Beeland, 46, a stay-at-home mom from Alexandria, Va., wanted to improve her own skiing so she could keep up with Sam, now 11, and Brynn, 9, when the family traveled from the East Coast to the more challenging skiing of Snowmass, Colo. Though she hadn’t been seeking women-only classes, she found them an ideal fit, because “I think women and men approach learning things differently,” she said.
Emily Spiker, the program manager of Women of Whitetail, concurs. “Learning with other women creates a more supportive group and makes skiing less intimidating,” she said. The resort’s only female instructor with Level 3 certification, Spiker has been skiing for 50 years and teaching it for 20. She estimates that about 70 percent of the Women of Whitetail participants are moms with a child in the ski school program or on the race team. Like Beeland, their goals are modest: improve their skiing, keep up with their kids and make the entire experience of spending the day at Whitetail more fun overall.
Launched 15 years ago, Women of Whitetail has grown so much in recent years that the instructors added a second session in the 2018-2019 season to meet the demand. The popular program reflects a larger industry effort to appeal to women — especially moms like Beeland, whose kids are already skiing — by creating women-specific ski programs.
Nationally, the number of women participating in downhill skiing is growing, and resorts have taken notice. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of women in skiing increased by 7.2 percent — to 4.7 million — while the percentage of men in skiing decreased by 13.3 percent to 6.9 million, according to data from Snowsports Industries America (SIA).
Getting more women on the slopes is also good for business: Industry surveys indicate that women are often the primary decision-maker on family vacations, and SIA estimates that women control between 70 and 80 percent of all ski-related consumer spending. As part of the outreach to women, Vail Resorts, which owns Whitetail, Roundtop and Liberty in Pennsylvania, began offering women-only lessons at most of its 37 ski resorts.
For example, it started its Women Ultimate 4 ski lessons at four of its Colorado resorts — Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone — in the 2014-2015 season. Other resorts that have provided women-specific instruction include Snowbird in Utah, Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Telluride in Colorado, Killington in Vermont and Jackson Hole in Wyoming.
Now comes 2020, and a ski season like no other. Among the safety measures being adopted by many U.S. resorts is the modification of group ski instruction. Decisions are still being made, but as of press time, Whitetail and Vail itself had canceled adult group lessons, and other resorts in the chain were expected to follow. Snowbird was still planning to hold its three-day women’s camps this year and its Wednesday morning women’s group beginning in January.
When Whitetail announced the cancellation in October, the participants immediately began lobbying the resort to reconsider.