Last week, I joined nearly 60 women (then strangers, now friends) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week of skiing and skills improvement at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) Elevate Women’s Ski Camp. Those four days riding over 20” of fresh snow will now and forever be a favorite memory of my young-ish adult life. As part of our "New Year, More You" Resolution Challenge this year, I’ve vowed to do more of what I love, more of what makes me feel like me (and less time trying to be anyone else). Skiing all week with the girls? Well, that’s just me in my truest form.
My first priority for the camp was improving my skill set with daily lessons led by an elite crew of professional coaches. The four days and nights of camp meant plenty of bonding and après, sure, but we also received video analysis, drill practices, and personalized recommendations for leveling up. Going into the week, I made assumptions about how the camp would play out and what I would gain as a Denver-based outdoor industry founder who already spends most weekends on the mountain. Spoiler alert: My form needed more attention than I anticipated.
For the entirety of the camp, I skied with the same instructor and group of three other women (including my bff, Maura), where we focused on different skill sets for a variety of conditions and pitch types: groomers, powder days, heavy powder days, steep pitches, choppy snow, moguls— you name it. From roughly 8:30 am to 3:30 pm (with breaks for lunch and hot cocoa baked in) Tuesday through Friday, we explored every lift the mountain had to offer.
The Camp Breakdown
Prior to Camp
Ahead of camp, everyone received a questionnaire asking us about our comfort levels, what we were hoping to improve upon, and what type of terrain we typically like to ski to help divide us into smaller groups of two to four people for the week. With nearly 60 women in the camp and 16 coaches, each group was expertly matched based on skill level and interest. (Keep in mind, this is an intermediate to advanced level camp, so everyone had to at least be comfortable on blue runs). We were also sent a schedule of events to give us an idea of what each day would look like—so if you’re curious about the day-to-day, check it out here.
The day before camp started, the camp leaders hosted a happy hour on the mountain, which gave everyone a chance to get checked in, ask questions, get introduced to the coaches, and meet our fellow campers. I was so thankful Maura and I had traveled to Jackson the day before the welcome event, so we’d had a chance to get settled in and relax before the week kicked off. If you go to camp, I’d recommend doing the same.
During the Camp
On day one, we met at the base of the gondola where we were assigned our instructor and group for the week. However, we were told these groups weren’t firmly finalized yet as the coaches still needed to analyze everyone in the morning “ski-off.” They reassured us that a “ski-off” sounds way more intimidating than it is, as they simply needed to get a feel for our ability. According to my instructor, coaches can surprisingly assess a skier’s style within two turns. Once our group was confirmed, we were cleared to break off and set our intentions for the week. We chatted about goals and what inspired us to come to camp before diving into drills and fundamentals.
While I grew up skiing, I hadn’t taken a lesson since I was 12, so a refresher on proper form was more than needed. Like a lot of skiers, I struggle with riding in my backseat, meaning I tend to squat down and hold my weight over my heels rather than pitching myself forward over my toes to keep my body’s momentum headed in a balanced direction. This was something we focused heavily on the first groomer day and continued touching on throughout the camp.
Days two and three were both heavy powder days, with each bringing in around ten inches of fresh snow overnight (yeehaw!) Even though I’ve skied in Colorado for the past five seasons, I’m not always comfortable skiing through deep powder and it was immensely helpful to have a coach standing by who knew how to attack varying conditions. I learned that I have the tendency to pick up my inside foot on turns when I shouldn’t, so we practiced keeping both feet planted throughout the turn to push through heavier snow and easily cast into the next turn.
The final day was something of a graduation—we recapped our learned skills on groomers before hiking above the gondola to our most intense run of the week. I wish I could accurately describe how empowering that final run felt, and how proud I was of the week’s work, but truthfully, it’s something you’ll have to experience for yourself to understand. Heading into the closing banquet dinner, it was clear the rest of the women felt the same way. High off of our accomplishments, we celebrated the week with cocktails, glitter, a shot ski, and the viewing of our very own ski movie.
After the Camp
Unlike most vacations, where I typically focus on self-soothing (re: going to the spa or reading by the beach), ski camp was an act of true self-care: doing something my future self would be, and is now thankful for.
True to the camp’s promises, I improved my technique and confidently walked away a better skier than I was when I arrived. (If you need proof, just look at the photo below where I’m beaming after hiking the Headwall to a run that would normally give me a minor panic attack.) But now that I’m home and counting down the days until Elevate 2025, my priorities for next year have shifted. I’m less excited about the technical improvements than I am about the supportive elements that made last week so special— the community, sense of empowerment, and most importantly, the childlike play that only camp can inspire.
Camps aren’t just for kids—ski camp proved to me that they’re even more meaningful in adulthood.
Camps are great for kids, obviously, but in post-grad adulthood, where our lives are siloed by our careers and social circles, the need for connection and inspiration is even more important. Think about it this way: when did you last take time off to focus on something you love? When did you last take time off to make new friends? And when did you last take time off to challenge yourself and build confidence? Prior to attending camp, I couldn’t honestly name a recent example for any of those questions, let alone all three at once—but doing so made for a vacation unlike any other.
By putting myself and these intangible benefits first, I gained more than just a sharpened toolbox of skills, but a nostalgic reminder to make space for a spirit girlhood once fulfilled— something we could all use in balancing the stress of adulthood.
During my time at camp, I made friends with women of all ages from all different backgrounds, I spent four full days (mostly) off of my phone, playing in the snow with those friends, and as a result, felt a true sense of escape from the pressures and anxieties of the real world (something I can’t say on a normal vacation when I’m still tethered to my phone).
I won’t sugarcoat it though: skiing four full days, two of which were heavy powder days, took a noticeable toll on my body (which is typically accustomed to half days in my Halfdays on the mountain). From the early morning gondola access to the self-scheduled nightcaps at The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, I paid a hefty price in the exchange of fun and fatigue, and I’m still paying it in full. Even still, writing this on a post-vacation Monday with a gorilla-sized dose of caffeine fighting to keep my eyes open, I’m grinning like a little girl who just returned from the best summer of her life at sleep-away camp.
If you’re thinking about joining one of Jackson Hole’s Women’s Camps and still have questions, I’ve detailed a Q&A below to help cover any missed areas. If you still have questions after that, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com, I’d be happy to talk you through my experience—and convince you to join me next year.
Q: How much do JHMR’s Camps cost?
Q: What’s included in the camp?
A: Four full days of small group lessons (usually between three to five people in a group, with guaranteed no more than five in a group) with lunches provided and an après event with snacks and drinks most evenings. There was also a VERY FUN banquet dinner on the last night with an open bar and a delicious buffet dinner.
Q: Can snowboarders come?
Q: Where should I stay during the camp?
A: Lodging is not included in the cost of the camp, but they do offer a discounted rate through Teton Mountain Lodge for participants of the camp. I would personally recommend staying in town rather than in the village (which would mean missing out on the discount) because it makes it easier for you to explore at night. My friend and I stayed at the Anvil Hotel, which was convenient for visiting the cowboy bar every night (it’s only a block away!).
Night capping at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
Q: How challenging was the terrain?
A: Jackson Hole is a notoriously steep resort, but I felt the most comfortable I had ever felt with the expert guidance from our coach (Thanks, Stuart!). Each coach knows how to pick runs that will challenge you without putting you too far outside of your comfort zone.
Q: How are the groups paired up?
A: Each group is matched based on their skill level, what they want to improve upon, and how hard/how much they want to ski that week. The groups are kept pretty small and the camp coaches evaluate everyone on the first day to make sure they are appropriately matched. I loved my group and felt like we were all on the same page!
Q: Do I have to ski the entire time?
A: How much you ski is totally up to you! If your body is too tired to finish the last hour of the day or you need a longer lunch break to rest up, your coach will encourage you to listen to your body. My body started to feel it on the last day, so I quit around 2:00.
Q: Should I go?A: YES! I already have my calendar blocked for Elevate next year (typically the second week of January) and I would love it if you joined me. If you’re too excited to wait until next year, the next Lady Shred Camp is starting on March 5, 2024.