Shannon Mahre-Skouras is many things. She’s a professional athlete, working in the realms of skiing, mountain biking, ultra-running, and yoga with brands like K2, Smith, Juliana, Dakine, and Eddie Bauer. She’s a professional photographer, a freelance writer, and a wife and partner in adventure to husband and pro athlete Andy Mahre, with whom she founded Mahre Media. She is the owner and head coach for her business Girls With Grit, which hosts a series of ski, mountain bike, and yoga clinics for women and young girls in her hometown of Yakima, Wash. And she’s a mom to 2-year-old son Ryder.
But above all, Shannon Mahre-Skouras is a hustler.
Her average day—though she’d probably dispute that she ever has an "average" day—looks something like this: Wake up at 4 a.m. and sneak in an hour or two of work and a training session before Ryder wakes up. Spend the morning at home caring for Ryder while husband Andy is at work at his construction business. Put Ryder down for his nap around noon and sneak in more work—catch up on emails, phone calls, plan Girls With Grit clinics, and complete work for Mahre Media clients. Get Ryder outside for an adventure. Juggle Ryder and more work until Andy gets home. Dinner. Sleep. Repeat.
If, after reading this routine, you think this woman must be superhuman, you wouldn’t be wrong. Skouras’ super power is an uncanny sense of determination. That, and the ability to kick ass at everything she does.
“I know it may seem like I have a lot on my plate, especially having Ryder as my side-kick full-time,” Skouras says, “but a quote I live by is ‘It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.’”
“It’s really easy as a parent and business owner to get overwhelmed,” Skouras admits. “I just love what I do so much that I don’t care that I work seven days a week.”
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It’s this mindset that makes Skouras a girl with some serious grit herself, and what better person to found and coach a series of outdoor clinics for women that aim to build up confidence than a woman who embodies confidence and determination?
Girls With Grit
Skouras started Girls With Grit four years ago. After being involved on the business side of the Washington Student Cycling League, Skouras decided to pursue coaching herself, becoming a Level 2-certified mountain bike coach and founding a Yakima cycling team in 2018. Girls With Grit was born along the way from Skouras' own passion for mountain biking and adventuring in the outdoors, and was stoked by the personal fulfillment she got out of helping girls and women tap into their potential. As she began seeing the impact she had on women and girls in her mountain biking clinics, Skouras expanded her business to also offer Girls With Grit ski clinics at her home mountain of White Pass in Washington.
“There are a lot of women in their 50s here who ski a lot and don’t work a ton,” Skouras says, "as well as moms in their 20s and 30s who ski while their kids are at school. They now want to learn to ski steeps, moguls, powder. ‘Get them off the blues’ is my line. Many of them are terrified to ski anything that isn’t blue, and I want to give them the confidence and skills to do that.”
When women are surrounded by other women, Skouras explains, it’s often easier for them to overcome their fears. “A lot of women tell me they’ve tried to ski or bike with their husbands and they just get mad or frustrated, and they’ve been taken on a certain trail for years but did better when they were surrounded by women,” Skouras says. “It’s a mental thing, totally mental. Physically, they can do it. As women we get stuck in our heads. I myself even do it as an athlete, and [my husband] Andy is so good at getting me out of my own head.”
In Girls With Grit clinics, Skouras not only teaches small groups of women the skills and physical abilities they need to ski a steep slope, bike a difficult trail, or send it off jumps, but also the mental abilities they’ll need to overcome their fears.
“A lot of women will tell me that they don’t want to ski a certain slope or area anymore, because since they’ve had kids, they’re terrified to try. So we always talk about our fears during the clinics. I’ll ask women why they don’t want to hit a jump. They tell me they’re scared, so I ask them what they’re scared about. We break it down into a step-by-step process of visualizing what they physically need to do, and when they’re physically and emotionally ready, then they’re ready to tackle it. The biggest thing with women is that we think too much. But that helps us too because once we figure it out, we can do [things] better because we don’t just rely on our physical abilities as much as physical and mental together.”
This might be easier said than done for a lot of women, but Skouras says that just seeing other girls and women doing rad stuff on the slopes and trails goes a long way to convincing women they can too.
“Having a person in your life, whether it’s a coach or a mentor or someone you follow on Instagram, someone you can actually see [ripping around] the mountain, is huge. I grew up with a mom who taught me how to ski. My dad’s from Greece, so my mom taught him how to ski. My mom’s the one who taught me to play basketball, how to play soccer, how to ski and how to ride a bike. My mom being a good athlete and having skills showed me that women could be total kick-ass athletes too.”
“The word ‘can’t’ should not be in any [girl’s] dictionary. Maybe you can say ‘not yet’, but ‘can’t’ should not be in there. We’ll find a way to get you there—that’s the whole goal of Girls With Grit.”
More Ski Camps for Women: Girls Moving Mountains
Skouras will host the first Girls With Grit clinic of 2019, a ladies’ ski workshop, at White Pass, Wash. on February 2. Learn more about Girls with Grit, view the full 2019 clinic schedule, and register for workshops here.