What makes an industry babe? Passion, drive, one solid soul and skillful shredder to boot. It’s not easy to eat, breathe, work and play in the outdoor industry, but it is very rewarding if done properly – this girl is a babe because she’s doing it right and setting an example as she does it.
If we were to measure Claire by her formal titles it’s a pretty impressive list including: Executive Director for SheJumps, a Foreign Languages and Literatures Bachelor of Arts graduate, a personal chef, and a pro skier. Not to mention this chicka has been awarded the 2014 “Toyota + espnW Everyday Hero Award.” SheJumps also received a $10,000 grant from Toyota for Claire’s efforts. In 2010 she was awarded the “Spirit Award” by Jim Jack at a freeskiing comp and then won the competition! These titles describe Claire in a factual manner of accomplishments, which are pretty dang admirable on their own, but Claire has pushed herself to be much more, which is an everyday inspiration. Those who know Claire would describe her as: humble, selfless, an absolute shredder, bubbly, contagiously happy, grounded, motivated, a go-getter and graceful in all aspects of life. A sincerely beautiful human inside and out that we can’t wait to brag about because she’d never do it for herself but gosh darn it, she deserves it!
The beginnings of all things Claire
Her first taste of skiing was at the early age of 5 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Claire grew up. “I remember going a few times after that, but didn’t really get obsessed until I was in 5th grade and (when I) got to participate in a subsidized school ski program. Skiing is a super expensive sport and since no one in my family did it, it wasn’t something my family was really excited to pay for. When I was 13 my dad told me if I wanted to ski I had to pay for it myself. I did, and have never looked back!”
Growing up Claire admired her brother’s charisma and “wacky energy” on and off the slopes as he encouraged her to dig into life whatever that might be. When you look up to your brother the words, ”you could be a very good skier one day Claire, go for it,” mean more than he could have ever expected. Her brother wasn’t the only one to believe in her adolescent ski dreams. “My friend’s mother played an incredible part in my life. She was the cool mom – the one who was making sure we were all in the car on time for powder days and would always tell us we have to ski the whole day. She always was there to give me a ride to the mountain and encourage me as the only girl in the group. When I entered into my first big mountain competition, I was skiing on rental bindings. When she found out, she called me and told me to go to the local ski shop and I could pick out any pair of bindings in the shop. She was like a guardian angel! Since then, she has always been supportive of SheJumps and is just an incredible ski buddy. We have skied together all over South America. I hope I am still skiing half as hard as she is at her age!”
At university Claire quickly adopted the phrase, “you get what you give,” and still applies it to all things she pursues. If this isn’t a tell of what drives Claire, maybe the fact that she mastered French, Spanish and even learnt Wolof, a language while studying abroad in Senegal, Africa. “Living in Senegal cemented my path into the nonprofit world more than any other experience in my life.”
Upon graduation Claire moved to Utah. When she first arrived she didn’t have a car and relied on pals to get her to the mountains. “Luckily my best friend Molly Baker would be sweet enough to come by and pick me up everyday! I started making these burritos for her and called them, ”Claire Smallwood friendship burritos.“ I really love making breakfast burritos and putting them in my pocket to hand out to random strangers on the mountain. (Reason Number 1: It stokes people out. Reason Number 2: You’ll have a friend for life. Reason Number 3: Not everyone was lucky enough to grow up in a burrito culture like New Mexico.) Anyways, fast-forward a few years. Molly moved to Glacier, Washington. She said she was keeping the tradition alive and started to hand burritos out to people and called them, ”Claire Smallwood friendship burritos.“ It came full circle when she said that a random person handed her a burrito one day and called it a, ”Claire Smallwood friendship burrito.“ I thought my work here is done.
The birth of SheJumps
Claire’s inspiration has remained constant from the beginning of SheJumps. “Having a sense of community and place within skiing has always been a huge part of my identity, and it’s that feeling that inspires me to find ways that SheJumps can impact girls who normally would not have those opportunities. While there are many women of all abilities and backgrounds who love SheJumps (not all are at-risk or underserved, nor do they need to be), to me that’s what should set SheJumps apart: creating experiences for populations who can benefit from the outdoors the most.”
And the mission statement was born…
SheJumps: Our mission is to increase the participation of women & girls in outdoor activities. We accomplish this by creating high-visibility “Get the Girls Out!” events, Outdoor Education, Youth Initiatives and grassroots recreational gatherings. The SheJumps community consists of females of all backgrounds and ages who help one another reach their highest potential through outdoor adventures and education.
One of Claire’s biggest “jumps” was when she put it all on the line to start SheJumps. “When we figured out we were ”going for it“ and SheJumps was going to become a ”nonprofit organization,“ I don’t think Lynsey Dyer, Vanessa Pierce, or myself really knew what we were getting into. I remember telling my parents, ”This (SheJumps) could be a JOB for me one day!“ They weren’t exactly stoked – I mean, I just finished four years of college to volunteer for what was a non-existent nonprofit at the time.“ Claire’s vision of “eternal success” from the beginning of SheJumps has made learning from each rough patch part of the refining process, it’s what keeps her reaching for more and more.
This busy bee works 40 hours a week on a part-time salary because she loves what she does. She supplements her income as a private chef during the winter (which she is absolutely amazing at) while still working 30 hours a week for SheJumps and still manages to ski a whole lot somehow. SheJumps has an incredible team of 43 (weehooo!) volunteers across North America that create and run local events, which helps out Claire a lot! Claire usually spends her summers in Chile, winters in Salt Lake and travels often to see that dang good looking Canadian fiancé of hers. She’s looking forward to being with SheJumps full time sans chef job in spring 2018. Claire’s nearly perfected way of balancing dreams and reality has made it a reality to better hundreds of girl’s lives through the SheJumps programs. Humility and humour go hand in hand when you’re trying to make waves. You need to be real with yourself, laugh with yourself and learn to love yourself for growth within to be able to grow outwardly and Claire is an inspirational example of just that.
This lady has been working for a while on developing a new program for SheJumps. “Wild Skills is our free day camp we initiated last year and I see it as the future of SheJumps.” The program is targeted to 6-18 year olds ready to build their outdoor skill set in all directions. SheJumps will also be looking to expand their Alpine Finishing School (ski mountaineering course) to be more geographically and financially accessible. Claire is also focused on improving SheJumps regional efforts. “From hosting more events to hosting better events, we are really dedicated to supporting our regional volunteers by constantly evaluating our programs and making sure they are making a difference in our communities. Also, look for more environmental and conservation/sustainability initiatives from SheJumps in the future.”
As far as Claire’s “what’s next” as an individual, she is looking to start an MBA and come up with a few backyard ski projects. In other words, she is going to continue to grow SheJumps, expand her knowledge, ski more and we’re pretty confident that she will continue to be this absolute gem of a lady that she is now. If you want to see what Claire and SheJumps is up to follow them on Instagram;
@freelance_girafficorn and @SheJumps.
Words and Photos: Abby Cooper