By Harley Nefe
Around eight years ago after Kristen Gray graduated college, her brother, Jeff Johnson, offered her a job in Banner Elk at the Edge of the World Snowboard Shop, where he is the owner.
When Gray started working at the shop, she was the only woman employee, and she noticed this on the slopes too.
“Whenever I would go ride, I would always go ride with boys, and I never really saw a big group of girls riding together,” Gray said. “And it was really hard to meet other women who snowboarded.”
Being relatively new to the area, Gray didn’t know many snowboarders, and she figured it was time for a change.
Therefore, Gray and Johnson started discussing it and bouncing ideas back and forth over what could be done.
“It was really me and her on the slopes talking about it,” Johnson said. “We were riding the lift together and trying to figure out how to enable women in snowboarding.”
Johnson eventually brought up the idea of having a ride night at Sugar Mountain Resort and inviting women through the shop to come out and ride.
“Traditionally, snowboarding is such a male dominated sport that usually you would see a woman on the slopes, but she was riding with a bunch of dudes,” Johnson said. “And so, the ride night was just a means to get ladies together.”
So in 2015, they organized a Facebook event where Gray said they had over 120 women RSVP, and from that she founded Girls Go Shred.
“It’s basically just to get girls who are in the snow sports industry to get together, network, and be a community and to be a kind, supportive, encouraging environment for women,” Gray said.
Gray further explained, “We love guys. Guys supporting girls is very important too; but yeah, I just needed some girls to ride with, as it was just me and the boys. I needed some girlfriends.”
According to their mission statement, Girls Go Shred is a community dedicated to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for women who snowboard and ski. They strive to connect women of all ages and skill levels through events and a growing online network.
“Everyone is welcome,” Gray said. “We’ve had girls who have been riding for 20 years, and we have girls where it’s their first day on the mountain.”
At Beech Mountain Resort, Ladies Night is a recurring weekly event on Thursdays that Girls Go Shred and Edge of the World help sponsor. In addition, Girls Go Shred also has other events for the season at Sugar Mountain Resort and Appalachian Ski Mountain.
“It started as a community just to get girls together on the mountain, and it’s turned into a brand now, and we focus on merchandise for Girls Go Shred, but the main focus is still getting ladies together on the mountain in all sports, not just snowboarding,” Johnson said.
Apart from snowboarding, Johnson explained that Girls Go Shred has expanded to including skiing, mountain biking, skateboarding, wakeboarding and more.
“It’s just about coming out to the events and networking and meeting other girls,” Gray said.
Photos courtesy of Girls Go Shred’s Facebook Page: