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Women, snowboarders and exotics

Visiting the European Women's Outdoor Summit

by Lisa Amenda 11/26/2017
The 1st European Women's Outdoor Summit took place in Flims/Laax from October 27 to 29, 2017. It was three days, 62 female outdoor athletes, lots of discussions, plenty of inspiration and the question: are women in outdoor sports really different to men? Lisa is a copywriter in the outdoor industry and blogs on about sustainability in outdoor sports, among other things. She reports from Flims for PG.

In all honesty? Actually, I was never a (attention, there it is) great friend of excessive gendering. As a woman, I didn't feel disrespected when, for example, students were written instead of students in a document at university or skiers were written instead of skiers in the newspaper. For me, this was not an attack on my person, my gender or anything else. Most of the time, it's just more practical to write it that way. I knew that equality between men and women had not yet been achieved as it should have been, but I personally hadn't really come into contact with it until then.

The first time I really started to think about it was when I took part in the White Rush in St. Anton am Arlberg in 2015. I was more than aware that almost 550 participants had to be divided into smaller starting groups at the start. What is not so clear to me is why there are almost five starting blocks for men and the female starters are put into a group called "women, snowboarders and exotics". This was the first time in my entire sporting career that I felt consciously discriminated against. What is that supposed to be, "exotics"? The question was answered for me at the start line: I was standing between a gentleman in a teddy bear costume and a yeti. So that was it? As a woman in a mass start race, you are equated with mythical creatures?

Lighter, more comfortable, but in pink

It is well known that women have always been viewed differently in outdoor sports, especially when it comes to specific women's products and consumer behavior. The best example of this is probably women's skis and ski boots: buzzwords such as lightness, comfort and warmth often come into play here. And I know what I'm talking about - I've unfortunately used them as sales arguments myself. But let's take a closer look at these terms: Lightness? At best, it can mean that the ski is built using lightweight materials, but without neglecting the much-cited performance. For women's skis? Unfortunately, they often only focus on lightness, stability is available in the unisex models. At a height of 1.78 meters, I've never paid much attention to women's skis. They're never available in this size anyway. That's why I usually only look at the women's-specific designs while I reach for the unisex model.

Let's move on to the ski boots. I find comfort and warmth interesting terms here and, to be honest, they are unfortunately completely foreign to me when it comes to my own. As a former racer, ski boots have never been comfortable for me and they're not really warm either. In addition, to come back to my height, the shaft of women's ski boots is often cut shorter. This also makes sense if you are shorter. Not so much for me, although busy salespeople have already tried to sell me such models, claiming that the lower shaft is apparently something for shorter women's legs and therefore much easier to ski in. And again: I'm 1.78 meters tall, have fairly long legs and was standing in front of the salesperson I quoted at that very moment.

A new image of women? The 1st European Women's Outdoor Summit

This is probably a classic case of misunderstanding. Or underestimation. After all, people used to assume that women only ski because their boyfriends or husbands do. The fact that women are more familiar with sports equipment themselves and don't want the small, light, chubby, warm version in pink (although I personally really like pink) is apparently new. This kind of obvious "misunderstanding" prompted Anna Weiß and Hannah Röther to ask what the situation is for women in outdoor sports in general.

The two female mountain bikers have been working in various positions in the outdoor industry for many years and believe that it is time for a change: they want to make the industry more female and are convinced that we women have the potential to make outdoor sports more sustainable, more participatory and more diverse. To this end, they convened the 1st European Women's Outdoor Summit from October 27 to 29, 2017 in Flims/Laax and discussed the (new?) image of women in outdoor sports together with 62 committed female athletes.

The summit consisted of presentations by PR experts such as Ulrike Luckmann, sports scientists like Sophie Knechtl, athletes like Sandra Lahnsteiner or Ines Thoma and other women who have made a difference, be it in the form of a founded community, a 60-day solo alpine crossing or by not only practicing outdoor sports with a handicap, but by living it. All these presentations have shown how versatile we outdoor sportswomen and women in general are. But is this a new image of women?

Away with the stereotypes

Not really, it should be more about, and this was also a result of the discussions, that women should not be viewed in stereotypes. We are usually not the ones who only do sport because their boyfriend or husband does it. We love to ski untracked lines ourselves, plan the next ski tour or simply strap on our skis whenever we can and set off. Of course, women are different to men and not just because of their physical abilities, but also often because of their character: we think more, don't push ourselves into the limelight as often, don't put on airs and graces and prefer to impress with our actions rather than our words. But this can also be our downfall. Many of us quickly become insecure, don't believe in our abilities at all times and often hold back when faced with more self-confident men. As a result, we often stand in our own way.

Crashing the boys party: Bloomers, a cross-sport outdoor magazine for women

The European Women's Outdoor Summit showed one thing very clearly: If you believe in yourself, roll up your sleeves and say "I'm doing this now!", then it almost always works and is not only accepted, but even celebrated by most people. I also know this from my circle of friends: I've never experienced being made fun of by my male companions in the mountains because I arrived at the summit a little slower, chose a different line or had to think about whether I really dared to do it today on a root section of a trail. I was always respected.

But, as I also learned in Flims/Laax, there is another way. Many women have reported that they have been insulted by men on mountain tours if they were slower or scared at an exposed point. And that's really not on. So how about simply being happy that you can be out in nature and in the mountains together? And to the women: Don't let it get you down, just keep going.

This is exactly the motto that Anna Weiß and Hannah Röther also follow. Because the summit was just the start of a new project: Bloomers, the first European, cross-sport outdoor magazine for women. And it's not about women being different, but about us enjoying doing things together, pushing each other and simply giving more women the confidence to go into the mountains, find their favorite outdoor sport and be outside. Without any gendering or stereotypes, but simply because it's about the sport itself. So, just do it, go out and don't stand in your own way so often, because somehow we are all just athletes in outdoor sports, whether skiers, mountain bikers, climbers or whatever - women or men.

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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