Debra Scolnick takes some runs at Heavenly on the new Coalition Snow skis. ·
Jennifer Gurecki wants to give women a voice in designing ski and snowboard gear. Ripping chicks have been on the hill since the dawn of winter sports, but rarely do female skiers and snowboarders dominate the spotlight in competitions, magazines or films. And, often, woman’s specific gear is a watered-down version of men’s gear with a pink makeover.
“The more woman I talked to, the more I realized that the woman who are really good don’t even ski on woman’s gear because it just doesn’t suit them,” said Gurecki.
Gurecki’s passion for the mountains brought her to Tahoe 12 years ago where she spends a lot of her time riding with woman skiers and snowboarders in this area.
Realizing the unfilled void in the industry, she launched Coalition Snow – skis and snowboards designed by woman for woman.
The idea would come up in conversation while skiing, hiking and camping during the spring of 2013, and the interest was there. By the end of that summer, Gurecki had enough feedback to create a handful of prototypes.
In the fall, Gurecki traveled to Kenya to summit Mount Kenya to create awareness about climate change affecting the glacier on the mountain and raise money for Zawadisha, an organization Gurecki founded that provides microloans and support to women in Kenya to enable them to start businesses.
“I thought ‘What a great opportunity to take our skis and snowboard up this 16,000-foot peak and ski this glacier that could be gone in 20 years. That could be a really cool way to launch our company and set the stage for what we’re about,’ ” said Gurecki.
So, after hauling gear through torrential rain, vertical bogs, scree and snow, Gurecki and Meghan Kelly made the first few turns on new Coalition Snow skis and boards, while also raising $16,355 for Zawadisha.
Coalition Snow is born
Gurecki’s passion for empowerment and the outdoors stretches beyond the ski industry. While working with University of California, Berkeley, at an outdoor literacy program, Gurecki was able to see the impact the program made on the participants. The women, in particular, seemed to shift their self-perception after spending time in multiday expeditions in the outdoors.
During her graduate studies, she travelled to Kenya for the first time for a research project looking at bottom up approaches to social change. What she found was that many of the woman in the country lacked access to the economy. Gurecki returned to Kenya to work with the women there to create a project to give them access to working capital. The project later became Zawadisha, which currently works with more than 100 women to provide funding to help them start businesses.
With Coalition Snow, Gurecki seeks to bring more than just a product to strap to one’s feet and ride down the hill. Besides creating gear that can help women perform on the hill, she hopes to foster a community that supports women to progress while building a company that is socially and environmentally conscious.
“Women want to be a part of a company, they want to be part of something that’s doing something good for the world. Woman are particular about who they want to support. (Coalition) brings my love of snowboarding and the mountains together with that empowerment of women in a way I’ve never been able to do before,” she said.
Gurecki carefully sourced materials that have less of an impact on the environment, including a plant-based epoxy and replacing fiberglass with a basalt material. While Coalition Snow is not the only company to use these materials, they are not standard in the industry so there are many challenges to getting them into production and ensuring a quality product, she said.
Testing a dream
This winter was the first full season to test the product and feedback so far has been mostly positive. Squaw Valley rider Rachel Graf has been testing the snowboards.
“I ride really surfy. I grew up surfing in New Hampshire – so I like rocker boards a lot, but I also used to race snowboard cross so sometimes I like something stiff and fast,” said Graf.
This season, she rode a 149 cm board, which she described as “poppy” and really easy to ollie, but capable of holding an edge on hard pack. The second board was 155 and provided the stiff, fast riding style Graf also looks for.
Swedish freestyle skier Sandra Dejin has been riding and competing on Coalition Snow skis for the past three months. A typical day on the slopes for Dejin includes a lot of rails and jumps.
“I would say they were rather stiff when I first got them, but they’ve softened up quite a bit since then,” said Dejin. “They deliver a good pop and stay stable in the in-runs when jumping. When it comes to the riding experience in the slopes they just feel solid.”
Here in Tahoe, Debra Scolnik also has been testing the skis at Heavenly.
A self-proclaimed “serial optimist,” Scolnik enjoys skiing all terrain and conditions and says that she seeks a ski that helps her push her performance to the next level.
“I wanted a traditional, cambered ski that was longer and stiffer than the skis I already owned,” said Scolnik. “The skis Jen provided me were perfect. At 168 cm, they gave me the challenge I needed to dominate a longer ski and charge harder without getting lazy. The stiffness allowed me to plow through chunder, make maching GS turns down groomers and power them through bumps.”
Although the feedback is positive, the first generation of ski may never make it to production. Gurecki has already started working on the next evolution of skis.
“What’s been helpful about having her on those skis all year is understanding how someone can grow into that length and that flex, but the shape is not necessarily something that is going to sell as well for us,” said Gurecki.
She is currently working on a ski that has a little more rocker in the tip and tail and traditional camber underfoot. One version is 85 cm underfoot and the other is 105 cm.
A limited run of Coalition Snow skis and snowboards are going into production for the 2014-15 season. They will be available at coalitionsnow.tumblr.com, as well as goodpeople.com. For more information about Coalition Snow or to get involved, visit the Web site or e-mail Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org.