Are Women Equal On the Snow?

In 2020, women are ruling in all aspects of snowsports—from competitions to corner offices. So what’s the problem?

In March 2019, at the end of last year’s World Cup race season, Mikaela Shiffrin made history…again. This time, it wasn’t for earning 14 straight World Cup slalom podiums or for beating Ingemar Stenmark’s record for slalom victories (which she did in 2019). No, the 24-year-old graduate of Burke Mountain Academy became the first ski racer in history to earn over 1 million Swiss francs ($1,033,714) in prize money in a season. Not just the first female ski racer, the first ski racer in history to reach that threshold.

With Shiffrin—and her former teammate Lindsey Vonn—dominating the sport globally, women like Pat Campbell heading up Vail Resorts and Donna Carpenter leading the snowboard giant Burton, have skiing and riding finally accomplished what women’s soccer and so many other sports have set out to achieve: gender equality?

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates at Killington in November 2019 after her 62nd World Cup victory. Photo by Steven Earle/USSA

At a press conference during the 2019 Killington World Cup, I asked that question of Paula Moltzan, the University of Vermont junior who was, at the time, the second-ranked U.S. tech skier on the World Cup after Shiffrin.

Moltzan rolled her eyes, sighed, and asked wearily, “How long do you have?”

Who Are the Trailblazers?

In the past decade, most of the breakout stars of American snowsports have been women. And beyond the household names (Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Jessie Diggins) are a host of superstars with Vermont roots.

There are trailblazers such as Kelly Clark, the Mount Snow snowboarder who went on to become the winningest snowboarder of all time —male or female. In 2015, her Mount Snow skiing counterpart, Devin Logan, competing in both slopestyle and half-pipe, became the first freeskier —male or female from any nation—to win the overall FIS World Cup Freestyle crystal globe.

Stratton resident Jessie Diggins, with Alaskan Kikkan Randall, took home America’s first Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing in PyeongChang in 2018. But the U.S. women’s cross-country team, packed with Vermonters such as Sophie Caldwell, Liz Stephens and Ida Sargent, played a strong role in getting her there.

Jessie Diggins after
winning the first U.S. gold in cross-country in the 2018 Olympics.
Photo by Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski & Snowboard

West Fairlee, Vt. ski jumper Tara Geraghty-Moats was the breakaway winner of the first international Nordic combined event for women, the 2019 Continental Cup.

Within the snowsports industry, Donna Carpenter worked alongside her husband, the late Jake Burton Carpenter, for nearly 40 years to help make Burton the leading snowboarding/board sports lifestyle company on the globe. Elsewhere in the outdoor industry, women are now leading companies such as Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Oboz, Vasque and Vermont’s own Skida. 

In 2015, Pat Campbell was named president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division. Today, she oversees all of Vail Resorts’ 37 resorts, including Stowe, Okemo and Mount Snow. And for the first time, the top editors of nearly every major ski publication—Backcountry, Powder, Ski and (until January 2020), Ski Racing—are all women. (Full disclosure, both of VT Ski + Ride’s editors are women).

In 2017, Kelly Pawlak, the former general manager of Mount Snow, became the first woman to lead the National Ski Areas Association and Molly Mahar became the first to lead Ski Vermont, Vermont’s industry association. That same year, Meegan Moszynksi, a Middlebury College graduate (see “Meet the Women Changing Ski Patrol“) became the first female to lead the National Ski Patrol.

Women may have shattered the glass ceiling in many areas of snowsports but even in 2020—as many will tell you—shards of sexism still remain. With participation across all disciplines still 60 percent male, snowsports still have a way to go to reach gender equality.

Continued on the next page: Do Women Peak Earlier?

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.

4 thoughts on “Are Women Equal On the Snow?

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  • February 6, 2020 at 5:34 AM
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    Great article! These women are so inspiring. And yes, gender equality and getting more women on the snow are worthy goals. I’d like to point out another great resource for women skiers: TheSkiDiva.com, the leading online community for women who want to share their passion for skiing with other women and talk about skiing in a non-testosterone charged environment. The site, which has more than 6,200 members, gives women the tools and support they need to stay engaged in the sport.

    • February 7, 2020 at 4:15 PM
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      Thank you Wendy and we’ll second that. TheSkiDiva.com is a great resource for women and thank you for all you do.

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