The 2021 WNDR Women Roost Recap

By Melissa Gill, FOW

Melissa and fellow Roosters. Wasatch Range, UT. Photo: Alex Aberman (@abermanphoto)

The WNDR Women Roost could have just been 3 days of skinning and skiing and it would have been a success. But it was so much more than that... It was 3 days of really mindfully curated experiences including yoga led by mechanical engineer Grace VanSurksum, a detailed look into the creation of an avalanche forecast by Nikki Champion, a tour of the WNDR Alpine Design Lab, parking lot dance parties, women supporting other women, conversations about individual strengths and weaknesses, thoughtful gifts from brand partners, and so much more. 

Below are my reflections on what was one of the most incredible on (and off) snow experiences I’ve ever had.

Why We Created this Event 

First, I feel so present and alive when I am in the mountains with other people. There's nowhere else I'd rather be than on the skintrack with friends. And this event allowed me to do that with a really incredible group of women. 

Second, we all know that backcountry skiing requires more than just the ability to ski and an awareness of how avalanches happen. We know that it includes a strong sense of self-awareness and the ability to contribute to group dynamics and group decisions. 

With the WNDR Women Roost, It was important to me to incorporate elements of mindfulness and discussions of things like the heuristic traps we individually tend to fall into. I love the saying "how you do one thing is how you do all things"... I believe that the more I get to know myself on the skintrack, the safer I will be in the backcountry, and it then leads to greater emotional maturity in how I live the rest of my life when I'm out of ski boots. 

Mindfulness is universal. Wasatch Range, UT. Photo: Alex Aberman (@abermanphoto)

What the Roost Meant to Me 

I’ve always been inspired by and drawn to experiences like the WNDR Women Roost; experiences that not only bring people closer together, but also to support people on their journey of self discovery. 

The opportunity to connect with other female backcountry skiers is already a gift, and to have the opportunity to safely do so one year into a global pandemic made this experience even more meaningful. 

The role that I got to play in creating the event was really a dream come true. I love the planning process where I get to consider all the small aspects and details that help set the scene for a smooth and seamless experience. The crew that came together to help plan this Roost did an incredible job thinking of all of the details ahead of time, so that when we were all together, moments of laughter and connection were able to happen really organically. 

When conditions and terrain allow for it, there's nothing quite like an all-ladies party lap. Wasatch Range, UT. Photo: Alex Aberman (@abermanphoto)

The Experience

This group of ladies had so much fun. They immediately became comfortable with one another and group dynamics in each of our individual groups each day were stellar. I overheard many conversations of women finding similarities between their work, their passions, or their childhood experiences. The immediate bonding was palpable. 

After a year of social isolation with COVID-19, I think I can speak for the group when I say that it was a much needed experience for each person. To know that this group of women were able to safely explore in the mountains amidst a pandemic has brought me so much joy. 

My absolute favorite part was the parking lot dance party on day 1. It just seemed to come out of nowhere. I was taking off my ski boots at my car, and turned around to find all of the women dancing together in unison. It happened so organically, and was the first time in over a year that I was able to be a part of something like that. I was immediately filled with that feeling of being a part of other people’s joy and that feeling is something I hope to never take for granted in the future.

On Day 1, a spontaneous dance party erupted. There's was nothing anyone could do to stop it! Wasatch Range, UT. Photo: Alex Aberman (@abermanphoto)

Memories from Attendees

“The WNDR Women Roost for me was an opportunity to connect with other like-minded women through a shared passion of skiing, the environment, and of course, dancing and laughter. Just as importantly, it was an opportunity for women to be recognized, celebrated, and uplifted in a sport/culture that is dominated by men.”

- Gwyneth Ross

“Favorite memory is how tired our group was at the end of the first day until the dance party started and everyone broke it down!”

- Marguerite Van Komen, FOW

What’s Next For Melissa

With Spring here, I’m personally looking forward to a hut trip in Idaho and planning a May/June trip to Alaska before trading in the skis for the mountain bike!

Next ski season, what I'm most looking forward to is carpooling with friends without a mask fogging my driving glasses. I'd also really love to get back to the Tetons to ski some lines that I've looked at since I was a little girl. The Skillet would be a nice place to start. :) 

For those of you who attended the Roost, thank you for inspiring me! I hope to ski with each and every one of you again. 

Next year’s WNDR Women Roost is sure to be bigger and better, with more hard charging women becoming emboldened and empowered by members of their own community. 

Until we meet again!

- Melissa Gill, FOW

A final thank you to the brands and people that supported us in making such an event happen! FOW: Lily Krass // Photo: Carson Meyer (@carsonmeyerphoto)