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Murray Journal

Women run the show at Snowbird’s Gadzoom lift

May 06, 2024 10:11AM ● By Genevieve Vahl

Gadzoom crew from left to right: Ava Krier, Aylin Nelson, Sophia Paradis, Kass Hart, Alexis Morgan. (Photo courtesy Sophia Paradis)

One of Snowbird’s most iconic lifts, Gadzoom, is entirely women operated, earning it the new nickname, Gal-Zoom. Every day, all season, it’s a woman foreman and lead guiding the women lifties to help get the skiers up the mountain. 

“I did some digging and in Snowbird’s history, we have had a female foreman-lead combo, but with an all-male crew,” said Sophia Paradis, Gadzoom foreman and fifth-year lift operator. “So as far as I am aware in Snowbird’s history, this is the first time we have had an entirely female lift crew.”

Paradis, along with lead operator Kass Hart, Aylin Nelson, Alexis Morgan and Ava Krier all operate the lift. 

Happenstance with scheduling often dictates where people are assigned on the mountain.

“I do think there is something to be said about getting the best person for the job, versus just because they are a woman, nobody ever wants to be moved into a position because they check a box,” Paradis said. But this year, Paradis having landed the foreman position and Hart, a prior Gadzoom lifty herself, the lead position, it all came together. 

“This year,” Hart said, “they were like Kass and Sophia got it. Let’s do it. Let’s make this happen. And we did.” 

“I feel like it is such a safe environment. I can tell my crew anything and everything. It’s fun but we still get down to business,” Paradis said. “I think the biggest difference is the respect and the attention to detail.” 

“We all get heard,” Morgan said. “Because in a men’s crew, the women’s voices are the smallest voice on the team. Ours is equal.” 

“Initially people were like, ‘Woah, is that a good idea?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, it is. Have you ever seen it before?’” Paradis recalled. “Then why do you think it’s not going to work? There are all-men’s crews all the time.”

The Little Beaver lift at Beaver Mountain Ski Area ran with an all-women’s crew for one day this past season and made headlines in Powder Magazine. 

“It’s very common to have only one woman on a crew,” Paradis said. But here at Snowbird women are leading departments and heading entire crews operating the lifts that allow the show to go on.  

Working an all-women’s crew gave the women strength to resist the sexism they face daily, whether from patrons or coded sexism inter-department. From “girls with pick ax comments” to the acute pressure of their lift constantly in the limelight, they are held to a standard not seen elsewhere on the mountain.  

“In the beginning of the season, people would be like, ‘Do you need help? Are you guys OK?’ No, we’re good, why would we need help?” Hart said. “I thought it was because I was a first-year lead and people wanted to check on me, but I think it's actually because we are a lift of all girls.”  

“Some people are really excited about it and other people are like, ‘Oh, is the lift safe? Am I good to load?’ ‘Gal-Zoom does that mean you’re all women? Is that working for you?’” Paradis said. “Maybe that is because my hackles are raised to it because I feel really protective of the crew. But I feel like I have noticed a lot more sexism toward us.” 

The inter-department power struggle the women have to climb perpetrates a lack of belief in their abilities to fulfill their duties. 

“I think that a lot of times males who have been in male dominant roles unintentionally mansplain things,” Krier said. “Even if they are trying to be nice out of it, they are always trying to offer more help and it’s like no, I got it.” 

“I have to approach it differently. I ask the Rover to give me some pointers, instead of them just telling me to do all this stuff. I think it was better for myself to ask,” Hart said. 

“We are held to a much higher standard,” Paradis said. “It does have something to do with Gadzoom being a base lift and it’s a lot more in the spotlight, but so is Peruvian and they don’t get the same treatment. We’ve been absolutely killing it this season with snow removal and staying on top of things. Attention to detail has been really great. And still we make one little mistake or one thing isn’t exactly quite right and the hammer comes down really hard on us. And that is really frustrating because it feels like we can never really do anything right.”

“I don’t ever want to give them a reason that our lift is bad, a reason to point to the girls,” Krier said. “That’s why I feel like we have to work extra hard.” 

Together, the women are unstoppable.  

“This year we are so well knit, always on the same page,” Hart said. “Everything this year is taped pink—all of our tools, our radio.”  

“I think the communication we have between us is super easy,” Krier said. “We all understand the pressure, and what it’s like to be a female in it. We all get the cat calls and we all get the creepy guys. So it’s nice when you have each other.” 

“We respect each other, we help each other out,” Morgan said. “If one of us is having a bad day we talk about it and we’re all there for each other.” 

“I feel like we have a really positive work environment,” Paradis said. “There is room for frustration and venting. But for the most part we have a blast, we have a lot of fun, we dance around.”

The crew says that having older women skiers come by and nod their heads in pride makes all the difference. 

“Other women have already created space, so stepping into that space and stepping into your power and really embracing who you are as a woman,” Paradis said, “is essential to succeeding in this field. As is putting the best foot forward with a positive attitude.”  

Paradis thinks that it’s cool to make a big deal about an all-woman crew, but hopes that this will become the norm.  

 “I think it really demonstrates to others that we belong in this space. And that we’re just as allowed to be here as anyone else,” she said. 

And besides belonging in this space, working the lifts sure beats working in an office, says Hart. 

“Would you rather be in an office?” she asks. “Because look around, you’re surrounded by these beautiful snowflakes falling from the sky and pine trees.” λ