New Women’s Mountain Mentorship Group Leader Training Series supported by a grant from Canadian Women in Sport (WISE)

New Women’s Mountain Mentorship Group Leader Training Series supported by a grant from Canadian Women in Sport (WISE)
April 20, 2021 Anne Drew Potter


New Women’s Mountain Mentorship Group Leader Training Series supported by a grant from Canadian Women in Sport (WISE)

You might have noticed the series of new events posted on the calendar – a leader training series for the Women’s Mountain Mentorship Group. The WMMG was awarded a grant from the Canadian Women in Sport in March of 2020 to subsidize the cost of this series – which provides low-cost training for both existing and new leaders to hone skills in the disciplines of ice climbing, backcountry skiing, rock climbing and alpine climbing.  Due to the Covid pandemic, the program has had delayed implementation, but is now off and running, with ice and ski days already completed.

Canadian Women in Sport ( is a national organization devoted to “powering better sport through gender equity”.  WISE recognizes the importance of participation in sport for both physical and mental health, as well as being an avenue for the development of leadership and confidence in other aspects of life. They focus on programs that help members remain “active for life.” As a community-based sports organization, their mission dovetails with the mountain-sport focused values of the ACC: affirming the “intrinsic value of mountain sports to the human spirit” and “actively sharing knowledge of the mountain environment and recreational best practices with others.”

The Women’s Mountain Mentorship Group of the Calgary ACC section ( is now in it’s 6th year, and continues to draw new members every year. In addition to serving our Calgary community, we have had participants join from as far away as Vancouver and Revelstoke to take advantage of our events. Indeed, Karla Kuharic, one of our earliest members, went on to found a new ACC section out of Revelstoke in 2018.  The WMMG is based on a peer-mentorship model, with more experienced members sharing their knowledge with beginners. The new leadership series was developed to provide advanced development for our experienced members and newer leaders. Those who participate in the series have committed to lead at least 3 trips (per leadership training day) in the coming year, creating a ripple effect. The leadership series thus is expected to generate at least 30 new trips over the coming year, some of which have already begun, and has already resulted in several new trip leaders. 

Why is this group and this series important? The WMMG addresses the minority status of women in mountain sports, and the societal barriers and pressures that shape and limit many women’s experiences and self-concepts, affecting their access to leadership and outdoor pursuits.  Many participants simply express the sense of empowerment they experience being out with a group of like-minded women – who are ambitious and tenacious with their mountain goals and who find peace and fulfillment in the outdoor world.  Providing training that is low-cost also addresses important economic barriers to outdoor access that can passively create an exclusive rather than inclusive community. Understanding the importance of actively nurturing diversity within our club is a key component of remaining relevant and fulfilling the ACC mission.  Not only is this leadership series an exciting boost to the activities of the WMMG, but it has been serving as a catalyst for addressing further aspects of diversity and inclusion for our section – stay tuned for more exciting news on this front!

Our Ice Leadership day involved heading out to Bear Spirit with IFMGA/ACMG Mountain Guide Erica Roles where we focused on anchor building, group management skills and generally feeling prepared to run a TR crag with beginners. Here’s what some of the gals who participated have to say about the WMMG:

Tami Nolan *existing ski leader:

“Having the opportunity for formal instruction in a supportive group setting helps me to build a solid foundation and opens up opportunities for new experiences in the sport. I find that the more I build my knowledge base, the more I can contribute and support others in other group events. I’ve noticed that going through this process in winter sports matches my experiences in other areas of my life and makes me a stronger more adaptive person overall.”

Fatima Narvaez *new non-technical leader:

“It is inspiring to be surrounded with women who are excelling in a male-dominated sport. The Women’s Mountain Mentorship Group helped change my story around starting late in my 30s and feeling overly ambitious. Seeing other women progressing in such a challenging sport is incredibly empowering. It encourages me to support other women who are aspiring to progress in their mountain activities.”

Nubia Zepeda *new climb leader:

“I have been a part of the Women’s Mountain Mentorship Program for the past three years. During that time, I have been privileged to meet and play in the mountains alongside a group of knowledgeable and confident women who have taught me so much about the outdoors. I have gained skills such as climbing more efficiently on ice, learning different ways to build anchor systems and small but important efficiencies when it comes to backcountry skiing. I have made friends from the Women’s Mountain Mentorship Program, have gone on unforgettable adventures with the women in this group, and have shared stories, wine and baking recipes at hostels with them. I have gained confidence in my abilities in a way that can only come from being around other women who themselves are confident and experienced in the outdoors!

Karen Martino *new non-technical leader:

“For me participation in the Women’s Mentorship Group has been an excellent experience.  It provided me with a way to meet other like-minded women of all ages and I have met some amazing women who I am able to backcountry ski, scramble and get out with to enjoy our mountain environment.  I have found it to be an incredibly supportive group and one in which I feel comfortable learning new skills with.  Prior to joining the Women’s Mentorship Group I found it difficult sometimes to be accepted on ACC trips run by males being a middle aged woman.  I often felt “out of place” or somewhat uncomfortable in a male dominant group and in some situations felt like I had to prove myself to them.  I enjoy getting out in the mountains and am so thankful for the supportive, openly accepting environment that the Women’s Mentorship Group has provided.  It has enabled me to learn so many new things and has given me the confidence to even become a “trip leader”, which I would never have thought possible without the guidance, encouragement and opportunities that the Women’s Mentorship Group has provided.”

Stay tuned for a follow up with notes from our ski leadership day as well! The next leadership session in the WMMG leader series will be for Rock Climbing with Renee Lavergne and Claire Ellick on June 6:


-anne drew potter


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