On the Hill: Babes of the backcountry | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: Babes of the backcountry

Adam Boffey
Summit County correspondent

The Summit County organization dedicated to educating women in outdoor skills took its first hut trip to Francie’s Cabin in 1996. Now, a decade later, Babes is on the verge of expanding its operations to Chile and Japan.

“[This expansion] stemmed from my passion for explor­ing new places and then introducing them to people,” Babes in the Backcountry director Leslie Ross said. “A lot of people don’t know that skiing in South America is some­thing they can go do.”

Ross created the Babes program in 1996 to provide more women with backcountry skills in a fun, safe and sup­portive atmosphere. Babes’ all-female clinics and multiday workshops include telemark skiing, backcountry hut trips, avalanche safety education, intro to the backcountry clin­ics, mountain biking clinics and trips and, most recently, international ski adventure trips.

Ross said Babes’ inaugural trip to the Far East resulted from a friendship she developed with a Japanese guide.

“I went to Japan a few years ago to do some reconnais­sance work,” Ross said. “It’s exciting to see how pumped the Japanese get about telemark skiing. They really embrace it.”

Ross will be involved with two clinics in Niseko, Japan. Although the specific dates have not yet been finalized, they generally are scheduled for the first two weeks in Feb­ruary. One will be led by the Japanese Telemark Associa­tion, the other by Babes in the Backcountry.

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The Babes director is looking forward to working with a diverse group of international women during her time over­seas.

“Part of our vision is to close the gap,” she said. “We all share a passion for backcountry skiing or boarding, and it will be great to celebrate that together.”

The Babes trip to Chile, which is set for Aug. 17-24, was also a result of a relationship forged by Ross.

Babes broke on to the international scene last winter with a hut trip in British Columbia. This year’s B.C. adven­ture is set for April 7-14.

Most of Babes’ domestic clinics take place in Colorado and California. When Ross plans a backcountry excursion outside of Summit County, she often lets the local guides lead.

Not only do local guides have the best knowledge of the ski terrain in their given area, they also hold the permits.

” Last year we served over 500 women,” Ross said. “This year we have the potential to serve 1,000.”