Women Only Please!

Aspen’s Leave the Boys Behind gears its educational backcountry trips—from climbing 14ers to avalanche training—to women.



Nothing against the guys, but there are some things women just like to do in the privacy of their own gender. Shopping for a swimsuit. Getting their hair colored. Cleaning out their underwear drawers. We’d like to add outdoor treks to that list. 

That’s where Leave the Boys Behind comes in. An offshoot of the 31-year-old guide service Aspen Alpine Guides, it’s a backcountry program that runs custom and group women’s-only trips year-round.

“We found a need for having a little bit more of a supportive environment for women to learn about the back country and not have to worry about some of the pressure that can come from being with a group of guys,” says Jordie Karlinski, a former member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team who was born in the Aspen Valley and now runs programming for Leave the Boys Behind.

The programs, which are tailored to accommodate everyone from beginners to more experienced women, run the gamut of activities, including three-day backpacking hut trips, road and mountain biking, trail running and climbing 14ers in the area in the summer, and avalanche training, snowshoeing and backcountry ski trips in the winter. 

“We try to incorporate tidbits of education here and there,” says Karlinski, “whether it’s learning how to book the right hut in the winter, or learning how to properly pack for a summer backpacking trip.”

Women of all ages, from their 20s up to their 60s, sign up, and Leave the Boys Behind tries to gear its expeditions to experience level. “Our intro to backcountry hut trip, for example, is only 2 to 4 miles out to the hut, and there’s not a lot of elevation gain. But some hut trips might involve 7 or 8 miles of hiking to the hut, with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. All in all, the trips are less about proving your skills and ability and more about learning and supporting each other.”

The experienced guides provide a number of advantages. “We have some of the most dangerous 14ers in the state in our area,” Karlinski says. “Our guides are medically certified, and they really know the right routes as well as how to get up and down a mountain safely.” They must be doing a lot of things right, because Karlinski says Leave the Boys Behind has an 80 or 90 percent return rate.

One such returnee is Catherine Aeppel, who shoots outdoor adventure and action sports photography and video. “The organization seemed like such a cool concept, learning with other women and having a really awesome, badass instructor,” she says. “You’re surrounded by inspiring women who also want to get after it in the outdoors, and the program empowers you with the knowledge to do so safely, in an encouraging environment. You’re all connecting over this mutual interest to educate yourself.”

Aeppel says she wanted to experience the backcountry safely. “I’m not looking to ski the steepest line or go crazy, and there is something nurturing about these programs,” she adds. “I think a lot of the women I went out with felt they had gone on different excursions with their boyfriends, but they were just along for the ride, and they wanted to know what to do if they needed to rescue someone, for example. Our instructor had been a ski patroller for years, and has extensive experience, and to have someone like that impart her wisdom was really cool. The attitude is, ‘This knowledge is something you are entitled to, where you can be the decision maker in any group you are part of.’ ”

Woman-specific guiding program from Aspen Alpine Guides with wilderness experiences in and around Aspen.

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