By: Sawyer Smith

A Discussion with Trip Facilitator, Shelly Wedge, from Women in the Mountains

Shelly Wedge knows first-hand how intimidating it can be to start a new hobby later in life. At the age of forty, she decided to try mountain biking of all things, but as frightening as that might sound to some of us (myself included), she hasn’t looked back since. Now, Shelly works as a coach for Women in the Mountains — a small company based in Park City that runs skills clinics for women who want to get into the sport but don’t know where to start. 

Jen and Shelley from Women in the mountains

Coaches Shelley and Jen

The clinics focus on everything from fundamentals to intermediate courses. “We also do specialty clinics,” Shelly told me, “Such as technical rock climbing, drops and jumps, and high-speed cornering.” 

Now, if you’re like me and had to look up what exactly ‘high-speed cornering’ is, don’t worry.  When it comes to Shelly and her fellow coaches, feeling out of your element actually means you’re going to fit right in. “Everyone is welcome,” touts the Women in the Mountains website. “Come as you are and leave with increased confidence in your mountain bike skills!” 

In fact, the newer you are to the sport, the more you might get along—at least with Shelly. She describes her time with the women who attend her clinics as both fun and relatable, expressing the connection she feels with women who are trying to learn something new as an adult. These connections are very important to Shelly, and part of the reason she and fellow coach, Jen Scott, jumped at the chance to team up with Holiday River and help facilitate a women-only biking adventure

The Power of Women-Only Adventures 

When thinking about starting a new, physically intense hobby or going on a journey through the wilderness, safety is always going to be a concern. Thankfully, Shelly, Jen, and the Holiday River crew have you covered. 

This is the second year she and Jen will be running a women-only bike trip along the White Rim trail. “September will be a four-day trip,” she said. “You’re out in the middle of Canyonlands. The views are spectacular. Everywhere you look it’s always gorgeous all the time. You’re so remote, but you’re also safe.” 

Jen from women in the mountains

Jen with her bike on the White Rim trail

As a solo female hiker, this last comment really stuck with me. I’ve often had to put concerns for my physical safety over my desire to travel to more remote areas. While I am a firm believer that the wilderness, the beautiful public lands that are available to us in this country, should be safe and accessible to all—that’s not necessarily the reality we live in. That’s what makes a trip like this so special. Anyone who identifies as female is welcome to attend, and you can be confident in the knowledge that Shelly and her team will do whatever they can to keep you safe.

“You have the van following you,” Shelly mentioned. And of course, you’re in a group. So while you may “feel like you’re on your own out there, seeing nothing for miles and miles,” you’re never actually too far away from the help or support you may need. 

The Trip

Aside from potential safety concerns, it makes sense that a lot of you reading this might be interested in going on this trip, but unsure whether or not you have what it takes. The trip is open to people of all skill levels, but Shelly did caution me that some preparation will make a major difference. 

Attendees will spend four days riding along the rim, “20-30 miles a day, and sitting in a saddle for sometimes six hours.” That’s a lot of bike riding. If you’re someone who hasn’t gotten ‘in the saddle’ since you were a kid, you might want to consider renting or borrowing a bike and at least doing a few laps around your neighborhood before arriving in Southern Utah. 

The good news is, however, “you don’t have to train like you’re training for a marathon. Jen and [Shelly] are there to coach people through the difficult sections. You don’t have to be hard-core mountain bikers, you just have to like getting away from everything and riding a bike.” 

It really is that simple. You show up ready to ride, and let the coaches and guides take care of the rest. In fact, camping with Holiday River guides is such a luxury, Shelly even told me that “it makes you never want to camp without them.”

women holding bikes up on on the white rimAnd if there’s one more piece of preparation advice that Shelly wanted me to communicate, it was to read the emails. Yes, we get it, your inbox is already overflowing and it’s hard to keep track of all the correspondence that comes along with a busy twenty-first century life, but trust us—or rather, trust Shelly—you’re getting all of this information for a reason. 

Not Available? Not a Problem

I have to assume that at this point, Shelly and I have convinced you to sign up for this amazing trip. But perhaps you’re looking at your calendar and seeing that you’re not available in September. Or maybe the trip is full. 

If that’s the case, don’t worry, there are other opportunities. You can sign up for one of the clinics offered through Women in the Mountains or meet up with Shelly on the slopes and attend one of her women’s ski camps at Alta Ski Area!  

Whether she’s biking or skiing, the time Shelly spends with other women on the mountain is very special to her and I think it will be for anyone who chooses to sign up for one of these adventures. 

In her words — “It’s a super cool bonding experience… and when it’s all women, it’s a different vibe.”

Sawyer Smith WriterSawyer Smith is a Utah native currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri. When she isn’t working as a freelance writer or hiking through sections of the Mark Twain National Forest, she is planning trips in her head back to her beloved state to once again climb on the red rocks and ski down the snowy mountains.