Coalition Snow CEO Jen Gurecki makes things and says things that women aren’t supposed to, and loves it.
Did you and Lauren (Bello Okerman, Creative Director) break any rules to begin Coalition Snow?
Of course we did, but only the unwritten ones. In the snow sports industry, it is men who have historically designed equipment. Society tells women that our expertise is in apparel and accessories. While we love cute jackets and beanies, we knew that as avid outdoors women, we were better suited to design skis and snowboards. We also recognized that we could have a greater impact by not staying in our lane. We make things and say things that women aren’t supposed to, and we love it.
What did the ski industry look like before your existence, and how has it changed since?
Women would swim in dude soup. You would walk into a room and be one of the only women. While for the most part they were lovely human beings, it was discouraging to not see people who look like you or experience the same things you do (this goes for people of color and FTW/GQ as much as cis-gendered women). Sometimes you just want people to get “it” and get you, and that was always difficult. But over the past few years we’ve seen an influx of women, from founders to photographers to artists, and we’re all being taken more seriously now. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of the change in this industry, and just as we’ve made inroads with inclusivity for women, there’s a movement to be more diverse and equitable across race and gender.
What constitutes #damngoodskis and #damngoodboards?
Our equipment is designed for performance first. Sometimes people believe that our compelling graphics or the fact that we a mission-driven company means that we don’t prioritize the engineering, materials, and manufacturing of our skis and snowboards. That’s simply not the case. We start with women first, listening and understanding what they want in a ski or snowboard. We work with our builders to engineer equipment that meets their demands. We prototype, we test, we iterate. Women can trust our equipment because we dedicate 100% of our resources into making the very best gear, just for them. At the end of the day, they’re damn good. ;)
Can you describe what skiing/snowboarding means to you personally… assuming you do and love both? ;)
Truth be told I’m a much better snowboarder than skier, but I’ve been at both for about 30 years. There’s something really spiritual about being in the mountains. The perspective you get from being away from the hustle. That the cold, crisp air. The first snowfall. The grit and resilience you cultivate from falling down and getting back up. And then there’s the community. My closest friends are women that I’ve met through Coalition. This sport is more than recreation, more than a way of staying in shape. It’s about life-long friends who have my back through thick and thin.
What considerations does your team make when designing Coalition Snow equipment?
As I mentioned earlier, we listen to what women have to say and dedicate 100% of our resources into our skis and snowboards. That’s what makes us so different. Obviously as a small, indie company we can’t make every single ski or snowboard that we want to, so as smart business women we’re always weighing the financial impacts with our desire to go big and do everything. We spend a lot of time thinking about what’s already out there for women and how we can make equipment that fills a gap and gives women an expanded freedom of choice.
Any advice/hacks for novice skiers? Different advice for more experienced athletes?
For novice skiers, I’d say that you must take lessons! And not from your significant other — that’s a sure fire way to break up, or at least have a bad time. ;) Also, don’t fall into the outdated perspective that women need short and soft equipment. Often times that’s exactly what holds you back. Your equipment should make you feel confident, and sometimes it’s just about finding what ski or snowboard was designed for your preferences. For more experienced athletes, I’d say that you need the right tool for the job. Often times we think that all we deserve is one pair of skis or one snowboard, but there’s not a single piece of equipment that can do it all. If you want to advance in the sport, you likely will need to build out a quiver. It will take time, and you’ll have to save to make it happen. But don’t sell yourself short — you deserve to have the right tools to help you feel and be your best on the mountain.
Favorite place you have ever skied, and why?
Oh this is unfair. I can’t choose! I of course love the Sierra Nevada because it’s where I call home and it’s insanely gorgeous. But that one time I heli-skied in Alaska is at the top of the list. Untouched snow and thousands of feet of vertical? Yes please and thank you. I’d love to add Japan to my list of favorites; I just need to get there first!
SISU Magazine, the most recent offshoot from Coalition, focuses on amplifying underrepresented voices. Talk to us about this exciting opportunity!
When we realized that one of the aspects of our company that makes us most appealing to people is our message and our mission, we thought long and hard about what we could do with that momentum (and quite honestly that privilege of having so many people listen to what you say). We’ve built a platform where women feel understood and they feel safe. We wanted to take that to the next level not only with what we offer up in this world — a full fledged magazine rather than just a weekly email and social—but also with how we define community — not just as white cis-women but FTW/GQ and people of color. Sisu is an opportunity for us to expand our values outside of the ski and snowboard world, and welcome more people in. We are using our power and privilege to tell the stories that we need to hear, by the people who deserve to tell them.
Best and worst advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to be in control of your own narrative — don’t let other people tell your story. If you don’t speak your truth and stake your claim, other people will do it for you. Worst piece of advice was that all it takes to be successful is hard work. If only it were that easy. There’s a lot more that goes into being a successful business woman, and while yes, you must absolutely work hard, there are so many extenuating circumstances that seem to overshadow that one easy metric.
Parting words for women everywhere?
Don’t wait. It doesn’t have to be perfect to get your great idea out there into the world. I see so many women who toil behind closed doors on that next business idea or career move, and then the moment passes them by. It only has to be good enough, and then you can use the insight of your community to make it even better.
+ Find Coalition Snow here.