Thea Zerbe can recall a moment in time when the support of friends made all the difference.
Racing through backcountry slopes on a pair of skis, she came across a small cliff that stopped her cold in her tracks.
“I was standing on top, knees shaking, looking down at all of my friends and they had nothing but words of encouragement to say,” said Zerbe. “They were looking up at me and they were saying, ‘You’re fine — you can do it.’”
“Sometimes that’s all it takes — someone just shaking you by the shoulders and saying, ‘You can do this — I believe in you,’” she continued.
That belief did, in fact, make the difference.
Zerbe ended up rocketing down from the cliff.
That experience has served as a reminder to Zerbe of what can happen when a group of women decides to tackle mountain sports together.
It’s a story that she shares as Mountain Mentors, which she founded alongside Brett Trainor, celebrates a year of fostering mentorship between women in alpine sports.
As the non-profit program enters a new season, it’ll be exploring new methods of cultivating female leaders in climbing, biking, snowboarding, and skiing.
While the group will continue to create one-on-one matches with women who are eager to learn from each other, there’s also going to be the addition to what they call “skill-share”
“The inspiration behind that is based on feedback from women in the first iteration of our program,” said Zerbe. “They were saying... we’d like an opportunity for the whole cohort to come together.”
To this end, Zerbe and Trainor started creating whole-day clinics that focused on a particular skillset.
One recent example was having a local guiding company give an intro to rock rescue.
For Zerbe, there’s a unique advantage to having women learn from each other.
“I think that when you’re in all-female environments it’s sometimes a bit easier to find your voice... and step up to leadership positions,” she said.
“Women have a different style of communication.”
“There are tons of different things that influence leadership dynamics in the backcountry...gender is one of them,” she added.
“It’s definitely a different feeling when you’re out for a day shredding with your girls.”
So far, 48 women in total have signed up for the program. To find out more, visit www.mountainmentors.org.