Adventure May 13, 2015

Girls That Go Big

SheJumps Pushes Women to New Heights, a nonprofit organization designed to get more women involved in outdoor sports, was created like many great ideas—one late night over a few glasses of wine. 

Best friends Lynsey Dyer, a pro skier and Sun Valley native, along with co-founder Vanessa Pierce, decided the girls of the world needed a community where they could encourage, inspire and push one another to new heights, refocus their attention away from computer screens and glossy magazine covers and, most importantly, get outside. With a clink of glasses and a “cheers” to rad girls everywhere, one of the fastest-growing women’s outdoor programs in the country was born.

Since its inception in 2007, SheJumps has blossomed from a predominantly skiing-only program based out of Salt Lake City to an international organization with 15 regional coordinators and 35 ambassadors nationwide. With classes ranging from paddleboarding, kayaking and whitewater rafting to yoga, rock climbing, mountain biking and mountaineering, women can get involved in pretty much anything at any adrenaline level.

SheJumps also offers educational classes like ski tuning and mountain bike repair, or even avalanche training and safety courses, so one can feel comfortable starting from scratch. The group provides the opportunities, the education, the gear and even the friends to explore the outdoor world together. And since it’s all volunteer-based, it comes at an affordable price.

Laura Speck and Kendall Friedman fly fishing in Mackay, Idaho for a SheJumps event. Photo by Tamara Harrison.

As many girls know, if you can’t tag along with a boyfriend, dad or other man-friend who is patient enough to teach you (and nice enough to lend you his ill-fitting gear), it’s not always easy to jump into new sports. Even in a small and athletic community like Sun Valley, it can be hard to find like-minded girls of the same skill level willing to try new things.

That’s where SheJumps comes in. On the SheJumps website, girls can join “The Clubhouse,” an online forum to connect people within their region or abroad. “You can ask to borrow or buy used gear, crash on someone’s couch or just get together and go do something outside,” said Julie Youngblood, a local SheJumps ambassador. “And all the girls are cool.”

After a SheJumps course in the Canadian Selkirk Mountains, Youngblood decided she wanted to bring the program back to Sun Valley. She has organized “Get the Girls Out” events throughout the area, including a fly fishing trip on the Big Lost River in Mackay, an International Women’s Ski Day with the K2 Alliance on Baldy and a Level 1 Avalanche Training Course with Sun Valley Trekking.

“I think it’s really important for women to be comfortable and active and to have the confidence to try different things—to see what they do and don’t like,” Youngblood said. “This program gives girls an open platform to try stuff together that they may end up loving.”

As Dyer explained, young girls need not only a supportive female community but also role models that are generated from these programs. “There are incredible women in the world doing incredible things, but no one is talking about it,” she said. “The media is no help.” Dyer would like to see the Lindsey Vonns and Melissa Arnots of the world usurp the spotlight from the Kim Kardashians.  “We need to refocus their attention away from looks—from mirrors and television and Facebook and SnapChat—and get them outside. Nature is so empowering, and we want to push these girls to follow their passions and reach their full potential,” she said.

SheJumps programs range from mountaineering to paddleboarding and rock climbing.

Dyer, a product of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, spent her early days ripping around Dollar and Bald Mountains, chasing her ski coaches around the slopes. She said growing up in Idaho, and especially in nature, shaped her into the woman she is today: “Being outside taught me everything I know—discipline, confidence, maturity. I owe everything I am to that awesome community.”

Dyer’s skiing career is continuing to blow up—she was the first female on the cover of Freeskier Magazine, and Powder recently named her “Female Skier of the Year.” She has won several big-mountain competitions and has skied just about everywhere in the world (you may recognize her from multiple cameos in Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research films). And now she wants to inspire others to do the same.

Taking her own advice to jump into new adventures, Dyer recently directed and produced her first documentary film, “Pretty Faces,” based on all-female skiers and crowd-funded entirely from Kickstarter. “I had no idea what I was getting into, but I was willing to figure it out,” she said. “Even after so many doors were slammed in my face.” With no film experience and a graphic design degree from Montana State University, Dyer said she had always wanted to connect the art and the sport of skiing. “I want the message of anything I put out there to be inspirational,” she said. “Especially to inspire women.”

While Dyer is pursuing her film and skiing career from her home base in Jackson, Wyoming, her friend Claire Smallwood has taken over as the executive director of SheJumps. But Dyer continues to live her message—she was the first woman to huck herself off the Fat Bastard cliff face in Jackson Hole, and now more and more women are following suit. “You just have to know you can do it,” said Dyer. “And jump.”

This article appears in the The Outdoor Idaho Issue Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.