32 Degrees: Member Profile of Tammy VuPham
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of 32 Degrees. Read the entire magazine here.
Meet Tammy VuPham
Tammy is a Women of Winter Scholarship recipient who teaches at Crystal Mountain in Washington.
How did you first get started skiing, and what is it about the sport that appeals to you?
I first started skiing a couple seasons ago when I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Having grown up in the Southeast, I am fascinated by snow and the dynamic beauty of the winter season. Skiing is marvelous as it allows you to slow down, even when you’re going fast. I love the feeling of freedom that skiing gives me.
How did the Women of Winter event impact your thoughts about snowsports and working as an instructor?
I was part of the 2021 Women of Winter group in Big Sky, Montana. I applied to the program on a whim, and was excited to learn I was offered a spot! As an adult learner, I feared I wouldn’t be successful in completing the program or keeping up with the other participants. With the support of the women in my group, I gained the confidence I needed to pass my Alpine Level I exam. Women of Winter gave me the resources to get started in snowsports instruction, and I cannot thank them enough.
What can the event teach other instructors about welcoming more diversity in snowsports?
My favorite aspect of the event was the chairlift and après-ski conversations, where everyone would share their snowsports stories. From funny experiences to serious ones, it made me realize that respect needs to be part of an instructor’s teaching toolbox. Instructors can welcome more diversity in snowsports when they truly listen and value what each student brings into their learning experience, regardless of background.
What are some of the key opportunities – and roadblocks – you see for women who want to teach skiing and snowboarding?
I’m lucky to ski in a time where an increasing number of women are pursuing a career in snowsports. Women of Winter and similar programs have brought so many women to the slopes who otherwise would not be in the industry. This is just the first step. Women need support from the snowsports industry to reach the highest levels either as industry leaders, expert instructors, or valued mentors. It’s so important to invest in diversity – it will make our industry more resilient for decades to come.
What are some of your lesson highlights from last season?
I loved working with the teenage girls in the local after-school ski program. They saw me as a big sister and would tell me all about their struggles, especially feelings of isolation and anxiety due to the pandemic. I used our time to deeply understand their stories, so that our moments on skis could be fun and joyous. It makes me ecstatic to foster a love of skiing in others!
What sports factor into your offseason, and how do those influence how you ski and teach?
I’m on the mountain in all seasons. When I’m not on skis, I work as a climbing and mountaineering instructor. From daylong clinics to multi-day expeditions, I aim to facilitate transformational experiences for my clients. Concern for a person’s physical and psychological wellbeing are an important part of how I teach. I want people to truly thrive through their outdoor activities.
Any big goals for the new season in terms of advanced certification or improving your own technique?
I met my goal of 100 days on skis last season! This season, I plan to start preparing for my Alpine Level II assessment. There’s always something new to learn.
About Women of Winter
Women of Winter is a grassroots organization founded in Big Sky, Montana in 2018 with the goal of empowering women and girls to get outside and carve their own paths in the mountains. Inspired to help make snowsports more welcoming to Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, Women of Winter partnered with PSIA-AASI to host ski and snowboard instructor training and certification events. Learn more.