‘We want to help them feel safe and empowered’: Wolfville-based Girls on SnowBoards helps young women gain confidence, stay active and have fun

Girls on SnowBoards participants at Ski Martock.
Girls on SnowBoards participants at Ski Martock.

“She came not wanting to stay; and left not wanting to leave.” 

This is how Karen Myers described the shift in her daughter Abbie after the 13-year-old from Kings County, N.S., attended Girls on SnowBoards – a spin-off of Girls on Boards

Girls on SnowBoards is an initiative focused on empowering teenage girls to try a new sport and help them overcome the barriers they face in sports and physical activity during their teenage years.

“Teenage girls are at the highest risk for body issues, quitting physical activities and withdrawing from taking risks,” said Girls on Boards founder Mia Lockhart. 

“We want to help them feel safe and empowered, not only in the physical challenge, but also to feel supported and open in other areas of their lives.” 

Girls on SnowBoards is a two-session program that includes indoor snowboarding training led by female certified snowboard coaches. 

During the first session, these coaches also lead a positive body image group discussion focused on how the participants see, feel and think about their bodies. 

The second session is when the teenage girls take the skills from their indoor training outdoors to hit the slopes. 

For Lockhart, it’s rewarding to see how the girls develop confidence, just as Abbie did after attending Girls on Snowboards.

“My daughter was a bit nervous going to the indoor training part of the event as she went not knowing anyone,” her mom recalled.
 
Lockhart described Abbie as being extremely nervous when she arrived. 

However, it did not take long for her to become comfortable, and then she completely transformed on the hill.

When Myers arrived to pick Abbie up, she saw her daughter snowboarding, full of confidence and having the “time of her life.” 

“Since attending Girls on SnowBoards, Abbie is less nervous to try new things,” Myers said.
 
Lockhart explains that part of indoor training includes getting comfortable with each other, opening up and feeling like part of a group. Most of these teenagers had never met each other before attending the program.

“It (snowboarding) is intimidating, but it's way less intimidating when there's a group going out together and learning together,” Lockhart said. 

As a mother of two teenage daughters herself, Lockhart sees the pressures that young women face when it comes to body image, physical activity and risk taking.
 
“Snowboarding is an excellent group activity that develops new skills, self-awareness and decision making,” Lockhart said. 

“Girls on SnowBoards empowers participants to try a new sport in a safe and inviting environment, while exploring a new way to keep active.”

In 2018, this program received funding through the Western Kings Community Health Board (CHB) Wellness Fund. 

Each year, Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) designates funds for each CHB in the province to distribute Wellness Funds to non-profit groups working to improve health in their communities by addressing the health priorities identified by CHBs in their current community health plans.