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Originally published Monday, December 12, 2011 at 6:00 AM

Women's ski clinics get serious

Women-only clinics cater to higher-level skiers at some Western resorts.

The New York Times

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Ski clinics for women have been around for years, but in past decades the emphasis was more on basic skills than jumping off cliffs, with ample time set aside for shopping or going to the spa. Now women who want to maximize their skills may want to take another look at these multiday programs. In recent years resorts have been adding more and more women-only clinics that are aimed at serious skiers and taught by prizewinning experts.

Not so long ago, advanced female skiers dismissed women's clinics as irrelevant. "It used to be,'I'm a really good skier, so I don't need to ski just with women,"' said Kim Reichhelm, an extreme skiing champion and a former United States Ski Team member who is teaching clinics in Vail, Aspen and Steamboat, Colo., this season. In high-level clinics now, she said, "Rather than skiing with a pack of guys who might have a tendency to get in over their heads, you're with a bunch of women whom you trust. Women look at one another and think,'If she's doing it, I can do it."'

Below, a selection of courses that involve full days of skiing, with class sizes generally limited to four or five women.

Keen Rippin Chix Ski Camps With Alison Gannett

Red Mountain and Whitewater, British Columbia; Silverton, Colo.; Wintergreen, Va.; Kirkwood, Calif.

"None of my camps have filet mignon or yoga," said Alison Gannett, a champion freeskier, who is also an organic farmer and climate-change consultant. What they do offer is her signature method of instruction — including her "martini-serving arm trick," a technique for keeping your upper body facing downhill on steep slopes — which she developed when teaching herself to ski such terrain. Most programs are geared toward women already venturing into black-diamond runs, who may want to learn how to ski off a jump or rock.

But not all the women are extreme-skiing wannabes; the oldest participant to date was 90 years old and ventured into the ski area's terrain park under Gannett's guidance. "The goal in my camps is to build your confidence so that you can expand your comfort zone," she said. "If you can conquer what makes you nervous, you can take those skills into your everyday life."

Cost: $350; includes two days of instruction, individualized video review, and apres-ski party with prizes. For information, including dates of clinics, go to www.alisongannett.com.

Next Level Women's Freeskiing Camp

Squaw Valley, Calif.

Taught by a pair of big-mountain skiers, Ingrid Backstrom and Jessica Sobolowski-Quinn, who is also an Alaskan heli-ski guide, this clinic on Jan. 7 and 8 helps skilled women tackle Squaw's notorious double-black-diamond runs. "We really focus on a whole mountain approach — how to read terrain, how to pick lines and execute them and how to ski a little faster," Backstrom said. Toward the end of a previous camp, for example, all the women hiked to the top of Granite Chief, a peak at Squaw that rises above chairlift level, and skied the steep face. "I don't think any of the women had thought they were going to be able to ski it at the beginning of the camp," Backstrom said.

Cost: $633; includes two days of instruction and lifts, 30 minutes of daily yoga, breakfast, lunch, individualized video review and gift bags; www.squaw.com.

Ski The Line And Stretch The Limits Camps

Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Jackson Hole's challenging terrain and the many professional female skiers who call the area home make the resort a natural fit for high-performance women's clinics. Two special clinics are offered this winter, in addition to the ski school's long-running women's camps.

Freeride World Tour competitor Jess McMillan described the women who take her fast-paced Ski the Line camp — on Jan. 15 and 16 this winter — as "those who want to get the wow factor into their skiing." To that end, she concentrates on helping them ski steep runs fluidly from top to bottom. McMillan also shares the decision-making steps she goes through in competition, as well as her tactics for overcoming fear in extreme terrain. "Skiing is 90 percent mental," she said. "And with women, you sometimes need a little more talking through things."

By the end of Stretch the Limits, Jessica Baker's annual Jackson camp for advanced to expert skiers, Baker, a former Freeskiing World Tour champion and Alaskan heli-ski guide, said: "People are skiing something they couldn't ski before. Last year we had a whole jumping progression, starting with jumping off a mogul to a one-foot rock, then two feet and three feet." She also discusses appropriate gear and teaches specific drills that address balance and alignment while skiing. This season the clinic, which also includes three yoga sessions, is on Feb. 15 and 16. She offers women's camps in Alaska and La Grave, France, too.

Cost: $525; includes two days of instruction and lifts, individualized video review, lunch, aprC3/8s-ski parties, closing dinner; www.jacksonhole.com.

Women's Ski Adventures With Kim Reichhelm

Vail/Aspen/Steamboat, Colo.

Kim Reichhelm has hosted clinics for almost 25 years at resorts throughout the United States and in Chile. Her four-day women's programs, open to skiers of all levels, attract participants "who want to put it out there all day and ski hard," she said. "You don't learn by standing around and talking about technique," Reichhelm said. "My approach is to provide small pieces of information and allow skiers to apply it in their own way."

Expect to be inspired not only by Reichhelm, but also by fellow participants when tackling challenging terrain. "The women end up encouraging each other," she said. "But they're not challenging themselves because of ego. The desire to push themselves comes from within."

Cost: From $1,950; includes four days of instruction and lifts, individualized video review, gear demos, all lunches, welcome reception, three apres-ski parties, and gift bag. For more information, including dates, go to www.skiwithkim.com.

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