The second annual Gathering of the brought 100 female snowboard industry power players together January 12-14, at Snowbird, Utah. Which, if you know anything about putting on an event for snowboarders in the middle of winter, is a huge feat.
Cristin Inglis, advertising director of “Hot Lava” magazine, created the Gathering a year ago as a way to get the women of snowboarding together in a casual atmosphere. “I wanted to offer these ambitious, inspiring women a place to carry on conversations besides a trade show or a contest or event,” says Inglis. “This proved to be an outlet for that and it works.”
Second time around, the Gathering grew from 38 to 100 Goddesses, including women who work in snowboard apparel, manufacturing, reping, media, and riders who just wanted the opportunity to ride with other women.
Personally, I liked being called a “Goddess” for a weekend and was impressed by the event overall. Goddesses were everywhere while women from competing outerwear companies like Deep, Bombshell, Cold as Ice and Yang, were seen pack-riding, hitting kickers, and racing down natural pipes. Inside Edition, Kickstand Productions, Ripe Productions, and STV all had their cameras rolling. W.I.G. Magazine even shared adjoining rooms with Bethany Stevens and Melissa Longfellow the editor and art director of Fresh and Tasty. Depending on your expectations, the Gathering was either a non-competitive, networking Mecca or a competitive underground with issues not quite being faced.
“It was fun to see all these women here,” says Lisa Hudson from Twist. “But I would be better if even more people were involved.” Natalie Murphy from Wave Rave agrees. “There was a little competitiveness between the companies at the conferences, yet, that wasn’t talked about.”
Like women so often do, we tended to shy away from confrontation or negativity. For example, the second night’s conference featured panelists Dana White from “Snowboard Life,” Bethany Stevens from “Fresh and Tasty,” Tracy Fong from Deep and Martha Harkey from Yang. Overall, it wasn’t a very informative session, yet no one mentioned it until I asked around the next day.
Fong and Harkey spoke about how they each got started in the industry, while White’s speech compared the ski and snowboard media and was very unclear. Steven’s speech was by far the most thought-provoking, drawing out issues concerning how women are portrayed in advertising and about the responsibility advertisers and the media have to portray positive images of women to their potential markets.
Using flash boards with examples of ads in poor taste, Steven’s got the point across, plus more. Unfortunately, her talk subdued the crowd into silence. Instead of discussing the issue of positive advertising for women more audience questions focused on manufacturing abroad, Japanese distribution, and finding sewers in China. Worthy questions for some, but for Goddesses outside of the clothing industry, which were many, who really cared?
I’d like to have seen some pro riders on the panel, maybe someone from the film industry, or perhaps more seasoned snowboard manufacturers or clothing representatives. Comments that most lingered were from the audience, in particular, from Kristy Roach, founder of Kurvz Clothing who said, “Power is a delicate thing; we must wield it carefully.”
With a room full of entrepreneurial women, wielding power, perhaps is what should have been discussed: How do we coordinate this power without competing or pretending not to compete; what do we do with it; and when, not shouuld, we launch a women’s snowboard organization. Debate is important if we want to make rational choices about defining our future in a male-dominated industry.
On the lighter side, the Cliff Lodge spa was really nice. And I did have lots of fun taking Fresh And Tasty girls around my home mountain and comparing the scenery of the Wasatch mountains with their home range the Adirondacks. “We have nothing like this,” Bethany said at the top of our second run together.
For many others, there was nothing like cruising Snowbird, taking lessons together, dining, spas, sipping apres cocktails, and talking about their favorite sport with other women. Survey comments such as “It was an incredible experience” to “It changed my life” are testimony enough that the Gathering of the Goddesses is an event who’s time has come. Survey says either Jackson Hole or Whistler will be home mountain for the Gathering of the Goddesses III.
As for including more pro riders and seasoned manufacturers, or perhaps the evolution of a women’s snowboard association, we’ll see. “I’m letting it grow as steadily as it wants to and to create itself,” says Inglis. Given the awakening that’s taking place for women in general it may just turn into snowboarding’s Female Industry Conference.
For more information about the Gathering of the Goddesses, call (714) 856-0123.