There’s nothing fiercer than clambering up a steep scramble while rocking a skirt. Women can really rock it in the outdoors (Misadventures itself is proof enough of that). But the outdoor industry has always, perhaps unintentionally, turned a blind eye to the technical needs of women venturing outside.
Growing up, we’ve all envied that purple and pink bike with glittery streamers. It was the unicorn of welded steeds to any seven year-old girl—the most magnificent piece of gear imaginable. Fast forward a couple of decades and it is clear that we’ve grown up, but our gear has not.
The bulk of what the outdoor industry has been marketing to women is nothing more than an adult version of your first unicorn bike—a small, low-quality men’s piece of gear with a splash of cloyingly girlish design. Whatever your preferred outdoor activity, you’ve probably had your fair share of frustrating run-ins with crappy women’s gear. But, in the outdoors, women are ripping it just as hard as men, and we need our gear to keep up.
The outdoor industry has long been male-dominated. With the vast majority of CEOs, designers, and outdoor role models being guys, women historically haven’t had much of a voice. So, there hasn’t been much of a selection of functional gear that actually suits the unique needs of women. Luckily, the times they are a-changing.
Want proof? Look no further than Coalition Snow, the first ski and snowboarding company that sells gear of exceptional quality made for women, by women. As a company, they’re like a breath of fresh, alpine air. Not only do they design and sell a line of gorgeous skis and boards that are as functional as they are beautiful, but they also sell athletic wear in authentically cool designs.
But Coalition Snow is so much more than a killer snow sports company. It’s a social movement that’s working to get more women into the outdoors, business, and even politics.
I had the chance to chat with Coalition Snow’s incredible CEO and founder, Jen Gurecki, about how Coalition Snow is working to get more women outside, the challenges of being a female entrepreneur, and the overlap between the outdoors and our communities.
How did Coalition Snow get its start?
“We started Coalition Snow because we felt like women didn’t have the range of shapes, sizes, and performance in gear that was available to men. I had the idea on a backcountry ski trip on the East side of the Sierras. As soon as I got home I emailed a bunch of people as was like, “What do you think about this?” and the women were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is awesome!’ Within a couple of weeks, we were able to get feedback from around 300 women, who said, ‘This is a good idea. You should move on it.’”
“As women who have been snowboarding and skiing for years, we’ve kind of lived that experience of looking for equipment to buy and never being fully satisfied. The way the industry has traditionally worked is that women’s equipment has been a shortened, softened version of a man’s. No one has really taken a lot of time to design specifically for women, and women have never really had a huge part in the design process, so there’s been this huge gap. So we saw this need, as skiers and boarders, and we also saw an opportunity as entrepreneurs.
“Coalition Snow is the only company in the world where women are designing skis and snowboards exclusively for other women. What makes our equipment a little bit different is that we’re offering the shapes and sizes, and really the flex, that will help women either progress in the sport or will meet the needs of the more advanced and expert skier/rider, depending on which model you choose.”
Why do you believe it is important for women to get outside?
“Being in the outdoors definitely builds confidence. When you set out to do something and you accomplish it, that sense of accomplishment directly translates to everything else in your life. You’re also building a significant amount of leadership skills—particularly if you’re going out in groups. Getting involved in these women’s specific groups [like Coalition Snow’s #SisterhoodOfShred, or the Outdoor Women’s Alliance], you just recognize that you have a voice and other people want to hear it. In the outdoors, there is a huge opportunity to have a stronger voice, to gain that confidence and to build those leadership skills, and you can take that from the boardroom to the bedroom to wherever you need to take it.”
Coalition Snow isn’t just a company—it has become a movement. How is Coalition Snow moving beyond creating awesome gear to create positive change?
“It’s 2017. If your business can’t have a double or a triple bottom line, where you’re focusing on some sort of social impact or environmental impact, you’re really kind of stuck in the 1980s or earlier. There are too many opportunities in business to not look at how you can make a greater impact. And as women, we really recognize that [through Coalition Snow] not only would we be able to be role models to other women, but we could really be a voice in the outdoor industry that has been missing for so long. So since its inception, we have always had this mission of women being able to stake their claim in the industry, women being able to have a really strong voice and not just exist in the sidelines.
“One of the things that we also hope to do is to be a voice and to be role models for women in business because we really need to be able to get one another’s back. Female entrepreneurs, regardless of what sector you’re in, are facing a lot of the same challenges, and Coalition Snow is a company that’s really chipping away at some of the stereotypes and the norms that hold us back. From that standpoint, too, it’s not just about skis and boards, it’s not just about the mountains and snow sports, it’s about women in business. The more of us who have a stronger voice in the business world, the more we can really see things change. Everything from the marketing messages that we see that are blatantly sexist or offensive to the messages that are just sort of so normal that we don’t even recognize how fucked up they are, we can help shift that. And a lot of these messages that are sent to girls and younger women about what it means to be a women and what it means to be a strong woman with a voice—as a company, we’re really helping to tackle some of those challenges that women face. Whether you’re an avid snow sports participant or not, Coalition Snow is relevant to all women because we really are helping to shift the narrative in a much broader industry.”
Interested in learning more about Coalition Snow? Check out their products online or at retail stores like REI, and find a #SisterhoodOfShred chapter near you to meet a community of other like-minded women and get outside.
Jordyn Cormier loves mountain adventures, foam rollers, and coffee. Professionally, she is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and dancer. In 2016, she founded her business, Whimsy Media, to encompass her writing and video work… because everything can be a little bit more whimsical.