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At some point, whether peering over a cornice or staring down an army of mean-looking moguls, every skier has shared the same thought: I can’t.
Even Kim Reichhelm has heard those self-doubting voices, though you wouldn’t guess it by watching her ski. Ever since the late 1980s, when she starred in Greg Stump’s classic (and hugely influential) ski movie, License to Thrill, Reichhelm has developed a legendary reputation for tackling skiing’s toughest stunts. She soared off gaping cliffs at Squaw Valley and leaped into Jackson Hole’s notoriously steep Corbet’s Couloir—all seemingly unafraid.
But being the lone woman in an all-male cast of extreme skiers taught Reichhelm that men and women respond differently to skiing’s risks. “I started paying much closer attention to the way women learn sports, especially sports with risk,” she says. “Women don’t want to get hurt, where guys carry an injury like a badge of honor. We don’t want to lose control, where men love being on the edge.”
So Reichhelm started to offer women’s-only ski clinics as early as 1983, well before the now-familiar concept of women’s instruction had become mainstream. Her women’s ski camps have since grown into a full lineup of workshops. Most are offered in Colorado and Utah (a few take place internationally) and some are open to men (who, in fact, prefer to ski uninjured).
Reichhelm doesn’t actually teach people to bury their self-preservation instincts. But she does sprinkle magic dust on their skills, which makes any slope feel less scary.
Her age also inspires trust. It’s easy to dismiss any 20-year-old who chirps “you’ll be fine!” as you peer over a cliff—because what do their youthful joints know about the repercussions of hard landings in middle age? Reichhelm, though, is 56. She nods with understanding when you dither nervously. Then she teaches you what you really can do, without disaster. That ballooning sense of “Yes, I can!” feels intoxicating, maybe even addictive: Sixty-five percent of the participants in Reichhelm’s ski workshops are returning guests.
Her next event (a steep skiing camp for both genders) takes place from February 26 through March 3 at Aspen—Reichhelm’s home hill. Then, she’ll focus on the ladies from March 19–22 at Steamboat. “The terrain at Steamboat is perfect for what I’m trying to accomplish,” says Reichhelm. “I’m all about building confidence through non-intimidating experiences.” Women seeking even greater challenges can tack on the Steamboat Powder Cats adventure on March 23 and 24 (this trip can be booked individually, or as an add-on to the Steamboat Women’s Adventure).