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CSU logging is defying gender norms

Eva+Salm+and+Annabelle+Thomas+practice+for+the+two+buck+event+where+they+compete+on+how+fast+they+can+saw+a+cookie+off+of+the+log%2C+while+also+keeping+the+width+even+Sept.+29.
Collegian | Julia Percy
Eva Salm and Annabelle Thomas practice for the two buck event, in which they compete to see how fast they can saw a cookie off of a log while keeping the width even Sept. 29. The Colorado State University logging team is a student organization established in 1983.

It’s no secret that logging, both as a profession and as a sport, has historically been a man’s world.

Even a simple Google search reveals the obvious stereotype. A search for “lumberjack” yields over 45 million results, including a Wikipedia page with over 10 full sections varying from the history of lumberjacks to folklore stories like Paul Bunyan. However, a search for the female equivalent, “lumberjill,” yields less than 230,000 results, with one of the first suggested searches being for the Simpsons episode “Marge the Lumberjill.”

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As they enter their 2023 season, the CSU logging team refuses to allow that stereotype to continue any further. The team now boasts the largest number of women loggers in its 40-year history, and that growth shows no signs of slowing down.

“This year, there are so many women that are interested in logging,” veteran logger Mikaela Lippon said. “The number of women on the team has doubled.”

Many veteran women on the team have taken these new members under their wings, ensuring each member can learn the sport in a safe and supportive environment.

“I see a lot of them coming in every practice and genuinely trying to get better,” Lippon said. “The culture is very supportive. … If you want to do (an) event, we will help you get there.”

Logging features a wide variety of events, from sawing and chopping to lesser-known events such as birling — a competition with opposing loggers on opposite sides of a free-floating log in water who battle by running and kicking to stay upright longer than their competitor.

“I think if you have good form and you’re willing to learn and talk to people about fixing your form, then you’re perfectly capable of doing just as well (as) — if not better than — people who have the strength to do it,” said Jordyn Blaha, a member new to the team this fall.

The history of lumberjacking sports has fostered a stereotype of being a men-only sport, but for many women looking to join the team, whatever initial fears they might have about joining are immediately put to rest once they’re integrated into the team’s culture.

“At first it was definitely scary, but it helped that there were already a lot of women here, and now that I’m in it, it doesn’t feel necessarily (about) men or women,” team treasurer Olivia Watson said. “When we’re together, there’s just a bunch of camaraderie and family.”

For many members of the team, logging is more than just a competition. It represents a familial connection — a connection that isn’t inhibited by any barriers, including gender. Each member supports one another in their journey to improve as both individuals and as a team.

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“I think that’s one of the core reasons why I like this team,” said Ethan Pelletier, a third-year member of the team. “Everyone’s so supportive.

Even during the heat of competition, the support system the team has created hasn’t stopped.

“We all support each other; we all uplift each other, even if you’re competing against someone,” Lippon said. “When you finish, you’re the one who is cheering for your opponent.”

Much of the team’s success with creating a culture that defies stereotypes and accepts all athletes can be attributed to their community building nights, specifically those held to form bonds with the women on the team. 

“We have our logging women’s nights where we get together and have a potluck,” Watson said. “It’s really fun. (I found) my roommate this year because we met through logging and became really good friends.”

These community building nights aren’t just for show; they’re directly leading to results on the field. This camaraderie has brought a newfound energy to the team, pushing each athlete to a new level of competition.

“(Women) definitely bring an energy to competitions that guys aren’t able to,” said Trevor Hanosh, the team’s safety officer.

As they enter their new season full of fresh faces and new energy, the team looks to keep their sport lively and add any new members looking to join.

“I just want to emphasize that we appreciate and care for all people — we’ll take whoever,” Pelletier said. “To anyone who reads this article, I want them to know we’re an accepting community, and we’re always happy to have you.”

Will Engle can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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