For the Vertigals, a day with the girls means a day on the slopes and dressed for the prom.For some, the idea of best girlfriends getting together conjures images of huddled conversations over wine, pedicures or dressing up to go out for a nice dinner. But for the members of Vertigals, it means grabbing their skis and snowboards and heading to the mountains.
For nearly a decade, the women-only ski and snowboard group has combined a love of winter sports with friendship and a good bit of humor.
The group came together after a few moms of students from the Hidden Springs Community School discovered that hitting the slopes while their kids were in ski lessons was a riot.
"We began skiing together because our kids were enrolled in ski school on Wednesday afternoons through the school P.E. program," said Liza Marshall, founding member of Vertigals. "Over the winter, a group of a dozen or so women—not all even Hidden Springs moms—saw each other weekly on the hill at Bogus and discovered what a great time we were having skiing together and having a day that was 'ours.'"
Thanks to word of mouth, Vertigals has grown from 40 to 50 in the first year to 361. "The idea is that this group is unintimidating, noncompetitive and focused on friendliness and fun at Bogus Basin," Marshall said.
The women meet every Wednesday throughout the ski season—starting on Jan. 7 this year—and hit the hill in groups divided by skill level.
Like a childhood game of follow-the-leader, participants follow the colored jacket representing their skill level: green for beginners; yellow for intermediate-level riders; and blue for advanced-intermediate to expert skiers and snowboarders.
According to Marshall, the volunteer leaders know the best places to ride for each condition, whether it be corn snow in the spring or deep powder days.
But Vertigals isn't just about racking up runs. It's as much a social group as it is a sports club. The first Wednesday of each month during the winter season, the riders break at noon for a potluck lunch, with each rider contributing a dish that corresponds with the first letter of her last name.
At the end of each season, the Vertigals throw the Corn Snow Charity Prom—a day to raise awareness of the group while collecting money for a local charity selected by the reigning queen. Dressing up is optional, but most everyone jumps at the chance to express their wild side by donning some wacky designs.
"Prom" is a general guideline, and many spunky and flamboyant costumes have been tossed together from thrift store excursions and trunks tucked away in attics or garages, Marshall said. From vibrant wigs with sparkly streaks and butterfly sunglasses to hot-pink prom dresses straight from the fashion police impound closet, there are no limitations on the prom attire.
Current queen Donna Bari was selected by a vote of cheers by her peers. She has been a member since the very beginning.
"My favorite aspect of being a Vertigal is the friendships I have made through this group," Bari said. "I get to ski at my level or any level I choose for the day, and I know I am with friends who care about me."
The Corn Snow Prom queen's main responsibility is selecting the charity that will benefit from the Vertigals' donation.
"I have decided to be very open-minded," Bari said in an e-mail to BW. "I would like to look at a broad spectrum of charities and use this donation money to make a big difference in the lives of others. I would like to seek a matching donor base as well."
Bari's reign will end on March 18, 2009, but her costume will live on in the memories and photo albums for years to come.
"I went to Deseret Industries Thrift Store. I added jewelry and my boa from The Costume Shop," she said. "There, too, I was able to find the wild Afro wig that really topped off the outfit. Many Vertigals have been successful shopping for their outfits in Sun Valley when we go for our annual ski trip," Bari said.
Bari had a few words of wisdom to offer to future queens: "Have fun dressing up," she said. "It is a wonderful opportunity to be creative and enjoy the moment. Don't be afraid to look silly. In our serious and busy lifestyles it's a time to really let loose and have some real fun. The reward is an awesome opportunity to give a special donation to your favorite charity."
Over the years, Bari has had many memorable moments on the hill, but her most cherished is the ceremonial parade down the bowl to begin Prom Day. "We feel very special with our colorful flowing gowns blowing in the wind and having the other skiers wondering who all those crazy women are," Bari said.
Of course, the ski trips to other resorts have offered their own memories. "I love going to Sun Valley or Tamarack in numbers, and having skiers there ask, 'who are you gals?'" Bari said.
But it's the relatively quiet moments on the hill when the group sits back for its potluck each week, taking the time to visit and catch up on each other's lives that linger the longest.
"It's a great time for socializing, and we are some darn good cooks. We have so much food, and it's so good we have even considered putting together a cookbook," Bari said.
The group is also always looking for new members.
"With so many levels of skiing available, you have to fit in somewhere," Bari said. "You will definitely make some new friends. Add the two together—friends plus skiing—and the sum will be an awesome time."
For more information, visit bogusbasin.com and click on the Vertigals link.