Butterflies were just a givin’ ’er in my stomach. This was my first time flying solo, riding without my husband. This was also my first time leading a Ladies Ride. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was met by Heidi Henke, a.k.a. our Grandma Bettie here in the Kootenays. Phew! Suddenly I felt a little bit better. She too confessed her nervousness. Flying solo is a big deal.
We got our sleds ready to roll as the ladies started to arrive. It was a very humble vibe, as it was everyone’s first time ever going solo. My to-do list before commencing included beacon checks, pairing people up into a buddy system, introductions and a pep talk. No one would be left behind, and everyone will ride safe.
Candice Chernenkoff and Kristen Jones were our trip leaders, reluctantly at first. They were used to their men leading their rides, like all of us. The Giveout sledding area was literally their backyard playground. I smiled to myself the moment Jones switched into leadership mode. Her shoulders went back, she ripped her sled into an expert sidehill and motioned for us to follow her. I love that girl—she is spunk and humour rolled into one bundle of love.
Chernenkoff also transformed into leadership mode. She is the owner of the sled I rode last year, Chuck Norris, so we have a very deep bond—loving that machine like no other sled girls could. Although it is only her second season riding, Chernenkoff carves and plays like a seasoned shred chick.
Chernenkoff had a secret area to show me. While some of the people were warming up in the cabin, Henke, Chernenkoff and I snuck away for some secret sneaky shred time. It was a cool little spot you would miss if you aren’t intimately familiar with this area. A funky little swamp tucked back in the corner of this wonderful playground was in front of us, complete with untouched snow. Henke, who is a photographer, was excited. She raced to get the proper lens on her camera before the sun disappeared behind the hill. She had Chernenkoff and I ripping up, down and all around, chasing the sun for the perfect shot. In attempting to get the perfect sidehill, I ended up crashing through the rhubarb—but it was so worth it! Wow, is that lady an epic photographer!
We had every kind of conversation possible—conversations you just don’t find with a group of men. Andrea Hand shared how hard it is to be pregnant and plan for pee breaks when you're bundled up for sledding. All of us were so proud of this little momma and you could see everyone rally around her to make this day a special one for our pregnant she-shredder. Hand’s husband glowed with pride as he watched his wife and baby carefully navigate the snow.
Brianne Stevenson is very new to sledding and she gave her all. She wanted a carving lesson, so I had her ride squirrel in front of me, so she could see how counter-steering, throttle and leaning works to get your sled on edge. Well, we got on edge all right—and toppled right over on top of each other in the snow. OK, that’s how it’s done—just don’t lean that much.
We were all very thankful to have had this experience together. There was no pressure, simply determination and encouragement if one of us got stuck. Free from expectations, all of us girls rode a bit more relaxed, as we all had an intricate understanding of what it feels like to be a woman on the hills. Pushing boundaries is way easier when surrounded by love and encouragement from people who simply “get" you. It was fun unsticking each other, knowing that we all CAN do it together.