AIARE Women's Mentorship Program

Women make up a disproportionately small number of avalanche educators in the U.S., and many women in the field find it difficult to grow and sustain their careers. The financial, sociological, and other barriers faced by everyone in the industry are often exacerbated for women. And those barriers can be even further amplified for women who are racialized, disabled, trans, mothers, poor/working class, and women who hold other historically marginalized identities.

For these reasons and more, AIARE is thrilled to launch the third season of the Women’s Mentorship Program.

Our mission is to support aspiring to seasoned women professionals in the U.S. snow and avalanche industry by building community and expanding access to opportunities and resources. The Women’s Mentorship Program does this through:

  • Operating small mentorship groups,  focused on professional development in the snow and avalanche industry, connecting people via virtual, in-person, and on-snow opportunities
    • Working alongside AIARE providers and other supporters to connect women with professional opportunities and resources
  • Offering public events that platform women to support others by sharing about their experiences, including by building transparency surrounding the snow and avalanche industry
  • Operating in tandem with other AIARE programs, such as affinity-based PRO programs and scholarship funding to help alleviate barriers to entry

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Mentorship Cohorts

AIARE’s Women’s Mentorship Program cohort experience consists of seven small group sessions offered in combination with cross-cohort opportunities, such as the Mentorship Mixer. The program will also provide, in collaboration with AIARE Providers, program sponsors, and other industry organizations, additional on-snow opportunities both in- and out-of-bounds.

To guide the experience, AIARE provides a program structure and facilitates a rigorous selection process to choose each mentor and mentee in the season’s community. The provided session resources are just one possibility of many, and we support each group’s choice to adapt or abandon these outlines as needed. Building a supportive and joyful cohort may look different for each group, and all participants are encouraged to work in community with each other to build something meaningful–even if that doesn’t look exactly like the provided Google docs or other groups’ experiences.

AIARE will offer six regionally-based cohorts for the 2023-24 season:

  • Alaska (1 mentor // 7 mentees)
  • California + Nevada (1 mentor // 7 mentees)
  • Colorado + Utah (3 mentors // 21 mentees)
  • Idaho, Montana, + Wyoming (2 mentors // 14 mentees)
  • Northeast (1 mentor // 7 mentees)
  • Oregon + Washington (2 mentors // 14 mentees)
Photo courtesy of Melissa Guba. Pictured left to right: Katie Pistello, Danielle Eckert, Eline Kok, Melissa Guba
Photo courtesy of Melissa Guba. Pictured left to right: Katie Pistello, Danielle Eckert, Eline Kok, Melissa Guba

2023-24 Application Timeline

Mentors

Mentees

8/15 apps open

9/1 apps open

9/15 apps closed

10/1 apps closed

9/16 mentor scoring begins

10/2 mentee scoring begins

9/20 mentor scoring ends

10/14 mentee scoring ends

9/21 selection notifications sent

10/16 selection notifications sent

9/25 response deadline

10/19 response deadline

9/26 2nd round selection notifications sent

10/20 2nd round selection notifications sent

9/28 2nd round response deadline10/24 2nd round response deadline
 10/25 registration fees due

Season 3 Cohort Schedule

10/23 mentor training
10/30 pre-season brief
11/6 session 1
11/13 session 2
11/27 session 3
12/11 session 4
12/18 cross-cohort mixer + affinity sessions
12/19 mid-season check-in (mentors and mentees)
1/8 session 5
1/22 session 6
1/29 session 7

 

Post-season sessions:
3/4 spring WMP check-in
5/20 WMP S3 reunion

Who Should Apply to Be a Mentor?

Mentors' primary roles will be—with AIARE staff support—to build an open and welcoming environment, facilitate group conversations, connect mentees with resources, and speak to their own experiences within the industry. Applicants with a strong desire to support fellow women in either building, growing, and/or sustaining a career and a diversity of personal and professional experiences to pull from should apply. Previous season participants are strongly encouraged to apply! This is a paid position. Read more and apply here:

Past Mentors

Participating in the AIARE Women’s Mentorship Program revealed the power in mentoring—and being mentored by—others who remind us of ourselves. By cultivating a more diverse space as educators, we can reach more students, backcountry skiers, aspiring guides, forecasters, and educators. A greater representation of avalanche instructors and guides will help future generations of educators believe in themselves.

—Lani Bruntz (Mentor '21-22)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Julia Ordog

“You’ve got this!” Thinking back on my experience in the AIARE women’s mentorship program, this phrase stands out to me. How cool is it that our catchphrase is to support, uplift, ground, and inspire one another? You’ve got this. Such simple words, and yet so powerful when often in our lives the subtext of what we hear is, “You aren’t good enough” or “you don’t belong here.” It can be scary, but the only way we will be able to make these beautiful places open to everyone is by having the courage to show up. If you don’t know how to do that, or aren’t sure where to begin, or simply want to connect with like-minded souls, then I think the mentorship program is one for you. Trust me, you’ve got this.

—Jess Lewis (Mentor '22–23, Mentee ‘21-22)

Finding mentors and role models who share our experiences can be incredibly challenging as a female avalanche professional.AIARE's Women’s Mentorship Program provides a framework and a space to connect with and support other women in the industry. I’ve been inspired by how many incredible and talented women are working and aspiring to work in the profession. By continuing to build this community, I hope we can become more inclusive and reach out to others who are underrepresented in our field.

—Wendy Antibus (Mentor '21-22 and '22–23)

Who Should Apply to Be a Mentee?

Mentees should have a strong desire to learn and grow in community with fellow women and genuine interest in pursuing work in the snow and avalanche industry. Qualified applicants will have at least one season of experience as an outdoor and/or avalanche educator and two seasons of experience traveling in backcountry winter terrain. Aspiring, new, and experienced avalanche educators are encouraged to apply.

Women who hold intersecting identities such as racialized, disabled, trans, mothers, poor/working class, or other historically marginalized identities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Applicants who are registered for an AIARE Pro or Instructor Training course for the 23/24 season will be prioritized. Those who are registered for a women’s affinity PRO 1 or ITC are granted automatic acceptance but will still need to submit a Mentorship Program-specific application.

Program participants are responsible for a $100 registration fee, however, financial support is available. Registration fees go to supporting mentors’ compensation.

Past Mentees

The AIARE Women’s Mentorship Program is critically important to my development as an avalanche professional and ski guide. The Program provides a welcoming environment to make connections, converse meaningfully, share information, and ski together! I would be lost in these professions without the real support I received during two seasons as a mentee.

Kelly Chang (Mentee ‘21-22 and '22–23)

My path into the avalanche industry has not been a straightforward one, and I have experienced many peaks and valleys throughout the process. The AIARE Women's Mentorship Program has been a guiding force throughout my complicated journey, and I am appreciative of the continued support and advice I received from mentors and peers. Knowing there is someone in your corner, having a respected and trusted person to call with questions, and connecting with women/non-binary folks from around the country has helped center my professional avalanche work. If you are considering applying for the Women's Mentorship Program, do it. You may not know what you need right now, but the program helped illuminate connections that have helped me commit to this work. Renee Shapiro (Mentee ‘21-22 and '22–23)

I initially participated in the Women's Mentorship Program as a practical networking opportunity but found so much more in ways of support, mentorship, encouragement, skill sharing, and friendship. The early season online sessions helped us define our personal and professional goals for the season (and onwards) and outline a path to achieving them. Mid-season sessions were check-ins, supportive conversations, information sharing, and opportunity sharing. Then we sprinkled in a few in-person sessions, and I could not be happier with the outcome of the program. I left feeling reinvigorated, excited about the future of women in guiding, and excited for my own pursuits. Thanks to the whole team at AIARE for putting this program on and for the inspiring mentors who validate our experiences and encourage us to push through challenges." —Angelique Carl

PUBLIC EVENTS

In addition to application-based opportunities, AIARE’s Women’s Mentorship Program offers public events each season. These public events provide opportunities for a wider array of individuals to connect with our incredible community of women snow and avalanche professionals. Find out more about this season’s offerings below.

Open Networking Session

This event has passed, join our newsletter to stay informed of more events next year!
 

Are you a snow and avalanche professional or looking to break into the industry? Join AIARE for a facilitated, virtual networking opportunity to connect with other snow and avalanche professionals, those looking to break into the industry, and special guests from across the industry. We’ll host breakout rooms by region and professional interest, giving participants an opportunity to connect in smaller groups.

This event is reserved for women and genderqueer individuals. Anyone with a genuine interest in working in the snow and avalanche industry or making connections to grow their work in the industry is welcome.

Conversation Series

Have questions for our speakers? A topic you want to make sure we address? Let us know here.

Dani Reyes-Acosta

This event has passed, access the recording below with your $10 donation to support continued programming!
Open to all genders
Dani Reyes-Acosta Headshot Photo by Leslie Hittmeier for OUTLIER Trust.

Dani Reyes-Acosta Headshot Photo by Leslie Hittmeier for OUTLIER Trust.

Award-winning advocate, filmmaker, athlete, and strategist Dani Reyes-Acosta inspires individual action and collective communion through stories of reciprocity in the outdoors (and beyond).

Through both personal storytelling as @NotLostJustDiscovering and with her production studio Afuera Productions, Dani centers individual and community action as a means to transform our relationships to the outdoors and each other. In her varied roles, she demonstrates the diversity of opportunities available and what it looks like to embrace alternative ways of being a snow and avalanche industry professional. Hailing from Southern California, Dani currently resides in Southwest Colorado.

Join Dani and Azissa, AIARE’s Women’s Mentorship Program manager, as they dive into Dani’s story, including her path into the snow and avalanche industry as a professional athlete and filmmaker and how that path has been shaped by both her history and vision for the future.

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Devin Gaan

This event has passed, access the recording below with your $10 donation to support continued programming!
Open to all genders

Devin Gaan is a snowboarder of almost 30 years with an established tech career. In the last few years, she’s also begun to invest in becoming an avalanche educator, including completing an AIARE PRO 1 last winter and enrolling in an AIARE Instructor Training Course this season. Devin has felt firsthand the lack of representation within the industry for people like her, which has informed her own focus on serving underrepresented groups, including BIPOC and LGBTQIA communities. A Hong Konger who moved tothe US at a young age, Devin now resides in Seattle, Washington.

Join Devin and Azissa, AIARE’s Women’s Mentorship Program manager, as they explore the ins and outs of adult career transitions, how to serve the communities closest to us, and how all our experiences are colored by the intersecting identities we hold.

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Jess Lewis

This event has passed, access the recording below with your $10 donation to support continued programming!
Open to all genders

Jess Lewis is truly an example of a life lived outside. Raised by mountain guides and a guide herself for over a decade, Jess knows the power of the outdoors. As an AIARE instructor and adjunct college professor, she leverages that power to spread knowledge and build community. A skilled curator of challenge and support, AIARE was fortunate to have Jess participate in both mentee and mentor roles with the Women’s Mentorship Program. Among her talents as a guide and instructor, Jess also adds business owner to that list–co-operating the Lost Wonder Hut with her mom, Natalie. Jess is currently based in Prescott, AZ but takes time in the winter to head to Colorado.

Join Jess and Azissa, AIARE’s Women’s Mentorship Program manager, in a reflection on Jess’ time with AIARE’s Mentorship Program, what it means to be a business owner, and the adventure of more than ten years in guiding. And probably lots of chatter about our dogs.

Check out previous seasons’ conversations below!

How to Get Started: Avalanche Education - Donate $5 to view recording
How to Get Started: Professional Work in the Winter Outdoor Industry - Donate $5 to view recording
Deep Dive: Careers in Avalanche Forecasting + Ski Patrolling - Donate $5 to view recording
Finding the Balance: Part-Time Work in the Avalanche Industry - Donate $5 to view recording

 

Affinity Programs + Scholarships

In addition to the Women’s Mentorship Program, AIARE also hosts:

Learn more below!

Moving Beyond Women

Although AIARE’s Women’s Mentorship Program originated as a program for women, AIARE recognizes that people from other marginalized gender identities also face similar and unique challenges related to their gender expression. We believe the Women's Mentorship Program can provide helpful support and resources to those outside the gender binary interested in engaging in a women-centric experience. Because of this, genderqueer and non-binary avalanche educators are welcome to participate. LGBTQ+ affinity opportunities (among others) will also be available to program participants, and the program’s conduct guidelines apply during all AIARE programming.

AIARE recognizes the need for a more holistic change to meaningfully include genderqueer avalanche educators next season. We look forward to updating the program's name and more intentionally connecting with the community, including by assembling a paid working group and hosting community sessions to inform program updates and changes. If you’re interested in participating in this process or want to provide feedback, please check out the interest form here.

Want to support the Women’s Mentorship Program?

Make a donation and mention the Women’s Mentorship Program in the order notes!

Sign up for the AIARE newsletter below to make sure you get all the latest details about AIARE’s Women’s Mentorship Program, including cohort application updates, conversation series details, and other in-person and virtual opportunities.

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