There’s more than one way to be a ski bum(mette)!
When Danica Baker moved to Crested Butte during the fall of 2010, her recent ski experience was admittedly limited. She wore three-buckle, rear-entry ski boots from the 1990s, a hand-me-down from her uncle after he quit the sport in a fit of frustration. But they were free, and she strapped those boots on as tightly as she could and took to the mountain with her boyfriend, photographer Trent Bona.
Prior to that point, it hadn’t made sense to invest in better equipment. There was no skiing in the heart of Paris, where she spent a year before college. She graduated from the University of South Carolina, and when she made it to Colorado, she spent her first winter in Buena Vista without a ski pass.
It was, of course, in Crested Butte that everything changed. When Danica had trouble with her boot and asked Trent to take a look at it, he pulled it off without undoing the buckles. He (politely, of course) suggested that it might be time to get better gear.
“I learned very quickly that I couldn’t ski like it was still the nineties,” Danica laughs. These days you would never guess that her ski career started such a short time ago. Her resumé reads like a ski bum’s dream: she handles marketing and web development for Matchstick Productions, spearheads the local chapter of a nonprofit that helps women further their outdoor skills, writes for the locally produced West Elk Project, and manages her own blog at Skibummette.com. Her swift transformation is inspirational—and serves as a reminder that there’s more than one way to be a ski bum(mette).
Looking for Community
Danica moved to Crested Butte after an internship at Climbing Magazine fell through—another company bought the magazine, and her position was terminated before she started. She’d already given her notice at the coffee shop where she worked in Buena Vista, and had visited and fallen in love with Crested Butte that summer (not to mention Trent). It seemed like the perfect place to figure out what came next, so she lined up a job at the Secret Stash and moved to town on October 1.
But Danica didn’t want to move to town and know only her boyfriend—or be known solely as “Trent Bona’s Girlfriend.” The day she told him she was moving, she gave him the news and then headed up to the mountain for Beer and Chili Fest with a group of girls. “You need to go downhill biking or do something right now because I’m going to go find some girlfriends,” she told him. For Danica, female friendships are a key part of living in a male-dominated ski town.
“There’s this connection there,” she says. “There are things about being a woman that you just don’t share with a man, and being able to recognize that and the specialness of being able to say things to each other that you can’t in front of guy, that’s a special bond. It’s important to have that release.”
Yet she was amazed to learn that so many of the women in town—though here for many of the same reasons—didn’t know each other. When Danica hosted a girls’ night shortly after moving to town, she expected everyone to know each other. No one knew anybody else.
Surprised as she was, Danica liked being the catalyst to bring everyone together and continued to look for ways to bring women together. Over time, it has helped Danica make her mark—and find her place—in Crested Butte.
From the beginning, Danica knew she wanted her life in Crested Butte to be about more than skiing (even with a new pair of boots). She moved to town for the people as much as the mountains, and the time came when she wanted to stretch her mind and contribute to the community.
“Crested Butte provides so much physical release that it lets you feel like you’re constantly accomplishing something,” she says. “And in a way you are, but at the same time, once you realize you want something more for yourself, to grow your mind and your brain, that changes everything.”
She started by launching her blog, Skibummette.com, as a way to highlight women who stand out or try to make a difference in the world of action sports. She’s interviewed and featured Allison Gannett, founder of the Rippin Chix bike clinics, and paid tribute to female athletes like Sarah Burke and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick.
But perhaps most important, Skibummette was Danica’s first step toward reconnecting with her college training in journalism and graphic design. She got back into the habit of researching, writing, and being creative, and when she discovered SheJumps—a nonprofit getting women across the country outdoors and into the mountains—it was a natural transition to reach out to its founders about starting a Crested Butte chapter.
“What made me love SheJumps automatically was that it brought a reason to get to know women you may not know,” Danica says. Women in Crested Butte certainly don’t need help getting outside, but in SheJumps, Danica saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between different social groups and help women further their outdoor skills.
She envisions a program where women can teach each other to ice climb in Ouray or rock climb in Taylor Canyon, learn to tune their own skis or snowboards, or practice using a beacon in a comfortable environment.
“I’ve had a lot women come up to me after learning about SheJumps and say they’ve always wanted to ask questions at the public avy awareness night, for instance, but have been intimidated to ask in front of that many people and guys that know their stuff,” Baker says.
“I’ve also had a ton of women ask me, ‘Does this mean I can learn the backcountry?’ Or I have the opposite happen, where women say ‘I’ve been looking for other women to do this with, and this way I can meet a core group of women that are at my level that I can do things with.’”
To start things out and build up a base, Danica has organized ski days at Crested Butte Mountain Resort that coincide with national SheJumps’ Get the Girls Out events. The idea is to take a few laps together, meet new women and hopefully be inspired to try something new.
“For so many women riding with guys, it can be a lot easier to say, ‘He’s doing that because he already knows how,’ or ‘I couldn’t do that,’” Danica says. “But when a woman sees another woman do something they didn’t think they could do, it’s an automatic reaction to say, ‘If she could do that, I could do it, too.’”
SheJumps has certainly been empowering for Danica, a true turning point in her career. “As soon as I was brave enough to reach out to the women in charge there, that’s when things really started falling into place for me,” she says. SheJumps board members attended the opening day event Danica organized at CBMR, and her participation has earned her the role of ambassador, a newly created position that represents the organization on a regional level.
She’s been a featured “jumper” on the SheJumps website and they’ve published her work. She writes for the West Elk Project, and most recently, she’s joined the crew at Matchstick Productions, working on marketing and web development. Irwin is partnering with her to create a SheJumps retreat in March. In a relatively short time, Danica has gone from wearing many hats to make ends meet to working in her field and finding her place in the community.
“I may not be a local but this is my home. When you say that and then you actually move forward and become part of the community instead of just part of ski culture, it’s completely different,” she says. That’s a pretty impressive development in a story that began with rear-entry ski boots.
Learn more about SheJumps at www.SheJumps.com or hook up with the crew at a Get the Girls Out event on Sunday, March 10 at 11 a.m. Meet at the 9380 outdoor firepit and look for costumes! Or, contact Danica directly with clinic ideas at email@example.com.