Leah Evans

Leah Evans shows girls can ski, really well

Leah Evans is top freeskier and runs successful Girls Day Out ski camps.

Standing on top of imposing Mack Face during the finals of the 2011 Canadian Freeskiing Championships, Leah Evans couldn’t see what was happening below her, however, she did know her fellow competitors were struggling.

After recording the top score on the first day of competition, Evans was set to ski last of seven women in the final. As she waited, the six other finalists struggled through the challenging conditions, each of them falling, one losing a ski and another injuring her shoulder. While she couldn’t see the terrain below, she could hear what was happening through the radio.

She had planned a line along the skier’s right of the face but, as she put it, a race official forbid her to go that way. Third place finisher Nicole Derksen skied a similar line and struggled most of the way down through the snow that had gone to hell due to avalanche control work.

“Usually I go in with one plan and don’t change because uncertainty creates mistakes,” Evans said. “I ended going somewhere where no one else went. I didn’t know where I was and I just cruised down.”

She managed to stay on her feet and won by a wide margin. Winning that way was bittersweet, she said. “When I win, I like to win because I skied well. Sure, I skied down, but I didn’t ski what I wanted to ski.”

The win was Evans first on the Freeskiing World Tour. In 2009 she finished third at an event in Snowbird, Utah, and she has also posted a number of successes on the Canadian big mountain circuit.

However, she’s much more than a big mountain competition and her biggest mark on the ski world these days is her Girls Do Ski program and successful series of Girls Day Out ski camps.

***

Evans, 24, was born and raised in Rossland, B.C., one of Canada’s first ski towns. It’s local ski hill, Red Mountain Resort, was the first ski hill in Canada and the town produced Olympians Nancy Green and Kerrin Lee Gartner, who Evans grew up idolizing.

Evans was put on skis at the age of four. She entered into the Nancy Greene Program and eventually found her way on the racing team. In addition to the local heroes, she recalled watching American Picabo Street race and then signal to her family by touching her nose.

“I always wanted to be on TV, have a symbol and go to the Olympics,” said Evans.

Racing was her passion until she was 16, when her parents could no longer afford to keep her in the program. It was a heartbreaking experience but instead of moping, she found new friends, skied every weekend and discovered the joy of powder skiing. Local freeskiers like Meg Oster and Stephanie Gauvin became her new idols.

“I wanted to be a sponsored skier,” Evans said. “That was the dream. It changed so quickly.”

At 18, Evans went off to university in Virginia on a field hockey scholarship. While at home over the Christmas holidays, she entered into the Canadian Freeskiing Open at Red Mountain. She made the finals and at the end of the school year, she gave up field hockey to focus on skiing. Her life changed – skiing in the winter, work in the summer and school in the fall. She is currently taking women’s studies and business at the University of Victoria.

Leah Evans

 

Leah Evans doing what she does best. Photo by Dylan Page.

***

When she was still 19, Evans approached Rossignol about sponsoring a girls ski camp. The idea came to her when she started spending more time with other high-level female skiers. At first she was intimidated but eventually she became more relaxed in their presence.

“It made me realize I had to create a space where people could gather and interact with no bias and young and old could come together and celebrate female skiing,” she said.

Thirty women came out to the first camp at Red Mountain. It was free and she got local women to coach.

“I didn’t expect it to be that huge. I just had an idea and it just happened,” Evans said.

The next year she started charging and took the camps on the road. This year there are camps at Revelstoke (which is sold out), Kicking Horse, and Red Mountain.

At Revelstoke the coaches will be Evans, Izzy Lynch, Sarah Frood, Tessa Treadway and Leslie Hogg. The camp, which takes place on Jan 28-29, is sold out, but there is a waiting list available.

The camps are divided into three groups for different levels of abilities. At the top is coaching for those looking at getting into bigger terrain, drops and competitions. The bottom group is for skiers looking to make the transition to off-piste skiing.

“The girls who come to the event, I’d like them to gain another level of confidence within themselves and I’d like that to translate into their skiing.”

***

Revelstoke is now Evan’s home. She works as a forest fire fighter in the summer.

I was able to meet up with Evans at RMR for a day of skiing.

She was decked out in her sponsors’ gear – Rossignol S7 skis, North Face clothing and Smith goggles. It was the middle of a dry-spell at the resort so I asked her to show me her line from the first day of last year’s freeskiing competition.

We skied down the ridge overlooking North Bowl. Some people make skiing look effortless and Evans is one of them.

We stopped where there was a small gap between two trees. The terrain fell away steeply and disappeared below us. Last year, Evans navigated that gap through the trees, leapt over two rock bands and skied smoothly to the finish line en route to her first place finish.

On this day, we just looked down – with no fresh snow I was in no mood to ski it. Instead, we went down Vertigo, which was barren in spots. “That was survival skiing,” she remarked.

On our next run we hiked out to Greely Bowl and along Gracias Ridge to take a look at Mack Face. She talked about last year’s experience; one of the things she mentioned was that she really didn’t want to get hurt and jeopardize an upcoming month-long trip to Japan.

I chased her down Gracias Ridge, through Beauty Glades and back to the Ripper Chair. On our way up, I asked her about filming. Evans has done trips with Ride Guide TV and the Japan trip was for a documentary. This year, she is scheduled to travel to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia for a story about skiing there.

Evans will be competing in Revelstoke but she said she is planning on stepping away from competitions this year. “I’m at the spot now where I can create instead of follow,” she said.

Girls Day Out was her first creation but she hopes to do more to encourage women’s sports.

“I still feel like I haven’t created what I’m supposed to create yet.”

For more information on Girls Do Ski and Girls Day Out, visit girlsdoski.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A map of the proposed location for the temporary workforce camp in Johnson Heights that is subject to a Temporary Use Permit from the city. (City of Revelstoke)
City council approves permit for worker camp in Johnson Heights

The permit was issued for two years in a close vote

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

Revelstoke Tim Hortons staff give a $3,139 cheque to Hannah Whitney and Jake Sloots (left side of cheque) from Community Connections. (Submitted)
Revelstoke Tim Hortons raises $3K for local food bank

The funds were do to the Smile Cookie campaign from Sept. 14 to 20

Revelstoke Mountain Resort has released additional details about upcoming winter operations. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Resort releases more details on upcoming operations

Opening day is scheduled for Nov. 27 in Revelstoke

The new traffic circle in Revelstoke will open Oct. 29. (Submitted/City of Revelstoke)
Roundabout to open Oct. 29

Ribbon cutting details to be released

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
UPDATE: Flames doused for second time at fatal Penticton apartment fire

The Elm Ave. building first caught fire around 4 a.m., killing two people and displacing dozens

Two have been taken to hospital following a vehicle crash north of Vernon on Highway 97 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Crash north of Vernon causes Highway 97 traffic delays

Emergency crews respond to two-vehicle incident near Swan Lake; occupants taken to hospital

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Submitted)
Penticton apartment fire claims two lives

An apartment on Elm Avenue went up in flames Tuesday morning

A Summerland woman has set up an online fundraiser to provide backpacks to those being released from correctional facilities.(ca.gofundme.com)
Summerland woman raising money for backpack program

Backpacks will be distributed to those being released from correctional facilities

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
15 cases of COVID-19 tied to Kelowna Francophone school outbreak

Three other schools in Kelowna are also dealing with potential exposure events

Most Read