This media release is courtesy of Snow Australia.

When in 2017 Snow Australia Director and Marketing Consultant Susie Warwick organised a one-day seminar designed to help retiring female athletes prepare for a second career, she wasn’t anticipating it would grow into a larger project aimed at championing women involved in the snow industry.

Four years later, Snow Australia has launched its Women of Winter program to increase female representation in administration, coaching and leadership roles within the sport, and Warwick said the program has great plans for its members.

“We hope to secure grants and corporate funds to enable us to host face-to-face networking events and to support those lobbying for better practices to attract and keep women in the industry,” said Warwick, who is one of the founding members behind the WoW initiative.

The program recently wrapped up its first cycle of educational webinars, a series of three online workshops offering valuable insights on leadership development. Warwick personally delivered two of the three webinars released so far, after the first online event on 13 May featured what she described as “an all-star panel of female role models in the snow industry”.

Moderated by Beach Volleyball Olympic Champion Kerri Pottharst OAM, the panel included 2020 & 2022 Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin, 2002 Olympic champion aerialist Alisa Camplin-Warner AM and Belinda Trembath, Vail Resorts’ general manager for Victoria and Mt Hotham.

“Each of these women is a trailblazer and to hear them sharing their stories so generously and candidly was amazing and inspiring,” Warwick said.

The 2017 seminar which sowed the seeds of WoW was titled ‘The Leading Edge’ and had been made possible by a Sport Australia grant, funding upskilling programs for women in sport. It centred on identifying the exceptional qualities that elite athletes naturally develop – like goal-setting, focus, commitment, resilience, self motivation and collaboration – that can transfer to other endeavours and are in demand among employers.

“The highlight of that first seminar was hearing two remarkable female Olympians speaking at length about their personal journeys and their experiences as retiring athletes starting new lives.

“Both Alisa Camplin-Warner and Katya Crema jumped at the opportunity to give back to the current athletes, and during the presentation they had the girls sitting on the edge of their chairs, soaking up every word,” Warwick said.

Following the success of the seminar, Warwick was approached by many women who were involved in the snow industry, but not as elite competitors. They asked whether a similar educational and networking opportunity could be provided for them as well.

“There was clearly a need for a platform to bring women working in all different sectors of the snow industry together. They expressed a desire for connection, given that the alpine resorts and related businesses are situated all over Australia.”

Taking those requests on board, Snow Australia sought to facilitate the creation of a collaborative and supportive environment where women are able to learn, grow professionally and develop their network. This process eventually led to the Women of Winter initiative, which is also trying to address the current inequality in female appointments to top sport roles.

“Still today, women often don’t see themselves in leadership positions,” Warwick said.

“This is possibly because there have been few role models, or it may be gender-related. But it could also be because they have not had opportunities to develop skills required for CEO-level and board roles.

“The situation is improving though and there are many women now working in senior management roles. But it’s at the next level that we need to see more female appointments.”

After the launch event, Warwick used the subsequent practical webinars to develop the topics introduced by the all-star panellists. The follow-up presentations were designed to offer advice and useful tools to women involved in the snow industry, in paid or voluntary positions.

An accomplished public speaker, Warwick admitted that the webinar format can be quite unnerving at times, as it takes away the ability to read the room – hiding signs of participants’ engagement and their response to different topics. The online format also forced Warwick to condense the content, but it was chosen to ensure a wider audience could have access to the presentation.

“It was rather odd and I felt like a crazy woman talking to myself at times!

“But I have been heartened to receive some lovely feedback about specific tools people have adopted,” Warwick said.

“I heard from a mother who watched the webinar with her daughter, an aspiring snowboarder, and she said ‘You got through to my daughter in a way I can’t, but what really took me by surprise was how much I got out of the webinars as well’.”

It wasn’t the only positive feedback Warwick received, with other listeners defining the webinars content as “real and relatable” and “inspiring.” Definitely a good start for a project that will continue to offer educational courses, mentoring opportunities and conferences, covering a wide range of popular topics as identified by the snow community during a consultation conducted earlier in the year.

“We are also excited to meet women from different snow-related fields,” Warwick said.

“Not only the women working on the snow or in committees, administration, management and boards, but also from snow tourism, hospitality, retail, apparel, equipment and media. The opportunities and possibilities are endless.”

For more information on the Women of Winter program click here