On the eve of the skiing test for my Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA) Level II Certification, I remember sage advice that Jim Shaw, a top instructor/trainer at the Winter Park Ski and Ride School and PSIA examiner said to me last year, “Anne, when you aren’t trying to keep up with the guys bashing down the hill, you ski the bumps well.”
The praise came after our second early morning run down “Bradley’s Bash,” a long blue/black bump run in Winter Park. The first run, I had tried to just keep up with the guys–all much higher certified skiers than I am. The bumps slammed me back and forth as I tried to force my skis around each turn. The second run, I thought, “To heck with them,” and concentrated on finding my own rhythm while turning my feet.
As I reflected on what Jim told me, however, I knew he was wrong. My whole time at the Air Force Academy had taught me “to keep up with the guys.” The only reason I was out there in the pre-lift-opening chill, hanging out with a dozen male instructors barreling down a mogul run, is that I am willing to keep up with the guys. I am stronger for it.
On the other hand, that does not mean I am a guy. Unlike many of the first women at West Point, the Air Force’s Eighty’s Ladies tried to do the same things the guys did, but with the style of a woman. Unlike the first women at West Point, the Air Force Academy gave us officer-mentors (ATOs) who reminded us that we were ladies–even when covered in sweat and mud, running with rifles, and shouting, “Kill!” In our few free moments together, we talked about how much make-up is appropriate, and how to earn respect as women without exploiting the fact (for example, always carry our share of gear and then some). We were horrified by an article in the Colorado Springs Sun. dated 9/30/1976, “Women Cadets Fear Femininity Loss,” that blew our concerns out of proportion, quoting a visiting civilian woman as saying we should have bathtubs. Luckily, the newspaper did add that, “Most [women] were indifferent to bath tubs, . . .”
So, tomorrow I plan to ski better than “keeping up with the guys.” I plan to do it like a lady: strong, elegant and graceful. Who wouldn’t love to be able to ski like Lindsey Vonn?
Keep up with the guys–and ski like a girl!