One of the expert skiers in the Elevate Women’s Ski Camp skis powder in the ski area’s Rock Springs Bowl. About 60 women participate in each of the two women’s camps held each winter.

Snow whips at my group of six from all directions. Having just left the warmth of the waffle shack at the top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s tram, it feels especially cold and wet. Still, standing in our skis, arranged in a line at the top of Rendezvous Bowl, we all begin disrobing our upper halves. Each of us is wearing between three and five layers, but in less than a minute we’re all down to our base layers. Then, Kori Richards starts a countdown: “3, 2, 1.”

At one, each of us removes our last layer, so that all we’re left with are our sports bras.

Something between a cheer and a roar erupts from my mouth. Similarly unspecific but equally joyful noises come from the rest of the group.

A camera is filming and, reveling in our silliness, we wave at it for several seconds, then we put back on our layers. We follow Richards, a 30-something ski instructor with a near-mystical power for noticing when I’m not pressuring the inside edges of my skis enough at a certain point of a turn, and ski away.

Usually in such conditions – poor visibility, strong winds, choppy snow – I’m a solid-but-hesitant skier, like most of the group. But, this run, we’re all on fire, skiing fast and aggressively, and judging by the exultant shouts that continue as we ski down, loving it.

Past the bowl, almost without pausing, we drop into a double-black-diamond run, un-groomed and full of tight trees. It’s like we’re all temporarily possessed by the type of skiers we’ve always wanted to be. Maybe this possession is our earlier silliness graduating to recklessness? But none of us hurts ourselves on this run, and we all agree it was the most fun and strongest run we’d each skied during our two-and-a-half days together. We’re not the same skiers we were three days ago, when the resort’s annual Elevate Women’s Ski Camp began.

– – –

For years, I avoided lessons because I thought skiing was something that could be learned on your own. I spent 10 years doing just that. I got better every season, but never had any breakthroughs. My progression was skiing the same intermediate runs faster rather than graduating up to more difficult runs. It’s fine to be stuck if you’re happy skiing intermediate runs, but I wasn’t.

This realization hit me on a January afternoon in 2007 in Taos, New Mexico, where I was researching a ski story. Taos’s public-relations department knew that I lived in Jackson, Wyoming, home of the ski resort generally regarded as the steepest and most difficult on the continent. They assumed I was more than an intermediate skier because, well, if you’ve lived and skied in Jackson for 10 years, which I had at the time, you have to almost actively work to not be an expert skier. Taos had a former national extreme skiing champ show me around the resort.

She hid well her frustration at my slowness and frequent falls on the resort’s ungroomed, steep runs. In a mid-mountain bathroom stall, I shed hot tears of shame. How could I not have more to show for 10 years of skiing on dozens of days every season in Jackson Hole?

I had also avoided women’s-only sports camps for years. I wanted to learn to ski more difficult runs more aggressively and with more speed. When I thought of a women’s-only ski group, the vibe that came to mind – fairly or not – was more adorable than aggressive. So, returning home to Jackson, it didn’t dawn on me to look at the resort’s women’s-only offerings. I went straight to the regular ski lessons – a ski camp, actually – that the resort is most famous for.

For as long as I can remember and across all aspects of my life, my modus operandi has been to go big. For example: Recently, I broke my wrist. Repairing it required a three-hour operation, a seven-inch surgical steel plate, 14 screws and 31 stitches. Why mess around with a single-day lesson when there’s a four-day camp? Also, I had done one-off lessons here and there. Although each of these gave me knowledge of what I was doing wrong, I felt like a day wasn’t long enough to effect lasting change.

The resort’s four-day Steep & Deep camp is a bucket-list item for many – more than 1,000 skiers (and snowboarders) come here every winter to scare themselves silly in it. About 90 percent of Steep & Deepers are men and about 100 percent have Type-A personalities. Being pretty Type-A myself, Steep & Deep grabbed my attention. Having been founded in the 1990s by then-world extreme skiing champion Doug Coombs, though, it had one problem: the requirement that campers be expert level. Also, its online description promised that the final day could include skiing Corbet’s Couloir, generally regarded to be the most difficult inbounds ski run in North America. The intent of this news was to get wannabe participants psyched up: “Yeah! Lucky you! Corbet’s!” But that wasn’t how I read it. My translation was, “You’ll probably end this camp on crutches.”

Still, I wanted to do it. I signed up for my first Steep & Deep four winters later, in 2011.

– – –

The camp was transformative, and not just for my confidence when I wasn’t put into the lowest group. Coach Bill Truelove taught me about “schmearing,” a type of turn in which you control your speed throughout the entire arc, and helped me learn how to do it.

Since my first Steep & Deep camp, I’ve done three more. And, after skiing at the resort on my own one day in 2013 and having a group from one of the women’s camps blow past me on a double-black-diamond run and seeing how much fun they were having, I’ve also done two Elevate women’s camps. The one in which my group stripped to sports bras – for a funny movie to be shown at the final night’s banquet – was my first.

In all six of the camps I’ve attended, my skiing has made multiple breakthroughs that have stuck with me long after each camp ended.

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