training that was geared toward men with strong upper body strength, I had to secretly glean tips from the veteran ladies on how to drive a sled.”

Stephanie Durbin, a volunteer patroller at White Pass and SheJumps Co-Regional Coordinator in Washington, is passionate about supporting the next generation as well. “Junior Ski Patrol creates a sense of empowerment and inclusion by seeing strong females working together for a common goal of keeping our mountain safe,” she stated, noting that working as a patroller isn’t exclusively seasonal and can be an entire career path. “I hope patrolling will be more inclusive overall with people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities and overall more diverse in all aspects.”

The positive effects at her home mountain are palpable. “A few weeks after hosting a JSP event, a young kiddo came to the patrol building with a friend that had had an accident and was brought in by a toboggan,” Durbin said. “The parents said she had been able to get a hold of patrol, direct them to the hurt friend and tell them what had happened because she had participated in the JSP event. The kiddo was so excited to be part of saving her friend.”

Outdoor play that nurtures growth and transformation is important to any SheJumps event. Junior Ski Patrol encourages its young participants to rise to the challenges of patrol, mentored by fellow women. Since its inception the program has expanded far beyond Washington with events in Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho, and more.

SheJumps Junior Ski Patrol, Schweitzer Mountain 2020

“It was amazing to be able to inspire such young girls in the outdoors,” said Kimberly Grollmus, a patroller at Schweitzer Mountain in Idaho. “They were all open to try new things and step up to new challenges.”

Photos by Haleigh Kristine Photography, SheJumps Junior Ski Patrol, Taos Ski Valley 2022

At Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, local patroller Malia Reeves spearheaded the initiative. “The community here is a small one, and although young local girls may see patrol out on the mountain daily, the opportunities to interact with a patroller in a positive way are limited,” she explained. “And a positive interaction with a patroller who identifies as female is even more unlikely. Of our 46 ski patrollers, only 8 of us are women.”

Reeves notes that progress for gender equity on patrol can begin with a small step, such as this program which encourages mentorship within the community. “At our event, we gave each participant a satin, bright-colored, rainbow ribbon to tie to their helmet straps,” Reeves stated. Weeks later, the ribbon is still worn on many of the girls' helmets. “Seeing the flash of color trailing behind them as they ski all over the mountain is amazing. It means that we patrollers can remember them and make a point of saying hello or riding a chairlift with them again.”

In 2022, there will be nine different SheJumps Junior Ski Patrol Events offered. Check the links below to see if your local mountain is hosting one or still has availability.

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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