Up in the mountains, the “tribe mentality” is a common thread intertwined in lives and events that define them. We find people who “get” why you put jobs, relationships, thoughts of the future, what you’re going to eat for dinner on the backburner to focus on adventures that can break us down to a raw existence of what it means to be human.
We find this Zen in top-of-the-mountain winds, fast currents, and winding trails, and those you surround yourself with can high-five you at the end of the day; confirming a life well lived. The chase of this experience defines the lives of many people who live at altitude. In the outdoor industry, being a woman seeking this path comes without a map to navigate the best way to find success and contentment. Rebecca Hodgetts, commonly known as “Becs,” knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the field, and her 22 years of existing in the male-dominated outdoor industry is ripe with lessons learned and wisdom welcomed.
Becs first started skiing when she graduated University in New Zealand. She felt attracted to the industry because of the closeness and bonds involved in working in such a variable environment. She started as a lift operator at Mt. Ruapehu, but always wanted to be part of the patrol loading the lifts early in the morning; off to make sure the mountain was safe for others. At that time, there were few to zero women patrolling in New Zealand, a fact that only drove Becs harder, a common theme as her career continued. Within five years, she had her medical certifications, her ski legs under her, and a job with the Ski Patrol at the same mountain she once bumped chairs.
In this phase of her journey Becs had a lot to prove. She worked hard to be the “hardcore tough gal,” striving everyday to be the strongest, boldest, and biggest drinker in the locker room. She believes she was accepted because she tried so hard to be tough, and therefore, it was easier for the men to justify her presence by the fact that she wasn’t a typical “girl”. In an honest moment of our interview, she admits, “she liked thinking she was something special”.
This drive fueled off of getting into the boys’ club attracted her to the avalanche industry, which had next to no women in the field. As a self-proclaimed jock, the challenge was just what she was looking for – to push herself as hard as she could for as long as she could. Becs put herself through the Canadian Avalanche Association professional training program and eventually worked herself up to Assistant Patrol Director at Arapahoe Basin. By seeking jobs where she needed to prove herself every day, she admits, “I was still trying hard to prove myself, terrified someone would discover I wasn’t as tough as I portrayed I was”.
During this race to the top lifestyle, Becs also found adventure racing. She competed in endurance events and found herself competing in the Pro-Division for mountain bike racing. In this area of her life, Becs began to feel the transformation into the person she was trying to become. This was the place where she felt her first GENUINE confidence boost and the realization that it came from herself and only herself. It was somewhere in this world that her truth hit her like a sledgehammer: “I had to be that person for myself. I had to create my own opportunities, to be decisive, and to believe in myself.”
In 2012, Becs took a job with CAIC, and is currently a lead avalanche forecaster, focusing primarily on the central mountain highway corridors. She has learned to ask questions and to seek out the people who have the answers. She’s learned to come to her own conclusions and how to qualify them. Probably most importantly, she’s learned that the air of confidence you see in leaders is often just bravado, and actually, they can be just as lost as those lower on the totem pole. To watch Becs speak to a room full of mountain-loving men and women about how to stay safe in their playgrounds, you see a woman who knows what she’s talking about.
Throughout it all, the decades of working in the outdoor industry, Becs learned what she didn’t want to be. Today, you’ll find her with the goal of encouraging everyone to be thoughtful and confident in his or her voice. She wants the next generation of women to know that being kind, consistent, considerate, and open are much more unshakable attributes than being the most hardcore, line crushing, physically strong human could ever be; and that your voice is just as important than anyone else’s in the room.
It hasn’t been a short journey to get Becs to the place she’s at today. When she looks around at young women in the outdoor industry today, she is nothing but inspired. “I see young women being themselves in a confident and genuine kind of way. They are building community and creating their own opportunities through working outdoors. Those ladies are the real mountain town badasses.” While I agree with that statement, Becs and women like her have forged a path, making it wider and a bit easier for others to follow.
by Anna Sitton, another Colorado mountain town badass.
~MTN Town Magazine
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