Backcountry leaders share their passion

By Brennan Lagasse

Photo: Brennan Lagasse

As backcountry skiing has continued to grow in popularity throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin, educator and community leader Whitney Foehl saw the need for a women’s specific group. Joined by other female leaders that love to backcountry ski, Whitney decided to put together a few events and the rest is history. The following is a collective Q&A with Foehl and fellow core female backcountry ski leaders Holly Yocum, Sarah Kunnen, and Jillian Raymond.

Q: Where did the idea for Tahoe Backcountry Women (TBW) come from and how did you first get started? 

Tahoe Backcountry Women was founded during the 2011-12 ski season, when I [Whitney] was taking a year off from my teaching job to work in the outdoor industry. With the support of Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City. I set up some initial events to see if I could get any response from the community. It was clear that women were waiting for a group like this.

Q: What are you up to right now, besides skiing all of this great new snow in Tahoe?

We have seen a dominant representation of males, both in-bounds and in the backcountry, in film and print media, so we want to inspire and excite women to get out there and have fun — without and with the boys! We have a loose but organized committee to get our message out there, and ultimately involve as many women who want to be involved.

Q: How do you feel now looking back from where you started?

TBW is in its fifth year and we have stayed intimate and true to our mission of empowering women in the industry – both novice and advanced – to get out there and send it!

Q: Why is it important to have an all women backcountry group?

Backcountry skiing is serious business; it’s rarely easy and not something to take lightly. We want women to be adventurous, educated and safe by building the skill they need to lead and the ability to communicate effectively while backcountry skiing.

Q: What can backcountry women look forward to from TBW this season?

We host our annual “My Turn Slide Show” and  lead guided ski tours. We also  offer avalanche education, host a gear swap and an annual hut trip in the Sierra. New this year we have added our “Speak the F#CK Up!” night to foster dialogue among women about speaking up in the backcountry and feeling confident to use their education as well as their intuition to be a competent and rad partner in the backcountry.

Q: What do you see for TBW’s future?

Whether it’s coming together for events or to go skiing, TBW is about networking within the community to foster support, education, and inspiration around women who backcountry ski. Since it revolves around those big themes, we are ever-evolving. We want it to grow organically as a local group, as it has over the past four years.

We have an e-mail list server for women who aren’t on social media but all our gatherings can be found on our Facebook page. We just started an Instagram feed last spring so you can #tahoebackcountrywomen to share your own experiences and come together in the virtual world.

Nothing really beats seeing those smiling faces in real time though, so we encourage women to meet up with each other and create their own adventures.

If you are in the Tahoe area this winter looking for some ladies to get out in the backcountry with, hit us up and we will see you out there!