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7 Scholarships Aimed at Getting More Women Into the Backcountry

Women are underrepresented in backcountry skiing. These scholarships and grants hope to change that.

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Know before you go. That’s the most basic advice for skiers looking to get out into the backcountry. But avalanche education doesn’t come cheap, and signing up for courses can be a prohibitive cost for many skiers. Even if cost isn’t the issue, many novice backcountry skiers may feel intimidated by the whole backcountry skiing scene and the avalanche education system.

This especially be true for many women, who have historically been outnumbered in the backcountry and in avalanche education classrooms. While female participation in the backcountry is growing each year, the majority of backcountry users are still overwhelmingly male (SIA’s 2021 Participation Study reported 66 percent male and 34 percent female participation in alpine touring).

Knowledge is power, and education is a key part of empowering women to feel confident and capable in the backcountry. There are quite a few organizations that have invested significant resources in making avalanche education more accessible for women, with scholarships available for backcountry novices as well as advanced skiers and aspiring professionals.

“Education is critical to building confidence and creating opportunities for women to advance into leadership roles in the snowsports industry,” says Leslie Baker-Brown, who heads up Blizzard Tecnica’s global Women2Women project, which aims to educate and elevate women in skiing. “When women see what other women have achieved, it instills the belief that anything is possible and that there is space for all of us.”

So for the women out there ready to delve into backcountry education, don’t let cost or intimidation hold you back. There are a number of reputable and accredited backcountry education courses founded by women, for women that offer annual scholarships geared towards ladies looking to advance their knowledge and skills in the backcountry. Below, we list some of the most notable that are currently (or will soon be) accepting 2022-’23 applications.

7 Women’s Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Education Scholarships

SheJumps Snowpack Avalanche Scholarship

  • Application: Opens October 1, 2022
  • Location: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming
  • Experience level: Beginner through advanced
  • Types of courses: AIARE Level 1, Level 2, Companion Rescue

SheJumps and the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) started the Snowpack Avalanche Scholarship Program in 2019 as a way to provide more affordable opportunities for avalanche education to women in the Pacific Northwest. One of three scholarship founders, Krystin Norman, says that when she was getting into the backcountry, she noticed that many skiers had opted not to take a course because of the financial barrier, and she noticed many women relying on their male partners for decision making.

“I wanted these women to have the education and knowledge to make decisions on their own and feel comfortable having a voice in the backcountry,” she says. “I also wanted to create an opportunity that did not yet exist for women of color to have easier access to backcountry skiing.” Each year, the Snowpack Scholarship awards funding to women for avalanche education, as well as awarding 15 Ikon Pass scholarships.

Blizzard Tecnica Women2Women Education Scholarship

  • Application: November 18–December 19, 2022
  • Location: Anywhere
  • Experience level: All
  • Types of courses: Avalanche education (Level 1 & 2, and Pro 1 & 2), AMGA Ski Guide courses, wilderness medicine (OEC)

Blizzard Tecnica’s Women2Women (W2W) education scholarship is an extension of the brand’s commitment to supporting women in the industry and is returning for its third year. The education component is one of four pillars of the W2W program (which also includes product, inspiration, and community), and the goal is to lift up women as they advance their knowledge and education in snowsports. Last year, the W2W scholarship program awarded 19 participants a combined $20,000, supporting both recreational and professional level avalanche courses, guide courses, outdoor medical training, and instructor training courses for women across the globe. Whether you’re an aspiring guide, patroller, ski instructor, or dedicated recreational skier and leader in your community, this is one you’ll want to mark on your calendar when the application opens up in November.

SAFE AS Clinics

  • Application: Dates will be announced this fall, check back for more information
  • Location: TBD
  • Experience level: Novice
  • Types of courses: Awareness clinic

An introductory avalanche awareness clinic founded by Elyse Saugstad, Jackie Paaso, Michelle Parker, Ingrid Backstrom, Lel Tone, and Sherry McConkey, SAFE AS clinics are a great way for newer backcountry skiers to dip their toes into avalanche education, as well as a fun way for experienced skiers to refresh their knowledge and build community. Scholarships are available for girls ages 14 and over for the single-day clinic, which in the past has taken place at Palisades Tahoe in California and Solitude Resort in Utah. Stay tuned for an announcement in the next few weeks about 2023 locations and how to apply.

Backcountry Babes AIARE Scholarship

  • Application: Now open, available on a rolling basis through the winter
  • Location: California, Colorado
  • Experience level: Beginner through advanced
  • Types of courses: AIARE Level 1 and 2, Avalanche Rescue
"Backcountry Babes in Breckenridge"
Backcountry Babes gives newbies a crash course on how to navigate the backcountry safely.

Telemark free skiing champion Leslie Ross founded Babes in the Backcountry (now Backcountry Babes) in 1997 to provide more instructional opportunities for women. In the last 25 years, the organization has grown to offer courses all over the country, guided tours, and domestic and international trips with a robust team of female guides. The Backcountry Babes AIARE scholarship is open and received on a rolling basis throughout the fall and winter, with funds available for their AIARE Level 1, Level 2, Avalanche Rescue courses, and guided beginner backcountry tours. Alongside the application form, Backcountry Babes requires applicants to submit a blog story sharing tips and insight that will be shared with their growing community of backcountry skiers.

Blackbird Guides Women’s Scholarships

  • Application: Open, due November 25, 2022
  • Location: California, Washington
  • Experience level: Beginner/intermediate
  • Types of courses: Avalanche Rescue, AIARE Level 1

Based out of Truckee, California and Bellingham, Washington, Blackbird Guides is offering two women’s scholarships for their avalanche courses this winter, one in California and one in Washington. This scholarship is targeted towards entry-level backcountry skiers, designed to help create more access for women getting into the sport. Winners can choose between an Avalanche Rescue or Level 1 course to start building a solid foundation of backcountry fundamentals. The guide operation is also offering two BIPOC scholarships, one in California and one in Washington (information can be found on the same scholarship page).

Women in the Tetons Level 1 Scholarship

  • Application: Opens early November and closes December 1, 2022
  • Location: Wyoming
  • Experience level: Beginner/intermediate
  • Types of courses: AIARE Level 1

Women in the Tetons (previously known as the Jackson Hole Babe Force) offers 12 scholarships each year for Level 1 avalanche courses taught by the American Avalanche Institute in Jackson, Wyoming geared towards supporting entry level backcountry skiers in the Tetons. The 12 winners of this scholarship will take up an entire Level 1 course, so participants can have the opportunity to learn in a group of all-women. Creating access to education is the primary goal of this scholarship, but it’s also a great way for participants to build community and meet touring partners who are at the same level. Sounds like a win-win to us.

AIARE Scarpa and Arc’teryx PRO Women’s Scholarship

  • Application: Open until September 30, 2022
  • Location: Open
  • Experience level: Expert and aspiring professionals
  • Types of courses: AIARE PRO 1 and PRO 2

Already an expert backcountry skier and looking to develop your skills or continue your professional education? Designed to support aspiring and working professionals in the field, the new Scarpa and Arc’teryx PRO Women’s Scholarship provides full and partial scholarships for AIARE PRO 1 and PRO 2 courses. Professional-level courses are a huge financial barrier for more women to enter the field, and the $11,000 available will go towards encouraging more women along the path to guiding, forecasting, and instructing.