Coalition Snow YOUth – A chat with co-founder Jen Gurecki
Coalition Snow is currently running a Kickstarter to raise $50,000 to create their Coalition YOUth line, a series of skis and snowboards for young women. We wanted to know why the company decided to cater to a new demographic and what makes their line different from the snow sports equipment already on the market today.
We chatted with Jen Gurecki, one of the founders of the company to learn more about the youth line and the inspiration behind it.
Whoa: You’re quoted saying that snow sports products often don’t meet women’s needs. What are those needs and how does the Coalition Snow YOUth line address them?
Jen: Whether you are six or 60, women have never had the same range of choices that men have had when it comes to equipment. The de facto approach in the industry has been to shorten, soften, and pink men’s gear, and then package it as women’s equipment. Women just deserve more — we want better equipment, designed just for us, made by companies that don’t relegate women to the sidelines. In terms of our YOUth line specifically, we are making skis and snowboards in shapes and sizes that support girls in progressing in the sport. We also wanted to meet the needs of moms (and dads) by using the same high-quality materials in our YOUth line that we do in our women’s line. This isn’t standard in the industry. We are building durable gear so that our community can invest in something that will stand the test of time.
Whoa: What goes into designing Coalition Snow YOUth product graphics?
Jen: Our Creative Director Lauren Bello Okerman is the (genius) brain behind the graphics. Along with WWPLD (what would Pippi Longstocking do), the YOUth graphics are meant to be fun and fresh. She drew her inspiration from the mid-seventies, the decade in which most of the Coalition team was born (yes, we’re that old to remember a time when cell phone and Instagram hadn’t even come into being yet.) We were in the wake of civil rights movement and first wave feminism, and after Title IX. Kids had a little more freedom then, before “Just Say No” and the missing kids milk carton panic. For the first time girls could be just one of the boys — Rell Sunn, the surfer from Makaha and Peggy Oki, part of the Zephyr Competition Skateboard Team, come to mind. Out there, doing it. These graphics are for that girl who wanted to be in the neighborhood bike gang, doodle in her diary on her bed while listening to Houses of the Holy or a Carpenters album, and dreaming big (aka Lauren in 1990, who wrote the answer to this question).
Whoa: As the Kickstarter evolves, who is donating? Moms? Teens? Men? Has the demographic been what you expected?
Jen: We knew getting into this campaign that the majority of support would come from our personal network, and that’s what we’ve seen play out over the past few weeks. Women, men, friends, colleagues, customers, and our community have backed our Kickstarter. They don’t necessarily support it because the want to buy a pair of skis or a snowboard (although that’s a VERY good reason to do so!). They believe in us as women, as leaders, as entrepreneurs. Our supporters want to see us be successful because they understand the bigger picture of what it means to have more strong female voices in the outdoors and in business. They also are excited to be part of this movement. We’re building more than skis and snowboard, and they get that. That’s what’s so awesome about Kickstarter — it gives you an opportunity to invite your community to be a part of what you create. Our community believes in inclusivity and diversity, and they open up their wallets to reinforce their values. So yes, we expected our community to do us a solid, and they have (PS, thank you).
Whoa: The Kickstarter video mentions that kids gain confidence and important values that last a lifetime when they learn snow sports at a young age. How have snow sports helped define who you are today?
Jen: My first time on a snowboard was at the age of 16, and one of my dear (male) friends decided that it was a good idea to learn on a black diamond run. It was a sloppy and scary descent, but I made it to the bottom in one piece. I felt so accomplished, and I wanted more. That scrappy, get shit done, by any means necessary, hard-work-pays-off approach has stuck with me. I learned that I could do things that not only I didn’t think I couldn’t do, but things that others thought I was incapable of as well. I also gained a deep respect and appreciation for the mountains, which not only helps to situate me in the grander scheme of life, but also has contributed to my environmental ethos as an adult.
Whoa: Along with providing their kids with proper gear to get after it, how can parents and adults encourage girls to get involved in the outdoors and show them that they belong in sports?
Jen: Parents can have it pretty rough because they want to protect their kids — they don’t want to see them suffer or get hurt. But sometimes in an effort to create a beautiful safety net around their children, they also limit their exposure to crystallizing, positive experiences. I would never tell anyone how to parent (because I think it’s one of the most difficult and terrifying jobs on this planet), but being conscientious about how gender norms have limited girls’ full participation in sports is tantamount to creating a supportive environment. As a society we have to move past the stereotypes and the belief that there are certain activities for girls and others for boys. Girls can do anything that boys can do (and vice versa). Parents can also get outside and play with their children. From informal meet-ups, to formal organizations like Hike It Baby, there are networks that support families in getting outside together. It’s not about going big or going pro, it’s about having fun.
Whoa: Who are some outdoorsy ladies you look up to? Are there any little shredders who inspired you to make the YOUth line?
Jen: There are so many — Kim Kirchner, Lynsey Dyer, Michelle Parker, Barrett Christy, Tina Basich, Kim Havell….I’m not forgetting but rather not including a long ass list of women that inspire me daily. In terms of who inspired us to make the youth line, that one is closer to home. We did this for Lauren and for her daughter Poppy, who just turned one in November 2016. Supporting little girls means supporting their moms, and we’re that kind of company.
Whoa: Do you have any advice for young girls who want to try snow sports?
Jen: The outdoors belong to everyone, including you. Get out there, have fun, and be yourself. Don’t get caught up in how you look or what other people think about you. Remember that you’re not in this alone — you can get involved in a local organization or group that supports girls getting outside, like SheJumps. And get comfortable with taking risks (a skill you’ll need your entire life).