The Women Outside Adventure Forum will begin March 27 Durango with three days of presenters, film screenings, open discussion and a speaker panel all covering topics from the environment, women in the outdoors, climate change and rivers in the west. It is the third year the event has come to Durango.
Presented by Backcountry Experience, a local outdoor retailer in Durango, this year’s theme is “Wild Places and Open Spaces.” All proceeds will go to San Juan Mountain SOLES, a local nonprofit organization that mentors young women in the outdoors.
Event organizer Margaret Hedderman, an avid outdoor enthusiast who once backpacked the 1,800 mile Te Araroa trail across New Zealand, said the forum serves the local and regional community.
“I think both men and women are looking for opportunities to make new connections and be exposed to different ideas and different ways of thinking and even different issues that maybe they didn’t know about,” Hedderman said. “Women Outside provides that. You’re meeting new people, hearing their stories, but it also provides you the opportunity to share your story as well.”
Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Powerhouse Science Center, speakers will include local writer Krista Langlois, a contributor to High Country News and Outside Magazine and Navajo/Dakota writer, activist and editor of the book “Edge Of Morning,” Jaqueline Keeler.
Langlois, who lives in Durango, has been commended for her recent story on sexual harassment in the outdoor industry. She’ll speak about that in addition to the power of the adventure and her journey from being a river guide in Alaska and New Zealand to a career as a freelance journalist in the American West.
Langlois will also discuss her involvement with programs such as the Northern Cascades Institute and Girls on Ice that bring female teens into the outdoors, prompted by a rewarding experience she had on an all-female river trip in British Columbia, Canada where many of the teens came from challenging environments, abuse and had disabilities.
“Being on an all-women’s trip was a different experience,” Langlois said. “It was empowering for me, and I think it was empowering for the teenage girls that we were with. I’d spent a fair amount of time with kids in the wilderness in various capacities, and I’d never seen a group gain as much confidence as those girls going down that river.”
She said she‘s excited for open discussions at the forum.
“I’m looking forward to interacting with people and answering people’s questions and get a discussion going,” she said.
Keerler, whose book “Edge of Morning” is a collection of essays, poetry and prose on Bears Ears National Monument as reflected through the hearts and minds of Native Americans, has brought yet another outlook to the issues surrounding the recently designated and then reduced Bears Ears National Monument.
“I feel that the different perspectives presented on Bears Ears will spark very interesting conversations,” said Ben Rockis, owner of Backcountry Experience. “This should be a memorable year for the WOAF.”
From 8 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, there will be an open discussion with Emily Bowie and Susan Etter hosted by the San Juan Citizens Alliance in an actual functioning tiny house provided by outdoor apparel company Outdoor Research of Seattle.
Later, from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Durango Arts Center, there will be a series of conservation films by ward winning film maker Jenny Nichols and a screening of the film “End of Snow” on the impact of climate change in the west featuring tropical ecologist Dr. Jane Zelikova. The two will speak after their films.
“We’re going to be talking about the role of filmmaking and especially filmmaking by women by bringing these stories about science and conservation to the public,” Zelikova said.
Zelikova, who lives in Boulder and works for a carbon reduction organization based in San Francisco, said she appreciates a platform dedicated to women in the outdoors.
“The important piece here isn’t that the stories are now celebrating women in the outdoors, but a lot of them are by women,” she said. “I think just having a discussion about these issues is really important, and I know that we’re making progress because we’re talking about these things now. It’s a very prominent conversation.”
From 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Powerhouse Science Center, world renowned rock climber and author Steph Davis will speak, followed by an open panel discussion featuring Bowie, Davis and Zelikova.
The panel discussion is a highlight of the three-day forum with enthusiastic involvement from the audience and will focus on the theme of the event.
“I really like seeing how engaged the audience is whenever these different speakers talk,” Hedderman said. “It’s not like some of these events when you just kind of kick back and zone out. People are so engaged and they ask the best questions of the different speakers. People have gotten behind this initiative in ways that I hadn’t really expected.”
For more information, go to www.womenoutside.org.