Winter Park Resort has long been welcoming women into what has traditionally been a community mostly made up of men. The stories and history of Colorado and of skiing are rich and compelling, but the recognized contributions of women to our shared history are more limited. That's why during March 2021 Women's History Month, Winter Park Resort is recognizing a few modern-day women blazing a trail and challenging the idea about what it means to be a woman in the mountain outdoor industry.
It wasn't until Winter Park's more recent history that women's impact on the growth and development of the resort became more obvious. Today's Winter Park Resort's management team is nearly half female. More and more women are showing up in other traditionally male-dominated departments like ski patrol, lift operations and mountain adventure.
Winter Park Resort is the oldest continuously operating ski resort in Colorado – 81 seasons strong. Its history is well documented and tightly connected to Denver's own history, having been founded as "Denver's Winter Park" by Denver Parks and Rec pioneer George Cranmer in 1940. Throughout the development and expansion of the resort, women were always present, and of course, many women came to enjoy what brought it all together in the first place: the snow-covered slopes and wilderness of the Fraser Valley, serenely tucked along the majesty of the Continental Divide.
Winter Park Ski Patrol has long been highly regarded and looked up to as a model for successful ski patrols across North America and even the world. Two of the five ski patrol leaders at Winter Park are female and almost 25 percent of the rest of the staff are women. There's a similar picture in lift operations, where there is solid female representation at the top and a quarter of those on the team are women. The Winter Park Adventure and Supply Company is run by a woman who is directly responsible for encouraging, leading, and guiding guests who don't ski or snowboard to venture out into Winter Park's wilderness.
"We wanted to shine the light on the true picture of what participating in the outdoors looks like, and Women's History Month is the perfect opportunity to do that," said Liz Agostin, vice president of marketing and communication for Winter Park Resort. "The outdoor industry still has some work to do when it comes to including women and others, but Winter Park Resort is well on its way recognizing women and their importance in getting other women on the mountain and into the great outdoors."
Winter Park Resort has hundreds of trailblazing women, creating an even more inclusive mountain community for everyone. Here are a few examples: two who represents the future of Winter Park Resort; and one who has already left her mark.
- Kara Flores – First female on-mountain Winter Park Ski Patrol Supervisor. Kara has been skiing since she could walk thanks to parents who also have a love for the sport. She went through the junior ski patrol program in high school when her passion for skiing and the Winter Park community really took hold. After college, she joined the Winter Park Ski Patrol full time and never looked back. She continues to advocate for women and girls to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and experience the freedom and connection a day on the slopes brings.
- Michelle Rees – An 11-year veteran lift operations crew leader, supervisor, and manager who turned her passion for snow, snowboarding and mountain adventure into an unexpected career. She started as a "liftie," shoveling copious amounts of snow and bumping chairs for thousands of guests. She liked being outside, and she quickly saw opportunities for growth and moved up the ranks of lift operations to a key department leadership role. Michelle continues to get called "sir" almost on a daily basis, but that doesn't bother her. She knows her own adventurous spirit is matched by many other women and hopes to encourage and inspire other women to continue to break stereotypes and build a career they love.
- Retta Stanley – She was a tireless volunteer during the early years of the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), founded and still headquartered at Winter Park Resort. According to her co-workers and other volunteers, she gave selflessly to NSCD while also being an early recipient and participant in NSCD programs. She battled cancer for nearly a decade and subsequently had a leg amputated. She continued to ski after losing her leg and eventually became a three-track national champion. Cancer ended Retta's life in 1977 but not before she left an indelible mark on skiing, Winter Park Resort and the disabled athlete community. Her impact lives on with one of the most challenging trails at Winter Park named in her honor, Retta's Run.