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Slope Sistair: An Interview with Founder Stephanie Nychka

Before there was Queen of the MTN, SendHER, Sugar Showdown, Dixie Trix, or any of the other fine womens freeride contests/camps out there, there was Slope Sistair. There was AirMaiden, See Jane Jump and many more too, but we'll have to save those for next time :-) Slope Sistair, founded by Stephanie Nychka, took place between 2005 and 2007 in Hemlock, then Whistler and Colorado. I remember reading about the events online through the three years it ran and was very depressed when it "disappeared". Nychka and I have not had the chance to connect in person, but she was kind enough to respond to a brief interview in between her other duties (mother!). Read further about what inspired Nychka, the challenges of creating such a unique event, how she made it happen and what she hopes to see in years to come. Thank you Nychka! Keep up the good work event planners, keep creating awesome!

Want to know more about each individual event? Check the links at the bottom :-)

LBC: What inspired you to create this event?
Nychka: I had broken my back over rotating a back flip in Whistler and while I was on the mend and couldn't ride, I needed something else to do. It was selfishly driven- I wanted to ride with girls and compete at a level that didn't seem to exist at the time. I'd heard stories about these mythical creatures with ponytails who would drop and jump and ride hard but it was so hard to find them. At that time, unless you were riding (competing) with the men, there was no other place for us. I wanted to make an event that would pull these women out of the woodwork or show others that they existed.... and it really did.
 


LBC: Who helped you get it done?
NychkaWhen I had lived in Calgary, the community was really tight and in the center of it was Pinkbike. Once they moved to Chilliwack they were close to Whistler where I was living at the time. Radek Burkat and his team helped me out a ton with the marketing and coverage, as well as sponsorship. My friends Aaron SImms and Emerson Graff own Trail Crew Design Crew out of Calgary and they came down for at least a week prior to the even to build the entire run complete with wall rides, snow cat and car gaps and step downs. They did incredible work, all pro bono.

LBC: What challenges did you face?
Nychka: Getting enough women who could ride the features TCDC built was one challenge. I also found many women who could have competed but didn't have the confidence to ride in front of an audience- I know there are many incredible riders still who would rather ride with their friends than face mountain bike critics (everyone else who rides a bike and anonymous teenage boys on website forums). The other was finances. It was all out of pocket and I was living off student loans at the time. Most of the women weren't sponsored so it was hard for many to commit to travel and lodging unless they were within driving distance.

LBC: How did you overcome them?
I had good friends... the Pinkbike guys and TCDC offered all their support just because they were excited to see this event come to fruition and be a part of it. Luckily, a lot of the best riders at that time (that we knew of), all lived within 5 hours of Hemlock. Another couple were sponsored so they were able to fly in. What changes/progression has your event seen over the years? By the third year, there were 3 times as many women and more hills were excited at the prospect of hosting a women's event. The same challenges were present though- it was difficult to find sponsors with a budget for an event like this and resorts which were willing to help with the expenses and hosting. Even now I find the sport hasn't embraced women's slopestyle events because of its novelty and smaller competitive field. In Whistler the second year of SS, they had offered to build us specific features but they fell through and only 2 features were possible for the competitors to ride. That can really throw a kink in the organizing of competitive events. In terms of riding itself, there are so many more women that ride! Its incredible to see the numbers show up at Kat Sweet's events in Seattle. A girl who rides hard is the norm now, not an anomaly. It still surprises me and its exciting to know that more women are becoming passionate about the sport. I think its also encouraging that whether or not we'll ever progress to the same level as men's slopestyle events, we're continuously recognized as a growing force both as riders and consumers.
 



What would you like for future events?
Nychka: More industry support! And more interest in women's slopestyle events and camps in general. Not often are they mentioned in magazines even though there are hundreds of women involved. Organizing women's events seem to be more a personal resume- they show who you've developed positive and symbiotic relationships within the industry and media. Any advice for the up and coming event planners out there? It's always better to share the load- sometimes its hard to find someone with the same passion and ideas as yourself, but it makes for more fun and less stress. Build personal relationships with your sponsors and riders for future events. And show spectators and sponsors what they want to see- strong riders (big names), large fields and a successful event. Reach out to companies outside the bike industry- they have more money but they also expect more in return. The relationships you develop with your sponsors and showing them valuable return on their dollar or product is huge if you want continual support.

LBC: Any shout outs to sponsors, athletes, friends, etc?
Nychka: Joel Richardson at Hayes has always been my go to guy- always willing to help out with a smile. Pinkbike was always there when I needed a hand. TCDC will always be my go-to guys if I organize another slopestyle event. The riders who competed at the first SS: Marcie Shatula, Kelli Sherbinin, Hannah Steffans, Gale Dahlager & Darcy Turenne, to name a few- they made it what it was, and made the following years possible. Gale and Darcy competed in every SlopeSistair and provided incredible support throughout the years.


Articles from the three events:
http://www.pinkbike.com/news/article2822.html
http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Slope-Sistair-Whistler-2006-report.html
http://slopesistair.wordpress.com/

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