Lidia Mejia was holding up the other skiers. Perched above a small cliff in Utah’s Alta ski area, she doubted her ability to make the drop.
But her friend, who’d just gone over the edge, shouted back encouragement: It was fine, she told Lidia, you can do it.
Breathing deeply to steel her nerves, Lidia took the leap and landed solidly on the run below.
“I can be scared of doing one thing and then with the support of SheJumps I have been able to jump…or go faster than I usually do,” said Lidia, recalling the experience. “I can reflect back on something that is scary and say if I can do that I can do this too.”
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, SheJumps is a non-profit dedicated to increasing female participation in outdoor activities. Their goal is to mentor, teach, and build a community for women enjoying open air recreation, whether the women are newcomers to outdoors sports or professional athletes.
The founders of the organization and the SheJumps community see commitment to an active lifestyle in the outdoors as a metaphor for a way to pursue life. To chase a desire, whether in nature or in other aspects of life, is the way these women hope to live and hope to inspire others to live.
The ranks of this small non-profit include professional skier Lindsey Dyer,outdoor journalist Vanessa Pierce and chef and sponsored skier Claire Smallwood, all women who love to tear up cliffs, powder and anything with an incline from the first snowflake to the last melt. They hope to become the premiere women’s outdoor community and “voice for female athletes everywhere,” Claire Smallwood, executive director, told me when I called to learn more SheJumps.
The non-profit wants to accomplish this feat by spreading the SheJumps cyclical philosophy of Jump In, Jump Up, Jump Out – meaning women can find or build a community to encourage others to take new risks, learn more about the activities they already love, or give back by sharing their passion with at-risk youth and other women alike.
Many women express that lack of experience and a mentor are key barriers to their participation in outside activities. When women do get involved in outdoors sports, its often through other women. In fact, of women already active in nature about 33% introduce others to their activity, according to Outdoor Foundation studies.
In addition to reaching young women by connecting them with outdoorsy women, SheJumps offers classes on backcountry safety, fundraisers and auctions, film viewings focusing on women athletes, and a women’s only community website at shejumps.ning.org.
Women from all over the world use the site to find other women that live for and love the outdoors. They share stories, gear reviews, and organize ways to get out en masse. Even those that are professional athletes in one sport but completely new to another can find a mentor and friend to help them in their latest outdoor endeavors.
Lidia became involved with SheJumps through the Boy’s and Girl’s Club in Murray, Utah, where she has been a member for six years. For the past three years SheJumps has taken groups of students from Boy’s and Girl’s Club around Salt Lake Valley to the mountains for a month of ski lessons. Lidia, now a senior in high school, was nervous to try a new sport when she started skiing with this program, but credits SheJumps with introducing her to a pastime she “never knew [she] could love so much.”
“I am able to be more confident in myself,” she said, “and have a feeling of family with everyone because I fit in and feel comfortable with everyone.”