Em-pow-er: to make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.
If there is one thing I have learned in my 33 years on this big ball of fire, rock and water, it’s that confidence doesn’t come easily for everyone – especially in outdoor pursuits or backcountry situations. While some arrive Earth-side with an innate go-and-get-it drive, others take their time becoming the confident backcountry traveler they are meant to be.
Personally, my confidence in the outdoors comes from experiences, especially experiences that include being surrounded by women pushing themselves and pursuing the things that make them happiest.
This winter, I had the opportunity to join a group of women on a yurt trip in the southern San Juan mountains of Colorado. We lived simply during those 36 hours together, scooting around on boards and skis and surviving with only what we carried on our backs. We indulged in gorgeous weather, delicious food, fresh Colorado powder and eye-opening, inspiring conversation.
Here are 5 things I’ve learned about female empowerment by joining women-led backcountry adventures:
Practice the mantra “mind over matter” because we are stronger than we think.
Your legs might be screaming, your head might be full of doubt, but if the little voice in your mind repeats “I’m ok. I can do this. I’m strong. My determination to succeed is greater than the elements against me”, you might make it to the top a little easier than you expected. I have also found that the motivation from a “yeah, you got this!” or “whoop whoop!” hollered from ahead can have a profound impact on a person. While other women can be that for you, try to be that for them, too.
Trial and error can be your best friends.
How do we know what we are capable of accomplishing if we don’t try? When I feel like I’m reaching my limits, I like to ask myself, “If I don’t ask the question, how will I ever know the answer?”. If you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, learn from the experience, tweak your process, and try again. In my case, the biggest question on this trip was, “that run is sleep, but what if the snow conditions are life-changing?!”. I skied, I fell, I got up and tried again and guess what? They were.
When self-doubt creeps in, push back twice as hard.
For every negative thought that crosses your mind while pursing something in the outdoors, tell yourself two positives. Personally, I worry about my telemark turns. When I think I’m not balancing right, my skis are going to cross and I’m going down hard. I counter it with my balance is solid, my form is tight, my skis are aligned…and I come out of it with a clearer vision and the mental attitude I need to succeed. You’ve got this ladies; trust yourself.
It’s ok to say no.
If you’re not up for something, don’t do it. The slope may be too steep or your energy level might be too low. Whatever the circumstances, sometimes whatever challenge is presenting itself is just too far outside our comfort zone or skill set and saying no is the best option. Knowing it’s ok to say no and surrounding yourself with people that are receptive to that answer means you are in a supportive and healthy environment.
Manifestation gives you power.
If you tell yourself you can do it, you will. It’s one thing to go through life being the best version of yourself, it’s another to actively will yourself to where you want to be (as a person, as an athlete, etc.). While skinning to the top of a run in this little slice of heaven with these women, I worried about how tight the trees were, the steepness of the terrain, and whether my ski legs were under me yet for the season. In the end, I told myself I could, pushed through my comfort zone into my growth zone, tried my best, and I feel as though I succeeded.
Empowerment comes easy when you surround yourself with a fun group of rad women that offer up an endless supply of “woohoos!”, high-fives and positive reinforcement. If you get the opportunity to try it for yourself, do it!
A Pennsylvania native and Colorado transplant, Ryan is a proud mountain mama to two wild outdoors-loving kiddos and a couple of equally wild cattle dogs. She’s also a photographer, writer and outdoorswoman. When she and her husband aren’t wrangling the pack – and more often, when they are – you’ll find them fly fishing, skiing or biking somewhere around their home in southern Colorado.
Photography by Ryan Scavo.