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Get The Girls Out

How the nonprofit organization SheJumps is reaching communities of new skiers without actually being there.

The last few months—as the world has shifted and changed before our eyes—an organization known as SheJumps has been sending out concepts for ways you can learn about the outdoors from home. Called Micro Ventures, the instructional tips—geared toward women and girls but applicable to pretty much anyone who likes to adventure outside—have covered topics like how to filter water, how to tie knots, how to build a shelter, and how to poop in the woods.

“It was started in reaction to the lockdown,” says Claire Smallwood, executive director of SheJumps, which aims to increase participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. “We knew people were at home, with kids, missing the outdoors. It was the perfect time to focus on the skills that make you feel more comfortable out there.”

For me, at the back of my mind, since day one, it’s been about creating opportunities for more young women like myself

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on SheJumps. They canceled all 2020 in-person events and programming, which was a big part of how the nonprofit used to operate. The organization, which serves thousands of women and girls, including many from underserved and underprivileged communities, lost over $70,000 in revenue and fundraising almost immediately when the virus broke out. Flylow is a longtime community partner of SheJumps, and we wanted to check in with Smallwood to see how they’re holding up and how the organization has changed shape in the current climate.

“We started to think about how our programs weren’t reaching enough people,” Smallwood says. “We’ve used this time to think about how inclusion can be at the forefront of everything we do. And we’re looking toward how we can make all of our programs free or as low cost as possible.”

To that end, they’ve increased virtual offerings to provide more tools for anyone, anywhere, like a trail prep series on route finding. In preparation for this winter, SheJumps will be hosting avalanche education and backcountry skills and safety courses virtually, including online events for kids, like junior ski patrol and a new virtual version of their popular Get the Girls Out day. “This winter, there will be a lot of people getting into the backcountry for the first time,” Smallwood says. “We want to make sure they have the information they need before they go.”

In a way, SheJumps is designed to reach people like the childhood version of Smallwood. Growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Smallwood learned to ski through subsidized school programs. “Skiing opened me up to this parentless freedom,” she says.

In college, she became president of her school’s ski club in order to get a free season pass. Her sophomore year, she fibbed to her professors about having a doctor’s appointment in New Mexico, used a flight credit to fly home, and entered her first big-mountain freeskiing competition at Taos. She was on a pair of 185-centimeter-long Armadas that she’d spray painted the topsheet of in her college dorm room, and a pair of barely functioning demo bindings. She took fifth place.

After graduating with degrees in foreign languages and literature, Smallwood moved straight to Utah in search of deep snow. She continued competing in big-mountain competitions, including Freeskiing World Tour stops at Kirkwood and Crested Butte. “I loved the competitions because I loved the sense of community,” she says.

She had met pro skier Lynsey Dyer at the Taos competition and the two became friends. Not long after graduating, Smallwood flew to Jackson Hole and met Dyer and friend Vanessa Pierce at a coffee shop. The trio started sketching an idea of these unsung heroes in mountain communities, and the vision for an organization that brought those people together—and brought new people in.

“They both said, ‘We’re pretty busy, but we’d love to consider making this a nonprofit,’” Smallwood recalls. “I had nothing else going on. So, I said, ‘I’ll look into what it takes for it to become a nonprofit.’ Six months later, I had filled out the paperwork, we were accepted as a nonprofit a year later, and I became the executive director.” 

That was 14 years ago. It hasn’t been an easy road since then, but Smallwood, who now lives in Fernie, British Columbia, still feels inspired by the work she’s doing. “I like that SheJumps has become a place to harness that energy and help others feel empowered to make a positive impact on the world,” she says.

“For me, at the back of my mind, since day one, it’s been about creating opportunities for more young women like myself,” Smallwood says. But now, she has new challenges to face. “How are we helping women find community and find challenges in the outdoors and find something new? How can SheJumps create that opportunity in any community? How can we inspire people to do that even if we can’t be there?”


How you can help: Become a monthly donor to SheJumps, starting at just $10 a month, and you can help give girls who need it the gifts of outdoor play and connection to nature.

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