Throwback Thursday: Skiing Is For Women (Too)!

Skiing has changed a lot for women since 1961. Thank goodness.
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Some say skiing is still a male-dominated sport, and that’s partly true. There are more men than women on the slopes and ’’there’s more men’s gear than women’s gear on the market. But that’s not to say women haven’t made a huge impact on skiing. Women are a driving force behind the sport’s advancement and are doing a phenomenal job encouraging younger girls to get on the hill. We’ve taken a “man’s sport” and made it our own. Women like Lindsey Vonn and Ingrid Backstrom prove that women can charge just as hard, if not harder, than men.

The following article by Willy Schaeffler, published in the magazine in November 1961, dates to an era when the Betty Drapers of the world roamed the kitchen. This was before we started burning bras and more than a decade before the passage of Title IX.

Things have changed since then. Thank goodness. Today, we don’t head to the hill to scout out potential mates or sit in the lodge while the guys ski. We’re out there leading the pack, carving our own lines, and raising the bar for skiers everywhere—men and women.

Schaeffler’s article and following tips were meant to encourage women to take up skiing and welcome us to the “fraternity”. Whether or not his words indeed helped to increase the female skiing population, one thing’s fore sure—we’re not going anywhere.

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By Willy Scaeffler

SKI Magazine. November 1961.

Back in Bavaria in the 1920’s, only three of four of the most daring girls of my home village would allow themselves to be seen skiing. It just wasn’t the thing to do, although I remember that some of them were tomboys who could easily outdo us, given the chance.

Actually, it was little wonder that the slopes were male property. In those days, the girls wore outfits which not only made skiing more difficult, but would have frightened anyone but their ever-loving mothers. As I remember the girls would come out in drab sweaters and coats wearing skirts and ankle-length bloomers.

Perhaps women would have been skiing 20 years before they eventually became involved, en masse, in the sport if such daring inventions as stretch pants had existed. For it was the evolution (or revolution), in ski fashions which started the post World-War-II boom. Of those girls who competed in the 1936 Olympics and won the right to be on the same sloes as equals.

In the past 15 years, the female outlook on skiing, winter and snow, has changed completely. The icy outdoors from which they used to shrink has now become a gateway to pleasure. Women no longer sit inside and withdraw into comfortable living room splendor during the winter months, when they can find glamour, camaraderie (and perhaps a husband) on the ski slopes.

Camaraderie, that’s the word.

Skiing, as we have come to know it, means boy meets girl. It means husband-and-wife skiing and family skiing (despite the diaper problem). It means that the average stenographer, secretary, housewife has been swept into the sport, usually, of her own volition.

Does it make for healthier, happier people? I think it does. I think that skiing keeps youngsters occupied. A Denver mother told me, last winter, “When my daughters are out skiing, I don’t worry about them. They ski all day and come home dead tired. They even diet to get into shape.”

How are women as skiers? Here’s what experience has shown me.

Women, in general, learn skiing technique more quickly than men. I’ve found that women more readily understand, as in dancing, the importance of rhythm and harmony, whereas men try to ski with brute force. In class, women are better imitators who listen and learn more than men do. Also, let’s face it men, the girls work harder.

You need instruction in order to learn to ski well, just as you need instruction in order to learn how to swim. In order to learn quickly and safely, a novice in either sport should take lessons from a certified instructor.

And when I say, “certified instructor,” I don’t mean your husband or boyfriend. He can’t teach you to ski any more than he can teach you to drive. All he can say is “follow me.” And if he’s an accomplished skier, this is a sure way to disaster.

If you’re going to take up the sport this winter, a few trips may be in order:

Prepare yourself mentally and physically. Make up your mind to learn and give it an all-out effort. Decide that you won’t give up if your first turn doesn’t work. Get more proteins into your diet, eggs, meat, salads, and so on, so that you can spend a day on the slopes with the best of them.

Once skiing, you’ll be using leg and stomach muscles you didn’t know you had. Try to work these exercises in to your daily routine:

  1. If you’re an office-girl type, try walking down the stairs from (let’s say) the tenth floor. Do it every day. The elevator-man will appreciate the extra space, and you’ll appreciate the lack of weakness in your legs your first few days on the slopes.

    Extend your legs again, sitting on the edge of your chair. But this time, try a scissors motion with your legs.

    Walk around your apartment with long, stretching steps.

    Above all: Walk, walk, walk, wherever you go.

  2. Walk ten times around your apartment on your heels.
  3. Then, do the same thing, touching your toes with your hands as you walk.
  4. Sit on the edge of a chair with your legs extended horizontally for a few minutes at a time.

Then, when you begin learning, the fresh air, the effect of pole action on shoulder and arms, and the hip action will immediately help your general coordination and alertness. The reaction is not only physical, but mental, as well.

When it comes to women’s ski apparel, I am, of course, more of an admirer than an expert. But I can advise you on a basic outfit. Invest in stretch pants, a pair of after-ski boots, a parka and a heavy sweater.

For the time being, you can rent equipment, either in town, or at the ski area until you decide that you are a skier and want to own your own equipment.

Don’t overdress. Many of the girl racers wear smooth nylon leotards under their stretch pants and find they provide adequate warmth. Dress in layers.

If your toes get cold easily, it’s probably from tying your boots too tightly over the arch of your foot. You should be able to wriggle your toes easily. Use a tighter tie at the ankle – that’s where you need the support.

If your legs and feet get cold riding the lift, it may be because the edge of the seat cuts off the circulation. Remedy: Move your toes, lift your legs while riding. Once up there, flex your legs and move around before making the run down. Don’t start if you’re stiff and cold. And this needs repeating: If you have made two successful runs in the afternoon, enjoy your day’s victory before the fireplace instead of trying to squeeze in that third run.

Skiing a man’s world? Don’t you believe it. And welcome to the fraternity.


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