In alpine skiing, women compete, but that’s about it

Alpine skiing at the 2022 Winter Olympics
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Originally published: February, 14, 2022

When U.S. alpine skier Laurenne Ross contemplated what she wanted to do when she retired, coaching wasn’t initially on the list.

“I was kind of adamant that I wouldn’t fall into a coaching position,” said Ross, who spent a decade racing on the World Cup circuit before retiring last year. “There were a lot of reasons. Primarily the travel and the stress and not being able to be at home…. But also because the culture is pretty harsh and intense and misogynistic.”

Alpine skiing represents something of paradox.

In some ways, the sport is a beacon for gender equity. When it debuted at the Winter Olympics in 1936, and then launched a World Cup circuit in 1967, there were an equal number of men’s and women’s events – a rarity in the sport’s world. That gender parity has mostly held true over the years as both the World Cup and Olympic programs expanded.

And while prize money hasn’t always been equal, these days, female athletes receive near-equal winnings from race organizers on the World Cup circuit. In fact, the sport’s prize money list has been topped by a woman the last five seasons – something that the sport’s governing body loves to point out. American Mikaela Shiffrin held the title of highest earner for four straight years (2017-2020), while Swiss skier Lara Gut-Behrami took home the most winnings in 2021.

“In ski racing, we are very lucky as female athletes to experience the kind of gender equity that we do,” Ross said. “But if you look a little bit closer, you do see those discrepancies.”

You can count the number of female alpine skiing coaches on one hand (but no one is counting)

The most noticeable gender disparity in alpine skiing exists in the coaching ranks.

The U.S. ski team includes one of only a handful of female coaches: Karin Harjo, who works with the women’s speed team.

In 2016, Harjo became the first woman to set a World Cup slalom course. (And to be clear: she was the first woman to accomplish this in women’s skiing.)

“It’s been really cool to see how she handles herself in an extremely male-dominated environment,” said Alice Merryweather, a current member of the U.S. ski team who was taken out of Olympic contention after a serious crash last September. “She’s very well respected by all of the male coaches out there – which is everyone else. I think we’re really lucky to have her.”

“I loved working with Karin,” said Alice McKennis Duran, who retired from the U.S. ski team at the end of last season. “She was one of my favorite coaches ever, and certainly part of that was her being a female.”

It’s unclear exactly how many women coach on the World Cup circuit. In addition to Harjo, Norway has one woman on its coaching roster (Pernille Lindman). There’s also Eileen Shiffrin, the mother of Mikaela Shiffrin, who has coached and travelled with her daughter since she made her World Cup debut.

Beyond that, Merryweather drew a blank. “The fact I’m having a hard time says something.”

A representative for FIS – the international federation that oversees alpine skiing – said that there are “about 6/7” women coaching on the World Cup circuit, but the organization wouldn’t provide a full coaching roster – citing “privacy.” The organization also couldn’t provide a total number of coaches on the World Cup circuit, noting “it is a variable number depending on the budgets of the federations and the number of their employees.”

Needless to say, the number of women coaching is not large.

Alpine skiing is not alone in failing to hire and retain female coaches. Across the board, as women’s sports have become more popular – and profitable – the number of men in coaching roles has skyrocketed while the number of women has dwindled. For example, this year’s women’s Olympic hockey tournament includes a record 10 teams. But it will also be the first Olympic tournament in which there are zero female head coaches.

While broken coaching pipelines often carry blame in sports like soccer and hockey, skiing has a more complicated problem, one the sport hasn’t quite acknowledged, let alone start to solve.

Like Ross, McKennis Duran didn’t see herself coaching when she retired from skiing last spring. And yet, this winter, she can be found at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, helping young athletes learn the ropes.

But as she looks ahead to the future, even her current job coaching 10- and 11-year-olds doesn’t feel sustainable when she considers her family planning goals.

“It’s unfathomable,” McKennis Duran said. “I already work six days a week right now in the winter. Like, I’m not doing that and having kids. Part of me is like, ‘I’ll probably have to quit.'”

If her current job isn’t feasible, forget coaching at the World Cup level, where coaches spend upwards of six months on the road each year.

“If you want to have a family, and work on the World Cup, it’s going to be pretty much impossible – unless you want to leave your children at home.”

Many men have done just that.

“A lot of my male coaches have families and I’ve never met their kids,” McKennis Duran said. “It’s actually kind of sad.”

While some U.S. ski clubs are working to retain female coaches, McKennis Duran believes that ski culture needs a more seismic shift.

“Working with [women] to help them stay in the sport is really important because we’re just going to keep losing women, over and over and over again,” she said. “Something that needs to be recognized is that women are valuable in the sport.”

Alpine skiing’s horizontal cousin, cross-country skiing, has encountered this issue, too. The two sports have similarly demanding World Cup schedules that keep athletes and staff on the road for most of the year.

“Definitely still not that many female coaches,” said 2018 Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall, who is serving as a cross-country skiing analyst for NBC Olympics during the 2022 Winter Olympics. “And the higher up you go, the thinner that [number] gets.”

But while Randall would like to see the number of women increase, she’s not ready to step into the role herself, at least not yet.

“I love the act of coaching, but the lifestyle is so demanding, especially with a young child,” she said.  “I spent a lot of my life away [from home] and I’m not going to do that now with a family.”

What happens when women aren’t making decisions about women’s skiing?

In addition to the very unbalanced coaching landscape, there is also the fact that on both the men’s and women’s World Cup circuits, every person making decisions on behalf of FIS is a man.

During Lindsey Vonn‘s storied career, she fought to be allowed to enter a race against men – a request that FIS denied multiple times. When FIS ruled against Vonn in 2012, the organization’s Secretary General Sarah Lewis told reporters, “It’s called the men’s World Cup and the ladies’ World Cup. The men race the men’s World Cup and the ladies race the ladies’ World Cup.”

Ten years later, that statement highlights one change FIS finally, thankfully, made. Last year, as the result of an IOC gender equity review, the federation began using the word “women’s” in place of “ladies’.” But the gender divide remains, including in the way men’s and women’s events are organized.

Merryweather believes the lack of female representation in the sport has resulted in the women’s courses – especially those used for speed events – being watered down.

“It seems like they have completely different ideas of what downhill for men looks like compared to downhill for women,” she said. “They’ll shave all of our jumps down, they’ll end races early if a jump is too big.”

For the record, Merryweather isn’t pitching the idea of women skiing Kitzbuehel, the notorious and dangerous race on the men’s World Cup circuit.

“I have no interest in throwing myself down Kitzbuehel,” she said. “But I think there’s this weird conversation that the men’s courses have to be more difficult than the women’s.”

For Merryweather, the issue isn’t which slopes are safe and which ones aren’t, but who is making those decisions.

“Having some more female representation in there would help a lot,” she said. “Right now, it’s a lot of white guys being like, ‘No these women can’t ski that jump because it’s too big for them’ and they don’t actually know what our experience is.”

This gender imbalance also extends to more niche areas of the industry, from equipment suppliers to ski manufacturers to the people managing sponsorships.

“As an athlete, I never encountered [a woman], other than, like, the woman that works in the office and helps you get your new luggage,” said McKennis Duran. “It was always dominated by men, whether you were dealing with contracts or anything to do with organization of the races.”

“There are clearly certain roles that have always been assigned to certain genders,” Merryweather said.

Team physios, for example? Almost always women.

Ski servicemen?

“There’s a reason why they’re called servicemen – it’s because they’re always men,” McKennis Duran quipped.

“You see that huge gender divide and it’s one of those things that you become accustomed to and almost blind to it,” McKennis Duran said. “It’s just the way it is.”

The “equal” prize money in alpine skiing? It’s not actually equal

Perhaps part of the reason gender disparities in alpine skiing are easy to ignore is because it is one of the rare sports in which prize money is equal for men and women.

Well, not exactly.

The sport has equal “minimum” prize money, but some races offer bonus money, most of which is allocated to men.

Still, the mostly-equal prize money conceals a much larger wage disparity.

“Our main income is through contracts” with sponsors, Ross explained.

“As an athlete ranked tenth in the world, being a female is a lot more difficult than being a male that’s ranked tenth in the world. You’re making a lot less money.”

Early in her career, Ross discovered that her ski sponsor was paying her half as much as a male athlete with a lower World Cup ranking.

But just because she knew she was being paid less didn’t mean she was able to do anything about it.

“You can’t raise the issue,” Ross said. “You are contractually obliged to not talk about your contracts.”

“Contracts between the men’s and women’s side, it doesn’t matter what type of gear we’re talking, the men’s [contract] is better than the women’s,” said Paula Moltzan, a U.S. tech specialist who made her Olympic debut in Beijing.

As for whether there are any protections for female athletes who want to have children and want continue ski racing? The type of protections Allyson Felix fought for when she gave birth?

“Absolutely not,” Ross said.

Alpine skiing’s gender paradox: Just because it’s better doesn’t make it ok

In the landscape of women’s sports, it is uncommon to find a sport like alpine skiing, where women are so visible in the sport but so invisible in decision making.

“As a female alpine skier, I feel like I do a female sport in a still male-dominated environment,” said Merryweather. “It doesn’t feel like it’s changing much.”

“It is not equal, but it is so much better than other sports,” said Ross. “But just because it’s better than other sports doesn’t make it ok. That doesn’t mean we should be complacent.”

That’s one of the reasons that – despite her initial opposition to the idea – you can now find Ross on the slopes her local mountain in Bend, Oregon, coaching 14- and 15-year-olds.

“The further along I got in my career, I realized I could make a difference. I wanted to at least try it and dip my toes in and see what it felt like.”

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

March 31, 2022 Update: Alpine Canada has hired Karin Harjo as the head coach of its women’s alpine skiing team, making Harjo the only woman to currently lead a national ski team on the World Cup stage. (Read more about Harjo’s hiring here.)

2023 March Madness: Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance

Members of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the Princeton Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament.
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 2-seeded Utah (27-4) women’s basketball team held off a pesky 10th-seeded Princeton squad on Sunday, winning 63-56 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships for the first time since 2005-06 and just the third time in the program’s history.

“I’m proud of our team,” said eighth-year head coach Lynne Roberts after the second-round win at Utah’s Hunstman Center. “We set out to do this a year ago. We lost in this game at University of Texas and the goal was to be able to host (this year) so that we could have that home-court advantage and it made a difference.”

Utah’s fourth-year junior Alissa Pili backed up her recent second-team All-American honor with another 20-plus-point performance, scoring 28 on 8-for 13 shooting with 10 rebounds and going 11-for 13 on free throws. Sophomore forward Jenna Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds.

There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about how the Utes’ previous few seasons have ended – beginning with a rough 14-17 season that was cut short in 2020 due to the pandemic, followed by an abysmal 5-16 record in 2020-21. But the tide turned last year, as Utah rebounded with a 21-12 season that ended with a 78-56 loss to Texas in Austin in the second round of the NCAA tournament one year ago.

So, what changed?

“Last year, everyone was new to the NCAA tournament, so I think everyone was just experiencing it for the first time,” mused Johnson. “Losing in the second round last year, we’re definitely a lot hungrier this year, and then obviously hosting in Salt Lake, it’s fun just being in your own environment, to be around your own fans. I think it gives us an elevated level of confidence, both knowing what it’s like it play in this tournament and also getting to be at home.”

“Yeah, freshman year was kind of rough,” added third-year sophomore Kennady McQueen, who chipped in nine points Sunday. “We did experience losing a lot. … Coach Roberts, she said we are not going to have another season like that. We all stood behind her — the people that stayed — and brought in great people like starting last year with Jenna and Gi (Gianna Kneepkens) and people like that who have had a huge impact in helping us to where we are today. …

“When you get together a group of people that have the same goal in mind and will do make anything to make it happen, I think that’s where we have seen our success rate going up. This past offseason, we just kept getting better, and of course, the addition of the Alissa Pili really helped. When you bring a group of girls that have the same dream and same goal at the end of the year and doesn’t care about personal stats more than winning, I think we get the season that we have today, and it prepares us for deep run in March.”

In particular, McQueen believe it was Utah’s improvement in their defense that was crucial to the turnaround. “Everyone knows how good we are on offense, but if we can’t get stops, it doesn’t matter how good you are on offense,” she said. “So that’s just been a key the whole past off-season and all of this season — just getting better on defense.”

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Alissa Pili revives her love of basketball with record season at Utah

Roberts credits their defensive improvement with a “philosophical mindset change,” explaining, “We worked on [defense] a lot differently, a lot more intentionally. Strategically we made some changes of how we are going to defend, and I won’t bore you with that. But there was a lot, just different things because you have to play to your strengths. You can’t be a run-and-jump pressing team if you don’t have the depth and athletes to do it. You can’t be a zone team if you are not super big. You have to figure out what fits your personnel, and so that’s what we did.”

There’s also the undeniable impact of Pili, a transfer from USC who has found her stride as a Ute, where she recently was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

“She kind of is the straw that stirs the drink for us right now,” said Roberts of the 21-year-old Alaska native. “She’s a nightmare to defend because she can shoot the three, and she’s also really athletic and mobile, so it doesn’t matter who we are playing. I think you have to gameplan for her. But then with her three-point shooting, you know, you have to pick your poison.”

But Roberts also gave plenty of kudos to Johnson, whom she describes as “phenomenal.”

“She’s 19 going on 40,” Roberts said of Johnson. “She’s the most mature, even-keeled consistent player we have. What I love about her is she is who she is. She’s confident in who she is. She knows who she is. She also is incredibly busy off the court.

“We were talking as we were getting ready to watch film, just shooting the breeze a bunch of us, we were talking about movies. And she was like, Oh, I don’t watch movies. Why not? I don’t have time. I get bored. What do you mean you don’t have time? Do you watch shows? No, I don’t ever watch TV. It is because she is doing all of these other extracurricular activities.”

As for guiding to the Utes to becoming a championship program, Roberts still sees it as an uphill battle – but one that she and her players are ready for.

“I always use the analogy of pushing the boulder up the hill,” she said. “And doing things for the first time, you have to have that mindset. You have to keep pushing. It’s been incredibly fun to see the support, and I think the swell is a perfect word for it. Most importantly, our players feel it.

“This is why you play, right? And it means so much. I know I say it over and over, but this is not going to be a flash-in-the-pan [season]. This isn’t going to be a ‘Oh, remember that year they had such an incredible year?’ We are going to keep doing it.”

RELATED: 2023 March Madness 2023 — Updated bracket, scores and schedule for NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship

2023 March Madness: Updated bracket, scores and schedule for NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship


Editor’s note: We’ll keep this page updated, so be sure to check back here for winners, scores and next-round details as the tournament progresses.

The bracket for 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship is officially set and defending champion South Carolina earned the No. 1 overall seed for the second straight season. A total of 68 teams will see tournament action, beginning with the “First Four” games on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by Round 1 play kicking off on Friday.

On Her Turf has compiled the matchups, sites and schedule for the tournament, which culminates Sunday, April 2 with the title game from American Airlines Center in Dallas.

2023 tournament No. 1 seeds:

  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Indiana Hoosiers
  • Virginia Tech Hokies
  • Stanford Cardinal

Last four teams in the tournament:

  • Illinois
  • Mississippi State
  • Purdue
  • St. John’s

First four teams out of the tournament:

  • Columbia
  • Kansas
  • UMass
  • Oregon

RELATED: South Carolina nabs No. 1 overall seed in NCAA women’s basketball tournament

‘First Four’ game schedule

Wednesday, March 15

  • 7 p.m. ET: 11. Illinois vs. 11. Mississippi State (South Bend, Indiana)
    • Winner: Mississippi State, 70-56
  • 9 p.m. ET: 16 Southern U vs. 16 Sacred Heart (Stanford, California)
    • Winner: Sacred Heart, 57-47

Thursday, March 16

  • 7 p.m. ET: 11 Purdue vs. 11 St. John’s (Columbus, Ohio)
    • Winner: St. John’s, 66-64
  • 9 p.m. ET: 16 Tennessee Tech vs. 16 Monmouth (Greenville, S.C.)
    • Winner: Tennessee Tech, 79-69

Bracket, schedule* by region 

*Includes scores, game time and TV network, if available


Columbia, S.C.

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 1. South Carolina 72, 16. Norfolk State 40
    • 8. South Florida 67, 9. Marquette 65
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 1. South Carolina 76, 8. South Florida, 45

Los Angeles, California

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Oklahoma 85, 12. Portland 63
    • 4. UCLA 67, 13. Sacramento State 45
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 4. UCLA vs. 5. Oklahoma, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

South Bend, Indiana

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 6. Creighton 66, 11. Mississippi State 81 (First Four winner)
    • 3. Notre Dame 82, 14. Southern Utah 56
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 3. Notre Dame 53, 11. Mississippi State 48

College Park, Maryland

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 7. Arizona 75, 10. West Virginia 62
    • 2. Maryland 93, 15. Holy Cross 61
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 2. Maryland 77, 7. Arizona 64


Bloomington, Indiana

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 1. Indiana 77, 16. Tennessee Tech 47 (First Four winner)
    • 8. Oklahoma State 61, 9. Miami 62 (FL)
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 1. Indiana vs. 9. Miami, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Villanova, Pennsylvania

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Washington State 63, 12. FGCU 74
    • 4. Villanova 76, 13. Cleveland State 59
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 12. FGCU vs. 4. Villanova, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 6. Michigan 71, 11. UNLV 59
    • 3. LSU 73, 14. Hawaii 50
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 6. Michigan vs. 3. LSU, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 7. N.C. State 63, 10. Princeton 64
    • 2. Utah 103, 15. Gardner-Webb 77
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 2. Utah vs. 10. Princeton, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)


 Blacksburg, Virginia

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 1. Virginia Tech 58, 16. Chattanooga 33
    • 8. Southern California 57, 9. South Dakota State 62
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 1. Virginia Tech 72, South Dakota State, 60

Knoxville, Tennessee

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Iowa State 73, 12. Toledo 80
    • 4. Tennessee 95, 13. Saint Louis 50
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 12. Toledo vs. 4. Tennessee, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Columbus, Ohio

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 6. North Carolina 61, 11. St. John’s  59 (First Four winner)
    • 3. Ohio State 80, 14. James Madison 66
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 3. Ohio State vs. 6. North Carolina, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Storrs, Connecticut

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 7. Baylor 78, 10. Alabama 74
    • 2. UConn 95, 15. Vermont 52
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 2. UConn vs. 7. Baylor, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)


Stanford, California

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 1. Stanford 92, 16. Sacred Heart 49 (First Four winner)
    • 8. Ole Miss 71, 9. Gonzaga 48
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 1. Stanford vs. 8. Ole Miss, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Austin, Texas 

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Louisville 83, 12. Drake 81
    • 4. Texas 79, 13. East Carolina 40
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 4. Texas vs. 5. Louisville, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Durham, N.C. 

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 6. Colorado 82, 11. Middle Tennessee State 60
    • 3. Duke 89, 14. Iona 49
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 3. Duke vs. Colorado, 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Iowa City, Iowa 

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 7. Florida State 54, 10. Georgia 66
    • 2. Iowa 95, 15. Southeastern Louisiana 43
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 2. Iowa 74, 10. Georgia 66

Regionals/Final Four schedule, how to watch

Sweet 16: Friday and Saturday, March 24-25; Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C., host: Southern Conference and Furman; and Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, hosts: Seattle and Seattle Sports Commission

Elite 8: Sunday and Monday, March 26-27; Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C., host: Southern Conference and Furman; and Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, hosts: Seattle and Seattle Sports Commission

Final 4: Friday, March 31, 7 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN); American Airlines Center, Dallas; hosts: Big 12 Conference and Dallas Sports Commission

Championship Game: Sunday, April 2, 3 p.m. ET (ABC); American Airlines Center, Dallas; hosts: Big 12 Conference and Dallas Sports Commission

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2023 March Madness — All about the 32 automatic qualifiers