I’m a chick and I can say this: Taking pointers from a significant other is delicate business, particularly when it comes to climbing and skiing. The threads of patience can be as fragile as the wisps of a spider’s web: They stretch to some degree but frequently break, leaving a sticky mess. And all too often, women fail to take the lead.
That entire dynamic changes when women learn from women in a supportive environment.
This was Kim Reynolds’ vision when she founded the all-female company Chicks with Picks in 1999 in Ouray, Colorado, with the goal of helping women develop ice-climbing skills and gain confidence to become more independent climbers—and people.
Fifteen years and hundreds (if not thousands) of empowered women later, Reynolds sold the company to five of her guides, who now also want to take the cold feet out of learning to backcountry ski. Building on the success of its climbing clinics, the company has expanded its reach and added Chicks with Sticks skiing clinics and renamed itself Chicks Climbing and Skiing.
If you want to learn to slay it in the backcountry, this is your team. The owners’ resumes read like the Ivy League: outdoor education degrees, mountain guide certifications, mountaineering awards, professional sports competitions—the list goes on and on. All tallied up their collective guiding experience is damn near 100 years.
“We want to be able to help every single person [female] along the way, whether you’ve never put skins on, to the person who’s ready to start dropping into couloirs,” says Dawn Glanc, one of the company’s owners and a world-class mixed climber. “We like to think that we can help everybody,” says Glanc, who has noticed that women seem to push themselves more in an all-female setting.
“It’s a totally different dynamic,” says Angela Hawse, another owner and an AMGA- and IFMGA-certified guide. “It’s being in a group setting and learning from others.”
This season the company is offering three skiing clinics: heli-skiing in Telluride, an off-piste adventure in Japan, and a backcountry skiing clinic outside of Ouray. The backcountry program, “The Alchemist,” runs February 1-5, 2017, near Red Mountain Pass and includes three days of instruction in winter travel skills, snow safety and skiing tips, plus lodging and meals at Mountain Belle, a backcountry hut.
“Our focus is not just to take you climbing. Or take you skiing. Our focus is to make you a more competent and confident individual,” says Glanc.
If experience is any indication, they’re on the right track. One participant in a “soft launch” of the program last season said, “I don’t know how I would have gotten through that. It’s different having a group of women there.”
This altruistic thread is woven into the company’s ethos, which also includes a commitment to give back to the community. Through local fundraisers, the company has raised $285,000 to donate to the Tri-County Women’s Resource Center and the Ouray Ice Park. chickswithpicks.net