words and photos: Mary Walsh

One of the hallmarks of dropping into a jumpline or pointing your board toward an errant strip of metal positioned squarely in the middle of a ski slope is the confidence to be able to trust that your on hill abilities will get you to the landing in one piece. While a cheesewedge or down rail often looks more intimidating than a steep and narrow trail, for most of us looking make turns into the terrain park, the foundation of board control is there–we can hone in the nuances as we ride this type of terrain more and more–but the main hurdle is the nervousness of just dropping in the first place. A perfect way to overcome the intimidation of riding park for women looking to take their riding game to the freestyle oases at their home mountains? With a like-minded group of snowboarders who are knowledgable, humble, and there to offer support every step of the way.

It was from this philosophy that The Progression Sessions presented by Oakley was born. TPS is an all-women’s snowboard camp (with ski at Loon and Mammoth, too) and while the specific goal at every weekend camp or week-long tour trip is to increase each rider’s bag of tricks, with every new introduction to taking park laps or increase in aptitude for an intermediate park rider, the community of females who feel confident riding through jumps, rails, boxes, and hips grows, creating a veritable army of ladies for whom the park is a place they are comfortable, confident, and most importantly, having fun.

Over a decade ago, what would become The Progression Sessions began at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire as Droppin’ In, over time growing from a handful of women riding the legendary Loon Mountain Park to 90 ladies who travel to the White Mountains every spring to reunite in the private Droppin’ In park. Moreover, as The Progression Sessions has grown to include other regions, from Quebec to British Columbia, Utah to California, the community of park-savvy women has flourished. So, this winter, it was incredibly exciting that TPS finally returned to the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, collaborating with Brighton Resort for a brand new weekend camp.

Brighton Resort, for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to load the Crest quad and experience this mountains’ winding network of trails, is an incredible place to snowboard. When it’s not dumping feather-light Utah snow across Brighton’s insane tree’d terrain, the sun is shining down on the multiple parks crafted top-to-bottom of the mountain by Brighton’s Park Director, Mouse and his crew of Brighton Diggers. It’s a resort that offers an array of natural steeps, cliffs, and pinball-like tree runs in addition to a progressive park system. For all of these reasons, Brighton is a favorite of the SLC snowboard community and a perfect location for the Utah return of The Progression Sessions.

Brighton is literally loaded with snow this season. They passed the 500-inch mark in mid-February and by the time TPS rolled around on the weekend of February 25-26th, a few weekday storms had blanketed the mountain with soft snow and provided even more white stuff for the diggers to push into park features. Mouse and his crew created an insane set up for the Brighton TPS park mid-mountain next to the Pinball Park, which included some of the most technical and accessible progression features. On rider’s left were two cheese wedge jumps, one small and one big with proper run-in and landing. On rider’s right was a next level jib zone with two tiers of options. Up top, a 20-foot flat box and side-approach tube catalyzed the lady rippers to dive right into jibbing. The street-style tube was a favorite of the weekend as that type of approach can be incredibly intimidating, but as local pro and TPS coach Madison Blackley said, “If you feel comfortable hitting a rail from the side, you open up so many options in the park for yourself.” It was incredible watch the crew of women building up their confidence on the tube and progressing from quick taps to full 50-50’s, boardslides and frontboards. The second tier, which saw plenty of action on Sunday, was comprised of a taller street-style mailbox and a long round bar. The jib session was firing all weekend. Madison, along with SLC-local pro Faye Gulini and Tahoe-based rider and TPS Co-Head Coach Christine Savage hiked the TPS park with the ladies all weekend, offering advice on both the jumps and rails as sweet, sweet pop jams blasted from the Oakley tent at the top of the course, thanks to Oakley’s AJ Sherer!

When spending all day taking park laps and hiking jumps, it’s important to reward one’s self. Pre-riding on Saturday am, local snowboarder and yogi Chelsie Stegmiller taught a yoga class to the ladies to get everyone warmed up for boarding. Saturday evening, the TPS ladies headed to Molly Green’s at the base of Brighton for a little apres celebration in the form of cocktails and nachos. Sunday morning, Christine held a clinic on how to ease sore muscles using RAD Rollers and AJ provided tech info on the new Oakley Prizm goggles that each woman had received in her TPS goodie bag. Of course, no Progression Session weekend is complete with the Sunday evening awards ceremony–complete with plenty of pizza from the Molly Green’s crew. While the weekend is based around trick-learning and park progression, the off hill activities are equally as vital–because what’s snowboarding without good friends–and snacks?!

As the sun set on Sunday, the crew collectively felt the weekend had blown by incredibly quickly. The first TPS at Brighton was a success and we can’t wait to return to this bastion of boarding in the Wasatch! Thank you to all the ladies that came out and rode with us all weekend! And a huge thank you to Jared, Al, Mouse and Curtis at Brighton for all their help in making the weekend a success! Big thanks also to The Progression Sessions sponsors: Oakley, Skullcandy, Coola, Goldcoast Skateboarding, Wend Wax, G-Form Protection, Perfect Fit Protein, RAD Roller, and KIND Bar!

Next up, The Progression Sessions heads to Mammoth on March 18-19th and Loon for Droppin’ In on March 25-26th! In August, TPS returns to Chile with Steep-N-Deep Powder Tours for two sessions of summer snowboarding in the Andes. Check out Progressionsessionscamp.com for details and to register!