How Women Are Shaking Up Idaho’s Outdoor Industry
In Idaho's vibrant outdoor industry, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: the future is female.
It's no secret that Idaho’s landscape is ruggedly beautiful. Even today, large swaths of it remain wild and continue to embody elements of the old west — a period of time when men conquered untamed territories while women stayed home.
But oh, how times have changed.
Look a little closer, and you'll see that women are moving to the forefront of Idaho's vibrant outdoor industry and outpacing their male counterparts in entrepreneurship. In fact, Idaho may just be the perfect place for female outdoor enthusiasts to live if they are looking to make a living doing what they love most.
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From rafting to fishing to winter sports, women in Idaho are increasingly landing jobs, taking on leadership positions and breaking new ground so that other women can too.
White Water Rafting
OARS Idaho is a whitewater rafting outfitter that offers a slew of rafting vacation excursions. From oar rafts to dories to inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, they provide a multitude of ways for their customers to experience Idaho’s miles and miles of whitewater. While the quality of their trips has long set them apart from other outfitters, it’s their hiring practices that make them stand out. Sign up for an adventure with this company, and at least half of the guides on your trip are likely to be women.
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Curt Chang is OARS Idaho’s manager. According to OARS vice president of sales and marketing Steve Markle, Chang was one of OARS first employees and has always prioritized pursuing female guides. “Curt has done a good job of recruiting and maintaining women employees,” says Markle. “ He has made a point of it because we know that our trips are better with women — and women feel better with women guides on the trips.”
Forty to 50 percent of the guides on staff at OARS Idaho are women. And many of them hold lead guide roles. “Our goal is to make women of all backgrounds feel welcome,” says Markle. Thanks to forward-thinking companies like OARS, Idaho may very well be a female guide’s dream place to call home.
Whether you simply like doing it for sport or fantasize about being a guide, the Idaho angling community is more than female-friendly — they are downright encouraging to women in the sport. Professional Anglers like Jennifer Cornell of Reel Women Fly Fishing Adventures lead schools and trips in the Idaho river basins. Shauna Williams is an instructor and one of the owners of Idaho Angler in downtown Boise. She hosts a number of the businesses' international fishing trips each year and is an FFI Certified Casting Instructor.
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Along with teaching and guiding, Williams donates her talents to Casting for Recovery in Idaho. This nonprofit program provides healing outdoor retreats for women with breast cancer, at no cost. As it turns out, angling has a therapeutic effect on women both physically and emotionally. Perhaps that’s why more and more women are flocking to the sport and taking a shot at turning it into a profession in Idaho.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Do you love hitting the slopes as soon as the snow flies? Sun Valley, Idaho could be your perfect base camp. Sun Valley Ski Resort earned a feature in Forbes for its incredible snow sports programs for women. These programs are designed for women and run by the Valley’s leading female instructors.
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The Sun Valley Resort DIVAS program is designed for intermediate to advanced female skiers and riders and includes both instruction and guided snow sports experiences. The resort also hosts a Women’s Only Weekend (WOW) where the best women instructors help enthusiasts improve on their skills. These programs are created by women for women — leaving opportunity for job growth.
If you have a passion for rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking or any other outdoor activity, Idaho is a virtual wonderland and a perfect place to pursue starting your own outdoor business. According to an American Express study that was released last month, female entrepreneurship is on the rise in the Gem State. Idaho was named 18th in the nation for growth in the number of female-owned businesses. With an estimated 50,300 women-owned businesses that employ 39,700 workers, the outlook is good for women looking to strike out on their own.
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Idaho's outdoor industry proves that a love of the great outdoors has no gender, and today, women are playing a key role in making it the perfect home for anyone who loves outdoor adventure.