Skiers shred for female health care and empowerment

Marjorie McWilliams, Staff Writer

It’s not unusual to see stacks of colorful skis in the dining hall on weekend mornings as student skiers eat an 8 a.m. breakfast before hitting the slopes. For campus organization, Chicks on Sticks, skiing is more than a pleasant pastime – it’s connected it to social justice.

Founded by two female students in 2016, Chicks on Sticks is an all-girl ski group that hosts the event, Power Through Powder, which occured for the second time this year from February 5 to March 21.

Three groups of skiers leave campus at 5am from Gutterson Fieldhouse either on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and drive to Bolton Valley Ski Resort. The group skins up the slope, reaching the summit around 7a.m., sunrise time.

Skinning is when skiers hike up a trail by attaching special bindings to their skis for traction and removing them before skiing down.

Power Through Powder raises money through participants, who pay $25 if they already have their own gear and $35 if it needs to be borrowed. Other donations come from outside donors such as parents or friends. Half of the money raised goes directly to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the other half to Chicks on Sticks VT.

Chicks on Sticks advocates both for the availability of reproductive healthcare and resources as well as female leadership in snow sports.

Junior Brett Koslowski said the all female atmosphere is an aspect that is important to many of the girls on the team, and influences the way they ski.

“I did sports with mostly guys in high school, and Chicks on Sticks has been a new experience for me because I find that the sport is more about the journey up the mountain than a race to the top,” she said. “It makes it a comfortable environment because no one is trying to prove themselves.”

Junior Maddie Glow expressed a similar experience. “For once I was not focused just on making it to the top of the mountain, I wasn’t trying to be the first one up, and I was not at all embarrassed or felt like I had anything to be ashamed about by not being the best athlete on the trail,” she said.

However, Koslowski is quick to reassure that this group of female skiers are not wimps. “We’re out there no matter how cold it is,” she said.

According to senior Elizabeth Lee, 25 girls participated last year but this year 50 girls turned out, a number which was capped because of the amount of gear available.

The Outing Club donates the gear used by Chicks on Sticks, including the skins, bindings and other tools that make it possible to ski uphill.

“It was incredible to think that literally double the amount of people showed up, and that number could have been more if we had the equipment,” Lee said.

Lee has participated in Chicks on Sticks since her sophomore year.

Skiers of all ability are encouraged to participate, although the ability to ski down a mountain in any conditions is necessary, because being stuck on the mountain certainly isn’t an option, Lee said.

However, “It’s a mixed bag on backcountry skiing ability,” she said.

While ability may be variable, the dedication is not. Many of the participants feel as strongly about women’s rights and reproductive issues as much as they enjoy skiing.

“There’s a pressure in the political climate for women’s reproductive health and I think this is a safe, healthy way to support what you feel strongly about in a calm environment,” said Lee.

As of March 21st, $10,612 had been raised from this year’s Power through Powder event, while last year raised $7,606.