Getting Chicked

200602_jackson_0162One day skiing last winter at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, Ben, Tom, Paul, and I were the first four people at the North Pole gate when the patrol dropped the rope. We didn’t want the voracious ant line of powder-hungry skiers and boarders to beat us to the goods, so we started booting as quickly as possible and set a stout pace, strung out along the ridge, Ben and Tom out in front, me just behind them, and Paul a few minutes farther back.

By the time Paul rounded the last curve toward the saddle, I was already on top, kicking the snow off my boot soles, and stepping into my bindings.

“Hey, Paul…you just got chicked,” Ben said gleefully.

Paul grunted unhappily in my direction, mumbled, “Yeah, guess I did,” and dropped his skis and started to click in. I shrugged, feeling a little apologetic. “Hey, I was excited,” I said, as if to justify booting faster than a boy.

“Getting chicked” — that’s what my guy friends call it when a girl “beats” them at something. It’s funny…sort of. In the outdoor world where so many dudes are post-post-feminists, where they wear kilts and are all for equal pay and Hilary for president, it still stings them when a woman does something better.

Why is this even still a thing?

Why is this even still a thing? Maybe it’s because physically men have a head start, with more muscle mass and a higher concentration of the kinds of hormones that act like anabolic steroids. They should be able to top out first. But it’s not that simple. Our sports require a mix of skill and power, finesse and speed. Most of the time you need both. And sometimes, women are just damn strong.

I’ve found there are different kinds of chickings. There’s harder-faster-stronger, where all that matters is speed, and then there’s the kind that involves actually being good at something other than going fast. From what I’ve witnessed, the first one bruises more egos. I’ve seen plenty of guys try to put the hammer down when a woman passes them on a ride. Maybe getting dropped by a girl triggers something deep in their brain stem that suggests inadequacy, that the odds are now lower of passing along their DNA — a kind of existential reproductive crisis. More likely, they’re just responding to the social norms that reinforce the idea that guys should be categorically stronger (see princess movies, anything from Disney, most rom-coms).

But that sells us short. And by “us” I don’t mean only people of the female gender, I mean all of us. Say your girlfriend rides faster than you, or climbs 5.13 and you do not. There are two worthy reactions: You can find pleasure and satisfaction in being associated with that level of radness or you can see it as an opportunity to work at getting better. Or you can do both.

So why did I feel the need to apologize that morning? Archaic cultural norms, probably. The truth is, I wasn’t sorry. I work hard to be a strong, accomplished athlete. By that point in the season I had kicked thousands of bootpack steps. I was trying to hike fast, and I earned those third turns.

Next time, no apologies.

Photo by Steve Casimiro

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{ 33 comments…read them below or write one }

  • BIll

    My wife climbs faster, rides faster, swims farther and could run faster than me…if I ran at all…Then again she’s 35 and I’m 60..I love it!

  • Andy

    As a bro who skis (and rides and runs etc.) with chicks on the regular, I am used to getting chicked, though it’s not a term I use. Ladies who beat me are far from rare, but as I get better at sports, I find that I can sometimes come in around the top of the women’s pack and it feels good. There are some differences between the best men and the best women, but most of us get crushed by the best anyone.


    Don’t apologize. You were faster. I don’t think it has to be a gender thing.

  • gordon

    I was riding in a triathlon next to the lead woman and we had a nice chat. She transitioned faster than I did, but I caught up on the run and we had another chat.

    “Hey, thanks for that back there,” she said.


    “Well, for letting me go through the chute first. Most guys KILL themselves trying to stay ahead of me.”

    I wan’t anywhere near the lead guy, and this athlete was winning her race, so it made sense to move aside a bit and let her get to her running shoes. And this was rare, evidently.

    Why is this still a thing, indeed?

  • Nate

    One of the reasons I fell in love (and stay in love) with my wife is ’cause she’s a better skier and boater than me. Keeps me hungry.

  • Nicole PelletierNicole Pelletier

    I think it’d be sweet if we all reached a point where it was so standard for girls to crush it, that the expression turned. As in “Damnit, Madge…that dude just beat me boot packing it to the summit; I totally got DICKED!”. Teehee.

  • Kim Kircher

    I love this. I’m with you Heather. Sometimes I forget that passing a guy on a bootpack might still be a thing. Then oops. His eyes start to bulge and his breath gets all ragged behind me. I make some excuse for being in a hurry, as if its my flaw. Then I forget all about that and just put one foot in front of the other. I’m racing against my own demons. And when you earn, you earn it. Brava.

  • Tavey SullivanTavey Sullivan

    I will admit that there are many a girls that can chick me on the skin track. The only thing going through my mind is, “How in the hell are they ski running up this steep shit?!”

  • Alan

    I am sure your friend was not as much insulting his friend as he was complimenting you by saying he got “chicked.” So there is no need to apologize.

    As for, “how is this even still a thing?” I think you should own it like you say you will and keep the phrase “chicked” alive and well as a badge of honor. However if you meant that we are somehow setting our expectations low for women by using this phrase, I think we all just need to relax and seek the true intentions of the person who said the phrase. I am willing to bet whoever says that phrase is seeking mainly to praise the girl and encourage the guy with a little banter.

    • ladyfleur

      It may be intended as a compliment to the woman, but what you see as “encouraging” the guy is perpetuating the idea that it’s shameful for boys and men to be less strong or skilled than girls or women. The presumption underneath the statement that is that females are inferior. That’s what’s damaging to everyone, both men and women.

      The terms “chicked” and”girled” and teasing like “you let a girl beat you” needs to die. Quickly.

  • fridgidwaddle

    It’s not a thing. I get excited and intrigued whenever a girl beats me up something. Simply means she would make a good friend and a great partner.

    And love this shot of the headwall – at jackson hole…. ;)

  • KatieSue

    I kinda secretly like that it’s still a thing. If I’m better than a guy and the other boys point out that I’m awesome and kicked ass… I’m not going to turn down that praise!
    (As long as they don’t act surprised or doubt what I’m attempting before I start, that’s annoying. One time a climber asked if I was going to get on the long pumpy 5.10 and then asked if I was planning on going to the top. “Where else would I go?” That was offensive. After he fell halfway up and came down it wasn’t so offensive anymore, it was just him looking like an ass.)

  • Bob D

    I can’t tell you how many female friends I have who can run faster and farther than me, hike stronger and climb better. Almost universally, it is because they’ve spent more time on the road, on the trails and in the mountains than me.

    Sure, I can out-lift all of them. Probably do more pull-ups. But physical prowess in the outdoors is a different animal, and mental toughness is gender-neutral.

  • Chris

    The missus likes to rib me about it endlessly, but I’m proud that this short little gal, who climbs 1/4 as much as I do, is my rope gun. Love her for it, really.

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