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Building Confidence, Skills and Friendships
DIVAS Stephanie Carlson perfecting her form on Dollar. Photo Elevation Imaging
Interested in skiing Baldy with a group of ripping women—carving turns from top to bottom, experimenting with bumps in the bowls and occasionally racing gates on Dollar or running the ski cross course? If the answer is yes, then you should sign up for the DIVAS ski group next season—and do it quick, it sells out every year.
Founded in 2010, DIVAS stands for “Die Incredible Vimin Alpine Shredders” (best uttered, according to Sun Valley SnowSports instructor and DIVAS founder Danielle Carruth, with a heavy Austrian accent). “The idea for the program has been in the works for about five years, but the timing was finally right and we are thrilled with the incredible turnout,” says Carruth.
Modeled loosely on the success of VAMPS, which is Muffy Ritz’s Nordic program taught by women for women (and with a nod to the spirit of VAMPS through the name as well), DIVAS is a women’s ski group taught by a core team of all-women coaches who focus on improving technical skills over varied terrain. You don’t have to be an expert: The only requirement is that you can comfortably ski any run on Baldy, from top to bottom. DIVAS meets one-day per week for 2.5 hours on Baldy, although many DIVAS continue to ski together after class.
“Muffy had success with her program because there was a need for women athletes to ski with and learn from other women,” says Carruth, who adds that most of the DIVAS are working women and working moms. “We are all juggling very busy lives,” she says. “DIVAS provides an outlet for many of these women to take time out for themselves and just get out there!”
“We focus on a new theme every week, with very targeted instruction to help improve skills,” says DIVAS coach and co-founder Nicky Elsbree, who asserts that breaking into small groups of five or six skiers ensures that the instruction is personalized to each woman’s individual needs and learning style.
One week the theme may be balance, with instruction on hip position, proper upper body stance and weight transfer. Another week the DIVAS may run gates, focusing on the finish of the turn and angulation, as opposed to taking on a bump run in the bowls, which is more about the top of the turn, initiation and transfer of weight.
“We try to make all our learning fun,” says Carruth who recalls when the DIVAS ran the ski cross course on Dollar last season. “Everybody had a blast, and I don’t think anybody even realized that they were working on things like how to ride a flat ski or how to absorb the terrain,” she says. “They might not know they are working on skills that will apply later in the bumps, but they’re doing it and having fun at the same time.”
“Building confidence is important,” adds Elsbree. “Essentially, we are teaching each skier how to make subtle changes in their skiing depending upon the terrain that they are about to enter.” The goal is to ensure that no matter what conditions they encounter—whether entering steeps, or harder snow, or bumps—DIVAS will have the eye and the technique to handle whatever is below them.
“That is what makes skiing so fun,” adds Elsbree. “It is never the same, so it is always challenging.” -Laurie Sammis