By: Victoria Klassen
DURING THE 2016-2017 SKI SEASON, only 18 per cent of Freestyle Ontario’s athletes were female. In response to this issue, Freestyle Ontario has appointed a Females in Freestyle Committee who will be responsible for increasing women and girls participation in the sport.
The committee is chaired by Lora Fenn, Freestyle Ontario’s Water Ramp and Club Development Manager. The committee will follow Freestyle Ontario’s Women and Girls Participation Plan, which takes a strategic approach to attracting and retaining women and girls within our sport. The plan includes creating a three-part GIRLZ training camp series for female halfpipe, slopestyle, and mogul skiers, which will include a girls’ water ramp camp, an acrobatic camp, and an on-snow camp.
“We’ve done female events before, and they’re always really successful,” Fenn explained. “But we want to do it so they lead into each other, so athletes know when to come to the next one. And they’ll know they will see these girls at the Timber Tours, so you’ll want to go to that. We also want to engage some more senior athletes—like a mentorship program as well.”
Nikki Blackall, former Ontario Park and Pipe Team member, and currently National NextGen Slopestyle Team athlete, was happy to hear about these initiatives.
“When girls come together to ski, a lot of great things can happen,” said Nikki. “It’s the right environment—it’s fun and it’s positive. I think girls also feed off of each other when someone is skiing well. It’s pretty cool and neat that Ontario is providing girls with something like that.”
The Women and Girls plan includes engaging female champions, and female leaders with the FUNdamentals (approximately ages 6-8+) and Learn to Train (approximately ages 6-11+) level of Freestyle Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development Pathway.
Ontario Mogul Team athlete, Alexa Chick, recognizes the need for female role models at the club level.
“When I was younger, I didn’t have any female coaches, and I was often the only girl in a group full of boys. I never really had a local female idol to look up to,” shared Alexa. “But if you like freestyle skiing, stick to it. If you like what you’re doing, if this becomes a goal of yours, you shouldn’t let being the only girl interrupt your dreams.”
Freestyle Ontario is working with Freestyle Canada to align their goals when it comes to the Women and Girls Participation Plan. Last season there were 843 female freestyle athletes across Canada, with 2,122 male freestyle athletes.
Part of the plan involves coach training, like a Freestyle Canada Coaching Girlz Module, a female athlete feedback workshop, and a coach discussion group.
“We have a good amount of female officials, we have a good amount of female staff, we have a good amount of female coaches in Ontario,” said Fenn. “We’ve put all those in place, but that’s not the answer. We need more females in the sport. I think we’ve developed good female leadership, and we’re just missing the athletes.”
If you are interested in joining the Females in Freestyle committee, please contact Lora Fenn at lora@ freestyleontario.ski