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The outdoor industry is a historically male-dominated field, with a larger number of men involved as athletes and business leaders. However, the times they are a-changin’, and the make-up of the outdoor industry is being populated with more #OutdoorWomen who are leading the industry as executives, CEOs, and trail-blazing professional athletes.
First Descents is a community filled with passionate, active and adventurous female leaders who are #OutLivingIt every day. For the past two years, the Outdoor Women’s Alliance (OWA) of Denver has led our tribe through the trails of wildflowers and snowcapped peaks at Ragnar Relay in Snowmass, CO. This year we had 7 teams and 56 total runners fundraising and running for FD at Ragnar Trail Snowmass. Collectively we raised upwards of $23,000 and ran 800 miles in support of young adults impacted by cancer!
We sat down with Lauren Vogl of the Outdoor Women’s Alliance to chat with her about her experience overcoming gender barriers in the outdoors, and to talk about the OWA’s second year racing for First Descents at Ragnar Snowmass. Here’s what she had to say.
What was it like running Ragnar for FD last summer (2017)?
Running Ragnar with FD last year was an awesome experience. Upon arriving up in Snowmass at FD’s staked out and cozy campground, we were given running tops and some other FD swag. Our whole team wore our FD shirts for the event and I must say, it’s truly meaningful to run for something beyond yourself, and bigger than our crew of eight women, and even bigger than the race itself. Thinking about the young adults, and frankly people of all ages, who’ve been impacted by cancer while you’re chugging up a steep hill at elevation will sure put things in perspective. I am running for those who are running a race for life, and the continuation of it, and I realize my contribution is so small but it’s one thing I can do on my end.
Why did you join the FD team again at this year’s Ragnar Relay?
Our amazing team captain from last year couldn’t make it this year, but I knew it wouldn’t be tough to gather up some awesome women to join me. It didn’t even occur to me that our team would do anything besides run with FD again – it was a no brainer.
What does FD’s Out Living It mantra mean to you? How do you, and OWA, embody this mantra?
When I think about the phrase, Out Living It, I think about choosing to put your mind and body into something that is worth acknowledging and deserves respect. Whether you have chosen to set out alone or with a crew of friends, you’ve decided to go for something that makes you feel alive and hopefully free. Free from the confinements you might find yourself in at that time of your life. When I’m Out Living It, I’m happy to my core, content about my surroundings, and carrying a lot of peace.
OWA embodies this by cultivating confidence in women. It’s mission is to get women into wild places where they can grow in their abilities to navigate the outdoors. The scale and depth at which this happens varies from person to person, but when women come together to encourage each other in their outdoor pursuits, it’s powerful. I’ve experienced that in this space there are more opportunities to grow and learn from one another. You can be free to be yourself outside.
What empowers you as an outdoorswoman?
I’m empowered by other female athletes pushing themselves to their limits. They don’t have to be Olympians, professionals, or played a collegiate sport…as long as they are stepping out of their comfort zone to push themselves, I’m all about it. I love to hear what other friend’s outdoor goals are. One of the reasons I moved to Colorado was to be able to feel more alive by being in creation. Mother nature is there for us to enjoy and respect. I truly believe her beauty was meant for us to experience and I’m more of who I am when I’m exploring the outdoors.
How does female camaraderie contribute to your experience as an avid adventurer?
When I am outdoors with other women, I know I can have a deep and real conversation with just about anyone that is hiking in front of or behind me. For me, it’s less about the miles we log and more about the relationships we build. Women are relational to our core, so combine that with the energy from nature and you’ve got a powerful equation. I have a different bond with the women I spend time with outdoors. It’s hard to explain, but when you’ve been pushed to your limits and come through with another woman on your side at the end of the trail, or top of the climb, it’s a moment of pure joy.
Tell us about your experience being a woman in the outdoor industry. What challenges do you face, and how does OWA strive to overcome them?
It takes a lot to fire me up, but I sure know that when a company promotes men on their website/marketing material as being totally engaged in their sport and the women model in a more relaxed and lounging atmosphere, is quite frustrating. I think to myself, “that can’t be the only perception of us women being outdoors…surely they haven’t met my friends and I.” In the last 2+ years I have seen a lot of change for the better and creating a more inclusive outdoor scene, so that’s reassuring.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other women who want to get outdoors?
While it’s so easy to say, just jump in and you’ll find other adventures friends, it’s not always that easy. My advice, and something I’ve learned over the years, is that finding what is personal for you in connection with getting outside is the biggest motivator. If you can pin point how you and your soul connect with the outdoors, I firmly believe you won’t be able to stay away. And you will leave feeling like you don’t belong on the climb, on the trail, on the hike behind.
A huge thanks and shoutout to all of our incredible 2018 Out Living It Project fundraisers and runners at Ragnar Relay in Snowmass! To support our incredible Ragnar teams, donate to their fundraising campaigns benefitting First Descents here. You can also fundraise for FD by starting your own personal Out Living It Project.
To run with team First Descents at Ragnar 2019, contact [email protected].
To read more about women in the outdoors, check out Outside Magazine article: