By NATALIA HAWK
Last Sunday was the worst snow day I’ve seen this season. Grey skies and snow made for low visibility, and blustering winds meant that most of the lifts were closed. My friends and I sat in our car in the carpark, gazing miserably outside, willing ourselves to venture out into the cold. It was completely silent as we assessed our options.
“Perhaps we could just stay in the car,” someone eventually suggested.
“Or drive home,” another said.
“Or go and sit in the bar,” someone else added.
But I had previous commitments that I had to uphold – regardless of how terrible the weather was. So I bundled up, covering literally every square millimetre of skin that had previously been exposed to the snow, and dragged myself through the weather to get to my meeting place at Blue Cow.
As soon as I got there – there they were. About 50 girls, aged between 12 and 45, all ready in their ski gear and all super-pumped to get out on the mountain – despite the weather.
They were all there to take part in the Chicks with Stix program – a seriously amazing initiative started by Lorraine Lock and Zoe Jaboor. Both are keen skiers, with Zoe being one of the country’s most proficient freestyle skiers. She’s also a ski coach and qualified judge in moguls, aerials and half-pipe, so spends much of her time travelling between the South and North Hemispheres, watching people go off huge jumps and bumps.
A few years ago, the two of them noticed that there just weren’t enough girls getting involved in competitive skiing and snowboarding. And they understood why. After all, both are largely male-dominated sports. The environment for training, progressing and competing at a grassroots level isn’t particularly supportive towards females.
So Zoe and Lorraine decided to start a series of weekend workshops that would help female skiers and boarders progress their skills, learn some new tricks and meet some girls that liked to do the same things they did. They rounded up as many coaches as they could find, brought some sponsors and ambassadors on board, and there you have it – Chicks with Stix was born.
Here’s the thing. The company is non-for-profit. All the workshops are free – you pay zero dollars for three to six hours with a world-class coach. Chicks with Stix get zero funding from government agencies or sporting bodies, so all coaches and admin staff also do their work for free. Their sponsors provide them only with prizes to hand out to participants at the end of each session; coaches occasionally also get a free helmet or a pair of goggles thrown their way.
Despite the lack of funding, the program has gone from happening only in Mt Buller to expanding out to include Thredbo, Perisher, Baw Baw and Hotham. A roster of various high profile coaches attend different sessions at different resorts – some are Olympians, some are World Cup champions, others are FWT and X-Games winners.
I was lucky enough to be in a group with both Zoe Jaboor and Katie Blamey as my coaches. Katie Blamey is a moguls champion and has spent years and years coaching skiers – even running camps in Colorado for teenagers during the summer.
They didn’t waste two seconds complaining about the weather. We went straight to Perisher, where we got on a T-bar and went right up to the top of the mountain.