Ever wonder what makes women who have
gnarley jobs tick? Gail Binder, head guide and manager for Monarch
Mountain Snowcat Tours, talks about why she loves her job, the changes
she's seen in the industry and gender issues on the slopes.
Current ski area: Monarch Mountain
Age you first skied: 5
Where you first skied: Loveland Basin
First ski instructor (could be anyone, brother, sister, mom, uncle, etc): Mom and Dad
Where did you grow up skiing? Grew up in Jefferson County and skied at Geneva Basin (check out coloradoskihistory.com)
Was it love at first turn, or did it take a few years to become a passion? After I linked two.
When did you decide that skiing was to become a large focus in your life?
High School... I spent a week with the A-Basin Ski Patrol and got
credit for it!... While I hadn't planned on my future "career", I
definitely got a taste of what was to come.
Who inspires you? Kids that rip.
What significant changes have noticed in the industry? Other things that come to mind... weather, energy and cost.
the record season two years ago there has been a noted change in
snowfall intensity and moisture content as well as wind events. Parts
of my responsibilities as a guide are to monitor the weather data for
avalanche forecasting and subsequent explosives mitigation. Monarch has
definitely experienced an increase in wind intensity, which I believe
is the most critical aspect of creating avalanche potential, even if
only small amounts of snow are available.
Energy cost and
availability has changed and will continue to be a concern for all
aspects of ski area operation. While I have no data to back up my
opinion, I would guess that the small ski area "foot print" is less per
skier than the large resorts. I believe that Monarch, which is a huge
asset to the community, could become a model for the future by focusing
on conservation and sustainable development.
Cost: Our 6 person
family season pass at Geneva Basin was $130. While being employed in
the ski industry doesn't make you rich, it sure makes it affordable!
Have you ever felt inferior on the slopes because of your sex?
thinking about this question, I believe that the answer goes beyond the
slopes. Since mountain towns tend to have higher concentrations of men
and ski patrol/guide ratios are even higher, the natural tendency is of
a masculine nature. As I reflect on the last 25 years both on and off
the mountain, I can see how I gravitated towards and have been
influenced by this incredible energy. Now it's refreshing to see and
be a part of a larger wave of women who bring a softer more
compassionate side to skiing. Kind of like fresh powder!
Why do think there are fewer women on the slopes than men? I'm not exactly sure about the percentage of men to women on the tours, but I would guess some where around 80-85% men.
Guys are more likely to take risks and keep taking them as they age.
Both of my brothers were into ski jumping. My younger bro, Mark, was
lined up to win the Taos Extreme in 2008 after two days of competition.
All he had to do was ski with no crazy stuff necessary. His last jump
was almost his last. (He was 45.) My older brother is an ultra
marathon runner now, 8th in the Leadville 100 in 2007 (he was 51.)
Girls become mothers and are more prone to survival. It's part genetic
and part upbringing. I knew that if I had a child I wouldn't be a
snowcat guide. I wanted to ski. Many women I've worked with have given
up the slopes for children. My sincere appreciation goes to them.
What has been the biggest improvement in terms of encouraging women to ski?
I think you go back to the gender thing as children. What role are
parents teaching their kids? My parents encouraged me and my siblings
to excel in what made us happy, not what society dictated. My Mom was a
ski instructor with 4 kids. So encourage women to get back on the slope
after they have children. At Monarch I see so many ski buddies that
have become fathers give their wives/partners time to ski on their own.
Kudos to them.
As a woman in the industry, how do you propose to make skiing more appealing or enjoyable for women? I hope that I have, and I'll keep my efforts going.
What stereotype, phrase or word do you hate the most? About snowcat guiding, "That's not work..."
What stereotype do you think is true? Working as a snowcat guide really is "the best job."
Any advice for the young rippin ladies? Follow your dreams, they just might come true...
Any advice for women looking to buy their first pair of skis?
Demo... Don't be intimidated by the size. I love my (K2) Pontoons in
conditions I didn't think they would perform well in: crud, crust,
Just for fun, most embarrassing skiing blip: I'm so cautious I usually only embarass myself when I'm by myself, on skis anyway.
The most fun you’ve ever had on skis? After 43 years, 2007-08 was the best season of my life!