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The Jackson Hole Babe Force on Female Empowerment

The little girl sitting across from me in the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ranch Lot shuttle is decked-out in vibrant ribbons and bows. Her mom, who’s right beside her, is similarly adorned in sparkle and color. Their costumes affirm my guess that they, alongside my friend and I, will be participants in today’s Jackson Hole Babe Force (JHBF) annual Galentines scavenger hunt. When the shuttle comes to a halt in front of the tram station we spill out into a beautiful bluebird day. The village is teeming with skiers and snowboarders who are enjoying the sunshine. It wasn’t quite clear where we’d be exactly meeting before the shenanigans began, but when we spotted more gals in tutus and feathered boas gathering at the base of the gondola it became apparent.

RELATED: Start Bidding for the Jackson Hole Babe Force’s Silent Auction

In teams of three to five, we dispersed across the mountain, checking off objectives on our scavenger list as we went. Objectives included executing spread eagles, starting dance parties in the gondola, high fiving female ski instructors and ski patrollers, and sending classic JHMR lines like Alta Two. There was one high-scoring objective we didn’t get: convincing the tram operator to play Roar by Katy Perry on the loudspeakers. While we failed, there was a team that succeeded: the little girl with ribbons. When we reconvene at the afterparty her mom shows me a video of the ordeal: The tram box is turned into a Katy Perry concert with the preteen and her friends taking the lead. They’re joined by the tram operator who uninhibitedly sings back-up vocals as they ascend the mountain. 

Not every JHBF event results in an impromptu karaoke dance party like this one, but they all have the same common goal: creating sisterhood in the mountains. Whether it’s with silly scavenger hunts, all-women ski days, avalanche education classes, or organized mountain bike rides on JHMR’s singletrack, the organization has continually sought to empower women in the mountains since its inception in 2011. And what began as simple all-women’s ski meetups has grown into a full-fledged 501 c3 non-profit that now annually awards over 20 scholarships to support the women of Jackson Hole. In an era where it seems like every outdoor brand is keen on empowering women, the JHBF is an example of how a motivated and passionate group of individuals can make an enduring change for their fellow women in their local community.

We caught up with Crystal Wright, a former professional skier, owner of Wright Training, and JHBF co-founder. This Saturday the JHBF is hosting their annual Derby Day Fundraiser & Dance Party in support of their 2019 scholarship fund. On the eve of their annual fundraiser, Wright gave us a little more background on how the Babe Force came to be and where they’re looking to go in the future:

Wright celebrating her 2012 FWT win on the podium beside Nat Segal and Angel Collinson. Photo courtesy of Crystal Wright. Jackson Hole Babe Force Photo.  

Can you tell me more about your background in skiing?

CW: I raced forever and then competed on the Freeride World Tour and other big-mountain competitions for ten years. I won the FWT’s overall title twice. It was an amazing part of my life and that’s when I started to get fired up about supporting women because I made some of my best friends on the tour. We all supported and pushed each other, and that’s something I wanted to see for the next generation.

When did the JHBF come to be?

CW: I grew up in Jackson idolizing the Jackson Hole Air Force and I always wanted to ski with them. I had role models like my ski patroller mom and Emily Coombs, but it was weird because there weren’t any women in the Air Force. That’s why the Babe Force came to me in the beginning. You know, if there’s a boy’s club we should create a girls club for all these ripping women in this valley.

Then it really came together when I was skiing Granite with a couple of girls and this group of guys wouldn’t let us pass them on the traverse. It turned a bit competitive, and when we reached the flat part I jokingly messed with their skis and shouted ‘Jackson Hole Babe Force—watch out’. It got me thinking during the rest of the traverse out that we should actually make this into a group that hosts events and creates chances for women to come together. We thought it would be cool to get a bunch of ladies together and have lady ski days. We all worked at Calico pizza at the time, so we’d all brainstorm ideas at work. From there we designed the patch and our three words—strong, sexy, soulful. Brian Rutter—who is one of the OG members of Air Force—was working there too. It was fun having him help and have his blessing because we didn’t step on the Air Force’s toes.

How was the Babe Force initially received?

CW: It just blew up, and we didn’t expect that. We started giving out patches for people who were doing something inspiring. We got the idea to do an all-woman ski day and our mission statement was to ‘meet other like-minded women and get buck wild in the mountains’. The whole idea was to find other ladies at your ability level.

50 women showed up, and this was before International Women’s Ski day was a thing. That first event was pretty nerve-wracking and intimidating. We had ages ranging from little kids to 70-year-olds. There was so much energy being fed from all the ladies and all of us made new friends that day.

Nothing but smiles after the JHBF beacon/rescue practice with Teton Search and Rescue. Jackson Hole Babe Force Photo.  

How has the organization evolved?

CW: A big need I saw was getting more women in avalanche education because there were and are so many women—including myself—that would simply trust their male partner's judgment. That spurred the scholarship program three years ago. Each year we’ve been able to give more and more scholarships. Last year, out of the 100 applicants, 28 received scholarships—and that was just in Wyoming/Teton Valley. That money goes towards things like filling 24 spots for our female Avy 1 course which happened this year.

The first year we were only able to give about six scholarships, and it ranged from Avy 1, Avy 2, and JHMR’s elevate ski camp. We try to support anything that elevates women and helps them to get out of their comfort zones. Everyone’s comfort zone is different, but when you have this kind of nurturing community environment I think we as women get the chance to understand each other on a deeper level and push ourselves.

Why is the JHBF needed in a space like Jackson?

CW: When I came back to Jackson after college I started to realize that there were so many more women moving to Jackson and learning how to ski. A lot of these ladies were learning how to ski in Jackson at age 30 and I found it really inspiring that these women were pushing their limits. JHMR isn’t an easy mountain for beginners and at that time you’d never see a posse of women on the slopes.

This isn’t true for every woman, but I’d say a lot of us feel more empowered and pushed when we’re together in these kinds of environments. For example, when Lynsey Dyer was filming for Pretty Faces we had this women’s ski day at Corbet’s. Ten ladies showed up to drop different lines into the Couloir which was all filmed for the movie. As a woman, seeing a guy send it off the nose of Corbet’s isn’t necessarily relatable. But when you see a fellow lady it opens up that possibility.

Last year’s scholarship recipients. Jackson Hole Babe Force Photo. 

How can the men in our community become involved with the JHBF?

CW: We’re not a man-hater group, we just want to give women a different area to grow if that’s something that they need. We need support from everyone—not just females. The biggest assistance men can give to the JHBF is introducing their daughters, wives, sisters, friends, and etc. to the cause. Also, just supporting us and being proud of female empowerment. That means coming to the events that are co-ed. For example, we host an all-women's enduro in the summertime. It’s really cool because the past few years we’ve had a bunch of guys working as the support crew for the race.

What kind of goals does the Babe Force have for the future?

CW: The scholarships have become a huge focus for us. We’re also moving into mountain biking to give the JHBF a more year-round focus. We’ve also become a 501 c3, which is a huge milestone for us. There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through and it didn’t help that we were all new to it. We’re all volunteering to make this happen on top of our normal jobs—so it takes a lot of time. It’s been an evolving thing, but we want to continue to give women more opportunities to be out in the mountains.

We also want to create a mentorship program. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an athletic mentorship— it could be in business, mountain education, or just life. That’s what is cool about our leadership we’ve got a range of people from all different walks of life. I’ve had the chance to mentor a few younger girls in skiing and really enjoyed it. We just need to find people who want to be part of it as either mentors or mentees

The JHBF is expanding into other sports like mountain biking. Last year they hosted group rides and even an all women's enduro race on Teton Pass. Jackson Hole Babe Force Photo.  

How can women get involved with the Babe Force?

CW: Showing up to events and getting on our volunteer list. We always send out emails looking for volunteers. 

About The Author

stash member Katie Lozancich

TGR Staff Writer and photographer. Fond of bikes, pow, and dogs. Originally from Northern CA, home for me has ranged from the PNW to a teepee in Grand Teton National Park.