Sarah Hart and blue ice

Women who inspire us today and every day

At MEC we’re inspired and motivated by amazing women 365 days a year. For International Women’s Day on March 8, we want to celebrate some of the incredible women who help to drive positive change in their communities and connect people to the outdoors along the way.

From MEC staff and ambassadors to community groups and cool organizations, get to know some of the women that motivate us to keep doing more in the outdoor world and some of the female-focussed initiatives they’ve launched. Read their stories and follow them for some daily inspiration.

Sarah Hart: All rock (+ snow, ice and epics)

When Sarah isn’t sending as an MEC Ambassador, she works at a career placement agency to help people find their dream jobs. Her Instagram feed is positively loaded with big walls, wild landscapes and expansive powder-kingdoms (we borrowed those last words from one of her posts). When you follow Sarah, you’ll realize just how much she manages to pack into life – and she does it with incredible energy, power and fun.

Jennifer Hewlett: Fresh Air Life founder

Twenty years ago, Jennifer founded Fresh Air Life, an organization that’s dedicated to introducing women of all ages to the benefits of a life lived outside. Through hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking and other outdoor adventures, she’s helped remove the barriers that keep people from getting outside and has created a healthier, more inclusive community on Vancouver’s North Shore.

At this year’s Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, she received the Tim Jones Community Achievement Award for all she’s done – and she’s also a staff member at our North Vancouver store.

Les Chèvres de Montagne: Scaling up outside

Not just one woman but a whole group of women, Les Chèvres de Montagne is a Quebec organization that inspires women from all walks of life to get outside and try new activities, like climbing, canoeing and skiing. After securing funding from MEC Outdoor Nation, they’ve decided to scale their organization and add additional hubs outside of just Quebec City (we’re pumped to see what projects are coming up). If you live in Quebec, follow along online so you can join some of their awesome events.

Shannon Payeur: All-around stoke builder

When she’s not busy bringing MEC festivals, clinics and events to life, MEC staffer Shannon is usually exploring trails in the mountains. As a search and rescue volunteer, ultra-marathon runner, and super organized race director, Shannon’s approach of setting lofty goals then leaving them in her dust is a huge motivation to everyone around her. (See Shannon in our “Why I run” video.)

Dirt Girls and Spin Sisters: Wicked riding

These two volunteer-based women’s mountain bike groups – DirtGirls in Edmonton and Spin Sisters in Calgary – are all about getting women of all ages into the sport of mountain biking. From group rides to trail maintenance, they create a culture of camaraderie and support for women who want to shred.

Georgia Astle: West coast shredder

Our newest MEC Ambassador, Georgia grew up in the mountains and started competing at the age of 18. She’s mega dedicated to racing bikes, riding bikes and travelling with bikes, and recently placed seventh in her category at the 2016 UCI World Cup at Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec. She’s one of the most fun people to ride a bike with – if you can keep up!

A post shared by Georgia Astle (@georgiaastle) on

Outdoor Studio: Open-air artwork

What happens when you take a group of creative people into nature? They become free from the distractions of urban life and can reconnect and produce art that inspires. This is the premise for Outdoor Studio, which was founded by a group of women in the Greater Toronto Area. After receiving funding from MEC Outdoor Nation, Outdoor Studio will be putting on four immersive multi-day trips in 2017, led by a certified guide and creative mentors who will help them unlock their potential and spark new ideas.

Emma Switzer: Outdoor leader

Ever had a co-worker who has a natural knack for making work fun… both inside and outside? Meet Emma, who regularly goes way beyond the scope of her job at our Toronto store. Her colleagues describe her as “amazing at getting staff outside all the time,” and she’s known for finding fun, engaging ways to lead staff training and help her co-workers try new activities (at work and on her own time). Her passion for all things outdoors – especially climbing – and sense of humour make her a blast to learn from and work with.

Emma climbing

Photo by @artandrec

Roz Groenewoud: About POW

Roz is an MEC Ambassador and pro skier who competed at multiple X-Games and in the 2012 and 2014 Winter Olympics. She’s a force in the halfpipe and carries her love for snow to her involvement with the POW (Protect Our Winters) Riders Alliance, which helps fight climate change. When she was recently rehabbing a ski injury, she found another way to get active by cycling from Vancouver to Whistler and raising money for Right to Play International along the way. If you love travel, follow Roz online – her latest trips included Iceland and South Korea, all while attending university.

A post shared by Roz G (@rozgroenewoud) on

Dianne Semark: Creative thinker

Dianne’s more than just a design lead at the MEC Head Office: she’s someone who makes things happen for our Co-op and beyond our office walls. Most recently, she championed an effort with different MEC departments to deliver warm clothing donations to refugees in Greece. Since so many donations were for kids, she added meaningful notes in the pockets: thoughtful, hand-drawn pictures from her young daughter and classmates to let kids on the other side of the world know we’re thinking of them. “I think that if things are going to get better in the world, we need to make things personal and connect with the generation that will hopefully be the ones to make a real difference in the future.”

Dianne and daughter on a hike

Charlie Elliot: Commuter of the year

When she’s not travelling around eastern Canada to help open new MEC stores, Charlie hangs her hat in Halifax. In summer, she’s a paddler. In winter, she’s a volunteer ski patroller. When it’s time to choose community grants in the Maritimes, she’s helped out on the granting committee. And year-round, she’s a regular candidate for commuter of the year – even when a crazy snow storm rolls into Halifax and that means ski touring to the store.

Charlie mid-snow commute in Halifax

Know an inspirational woman in your life? Share this post and let them know how they’ve motivated you.

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