A group of five girls, in grades fourth through eighth, spent a recent Saturday morning picking up trash in the forest, working on their respective mountain bikes and riding the Arizona Trail.
The Gear Girls, a girls-only outdoor group, formed in 2017 with the intention of giving young girls a safe space to learn how to maintain their equipment, bike on trails, and become overall more comfortable and competent outdoors, all while spending time with like-minded friends. In the winter, the group does snow sports such as winter hiking or cross country skiing, but mountain biking in the warm months is the main activity when weather allows.
Julie Polovitch, a program coordinator and instructor since 2019, called the group a “unique opportunity” for girls, as there are few, if any, other similar programs around.
“There was a trend where a lot of these outdoor activity groups had mostly boy participants that were coming to them. And then when there were girls, they weren’t staying in the program for various reasons,” she said.
“At my school I would do the boys’ group because there never was a girls’ group, and I was always the only girl or sometimes there would be one other girl there, so it was cool that this exists and I meet other girls that want to bike ride,” added Sydney Crary, 12.
Each Gear Girls season lasts 10 weeks, meeting every Saturday morning to practice the sport, but also do some sort of stewardship project.