I have always loved skiing, but I never felt confident enough to tackle the more challenging slopes, and I had been having a hard time finding a way to progress to a higher level in an environment where I could feel confident, supported and just have some fun. That’s what skiing is supposed to be about, after all!
Having heard about Helly Hansen Women’s Camps, I decided that this could be my answer, so I signed up for a camp at the very start of this season. The camps take place at Whistler Blackcomb in BC, Canada, one of the world’s great ski resorts and a big part of the attraction. Another was that they’re women only, so no testosterone interfering with the experience!
The camps are pitched at three different levels: complete novice, beginner to what they call ‘comfortable novice’ and then my level ‘intermediate to expert’ … or that should read “wannabe expert” in my case!
It was an experience that changed my skiing and my outlook on life.
The Helly Hansen Women’s Camps are designed to improve skiers’ confidence and ability and that certainly worked for me. The idea is not just to teach skills but to create a safe, motivating environment for women to develop those skills without feeling any competitive pressure. It’s about mutual support and empowering one another – which may sound a bit clichéd and not the British way of doing things, but it really works.
I was placed in a group with other women who had a skill level similar to me. We met our coach, Anna, who was from the UK and had a lot of experience and enthusiasm. She assessed our strengths and weaknesses and gave us personalised feedback and tips throughout the camp.
We spent two full days skiing on both the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, exploring the awesome terrain and enjoying the stunning views. We practised techniques, including skiing over bumps and on steeper terrain. Anna encouraged us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones but also to have fun and celebrate our achievements.
The camps are small groups of no more than six, and I lucked out as I had only two in my group, so ended up with pretty much private tuition. This made the learning experience more intimate and effective. Anna was very responsive and adapted the two days to work for the needs of the group. We worked on bumps and steeps, which were my main challenges.
Lunch was organised on both days, where we got to meet up with others in different groups and retell stories of the day. There was an après event on the first evening, where we enjoyed some drinks and snacks and mingled with the other campers and instructors. We were made to feel like a cohesive group of skiers of every level who were improving on our own individual needs.
I was amazed by how much I improved in just two days. I felt more confident, more in control and more adventurous. I also made some great friends along the way, who shared my passion for skiing and supported me throughout the camp. We had a blast together, laughing, chatting and cheering each other on.
The Helly Hansen Women’s Camps run all season long (dates can be found here) and are also part of the ‘Open Mountain’ campaign, which aims to encourage people of all abilities and backgrounds to get out onto the mountain to enjoy the outdoors. I think this is a wonderful initiative, as skiing is not only a great sport but also a great way to connect with nature and yourself.
I would highly recommend Helly Hansen Women’s Camps to any woman who wants to improve her skiing and have a memorable experience. It was one of the best things I ever did, and I can’t wait to go back next year.
Dining In Whistler
Helly Hansen Women’s Camps are all about making learning to ski or ride better lots of fun and part of the holiday. Being based in Whistler is a big part of that, as is eating well. There’s a huge choice of places to eat and drink here, just like the ski slopes catering for lots of different tastes. Here are some of my favourite spots:
- Breakfast in Stonesedge, a cosy and rustic restaurant that serves delicious dishes made from local ingredients.
- Lunch at the Roundhouse, a mountaintop lodge that offers panoramic views and a variety of cuisines. Conor, the manager, was very friendly and attentive and made sure we had everything we needed.
- Dinner at Earls, a casual and lively spot that serves burgers, salads, pasta and more. The food was tasty and satisfying, and the service was fast and efficient.
- A visit to the Irish pub, a must for a pint and the largest bowl of nachos I’ve ever seen. The pub had a great atmosphere, with live music and sports on TV.
- A tasty bakery option at Purebread, where I indulged in one of their raspberry and white chocolate scones. They were soft, moist and bursting with flavour.
- A taste of après at Longhorn or Merlins, where I celebrated my skiing achievements with a drink and a dance.