Archived Outdoors

Ladies first: Cataloochee Ranch hosts skiing and snowboarding classes tailored to women

By Michael Beadle

Once again Cataloochee Ski Area will be hosting a series of once-a-week skiing and snowboarding classes this season designed exclusively for women. It’s called Women on Wednesdays, or WOW, and it targets women of all ages and abilities who are interested in learning to ski or snowboard or who want to improve their skills on the slopes.

The program starts Jan. 11 and runs each Wednesday for six weeks. The sessions include a two-hour, on-the-slopes morning lesson followed by an optional luncheon featuring various women’s health specialists or fitness professionals who talk about women’s issues. Then, skiers are welcome to use the ski slopes until 4:30 p.m.

Over the past several seasons, the Cataloochee Ski and Snowboard School has offered the WOW program for lady skiers and this season plans to open up a similar program for women interested in snowboarding.

Women tend to have a bigger apprehension than men when it comes to learning how to ski, according to Lisa Rowe, assistant director of the Cataloochee Ski and Snowboard School. So, the reasoning goes, creating a program that’s taught by women and designed for women can helps ease women into a sport they might not otherwise attempt.

It’s a good program for those who want to renew their interest in the sport or who just want to try something new and have some fun, said Rowe, who has worked at Cataloochee Ski Area since 1994.

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As a ski instructor, Rowe has seen women go from the beginner level to intermediate level in skiing in just a few months’ time. The WOW instructors group women according to various abilities ranging from those who have never been skiing before or haven’t skied in years to more advanced skiers looking to hone their skills. Rowe has seen WOW students from as young as teenagers to seniors over 70 years old — about 40 participants in all each season.

One of those WOW students, Nancy Clark, took the program for five years and is now a ski instructor at Cataloochee. After growing up skiing in Vermont and Massachusetts, Clark got married, had kids and fell out of touch with skiing for a number of years before rediscovering the slopes once again.

Moving to Western North Carolina 12 years ago, she learned about Cataloochee Ski Area and the WOW program.

“It’s a great way to meet other women,” Clark said, eager to proclaim the benefits of how WOW forges new friendships. “It’s a very diverse group of ladies.”

Beyond the techniques of skiing, Clark discovered through WOW’s luncheons that women actually need different skiing equipment than men. A woman’s center of balance is lower than that of a man, Clark explained, so their skis need to be different than men. Also, women’s calves tend to be lower and their ankles weaker than men’s, so women’s ski equipment needs to be more flexible than men’s.

As an instructor, Clark now takes ladies in their twenties, middle-aged moms, and senior citizens out for ski runs. She also coaches Special Olympic skiers.

Clark said she enjoys getting a great pound-shedding, cardio workout without even realizing it.

“I get a lot of exercise up here,” she says. “It gets me in shape every winter.”

In the off-season, she keeps her skiing muscles in condition with squats, mountain biking and inline skating (which simulates the turns in skiing).

During the ski season, you’ll find Clark up at Cataloochee Ski Area five or six days a week from morning to evening.

“I love Cataloochee,” she says. “This is my second home.”

And with a solid base this year — including three inches of snow on Christmas — Cataloochee Ski Area is enjoying a busy ski season.

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