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Winter Women: Ladies’ Outdoor Programs

As more and more female instructors assume leading roles in Colorado’s backcountry, by-women-for-women ski clinics, camps and retreats are also on the rise. These programs not only help ladies conquer big challenges, they often come with fun extras like yoga, wellness speakers and après soirees. 

Legendary Ladies at Arapahoe Basin
Legendary Ladies at Arapahoe Basin
Ice climbing in Ouray with Chicks Climbing and Skiing
Ice climbing in Ouray with Chicks Climbing and Skiing

Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced outdoorswoman looking to beef up your skills, here’s how you can gain some serious girl power on your next visit.

Please note: Some programs may not be available due to COVID-19 during the 2020–21 season, so please check with program managers directly for information and schedules.

Leave the Boys Behind

Ready to grab life by the ski poles but not sure where to start? As the name suggests, this outdoor program operated by Aspen Alpine Guides is a 100 percent testosterone-free zone. You can enroll in American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education safety and backcountry courses, as well as personalized ski, snowshoe and mountaineering guiding in some of the state’s prettiest (and wildest) spots. Come back in the summer, when offerings include mountain and road biking, trail running and peak climbs.

Telluride Women’s Ski & Wellness Week

America’s longest-running women’s-only ski retreat (Jan. 29–31 and Feb. 26–28, 2021) has united female skiers and instructors since 1981. These days it’s not just one week, but two sessions held throughout the season, featuring morning yoga and meditation, expert instruction for all skill levels and talks on subjects ranging from body biomechanics to gear.

Ski Girls Rock

Founded by Olympian (and Coloradan) Lindsey Vonn, this ski camp for girls ages 7–14 aims to improve skills, build self-esteem and encourage teamwork in budding athletes. The camps are offered at Breckenridge Ski Resort and Vail Resort in one- or three-day sessions. For grown-up ski girls, both resorts boast stacked schedules of women’s-only programs, including Breckenridge Women’s Ski Week (Women & Wine sesh, anyone?) and Skadi Fest, named for the Norse goddess of winter.

Chicks Climbing & Skiing 

“Empowering women through mountain sports since 1999” is the motto of Ouray-based Chicks Climbing & Skiing, which is co-owned and staffed by International Federation of Mountain Guides Association-certified instructors (think of it as an esteemed post-doctorate for backcountry education). The Chicks With Picks program guides women through some of the most challenging ice-climbing spots in the country, including routes in famed Ouray Ice Park. If skiing is more your thing, Chicks With Sticks will take you to some prime off-piste powder stashes.

Aspen Expeditions Backcountry Hut Trips

Confidence is a necessary asset in our rugged backcountry, and gals will gain more of it under the tutelage of Aspen Expeditions’ seasoned female guides. Learn the ropes with an intro course or dive headfirst into a multi-day hut trip within northwest Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division or Braun Hut systems, where you and your fellow female adventurers will work together through challenging terrain by day and share stories, laughs and maybe a bottle of wine or two at night. Learn more about hut trips >>

Big Mountain Betty Fest

If it’s resort frills and blue-square trails you’re after, stay far, far away from Silverton Mountain in southwest Colorado, where North America’s steepest and highest ski area (13,487 feet to be exact) even puts experts to the test. But for experienced skiers looking for new boundaries to smash, there’s Big Mountain Betty Fest (Jan. 16–17, 2021), a weekend of advanced heli-skiing, hair-raising terrain and hard-earned après parties — all in the company of other [email protected]$# ladies.

Steamboat Women’s Ski Camp

Hosted by Olympic skiers Deb Armstrong and Ann Battelle, these three-day retreats (TBA, 2022) place equal emphasis on camaraderie and sport. With group breakfasts, lunches and cocktail parties, first tracks in Steamboat’s famous Champagne Powder™ and seminars with inspiring speakers, you’ll leave with some valuable new skills and countless new friends. 

Ladies-First Ski Programs

On most weekdays, you can find a Colorado ski resort that offers women’s-only instruction for every skill level.

Monarch Mountain near Salida and Copper Mountain Resort both offer Women’s Wednesdays, while Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Women’s Tips on Tuesdays features female-guided lessons followed by a glass of wine at the resort’s Umbrella Bar.

Other regular women’s events include Legendary Ladies at Arapahoe Basin, Snowmass Women’s Edge, Wolf Creek Ladies Ski and Snowboard Clinics near Pagosa Springs (“No Y-chromosomes allowed,” they proclaim) and Ski Like a Girl! at Powderhorn Resort near Grand Junction.

Ready to get your ski on with like-minded gals? Check individual resort websites for dates, availability and packages.

More about learning to ski and snowboard in Colorado >>

Take the Colorado Backcountry Winter Safety Pledge >>

Learn how to steer clear of winter backcountry danger >>