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PRINT DIGITAL

Her Line

Female professional skiers take media into their own dainty little hands.
posted: 10/16/2013
SKG0913_SCE_3.jpg

Like so many other ski-film projects showing this fall, the web series Pretty Faces is full of snow, skis, chairlifts, and helicopters—and skiers using them in ways designed to make us jealous. Unlike those other projects, however, this one lacks a particular element: males. That’s because Pretty Faces is one of several new projects by women, about women, but for everyone.

Pro skier Lynsey Dyer dropped the trailer for Pretty Faces, a two-year enterprise, last fall. A full-length feature will follow this fall’s series in 2014. Rachael Burks launched the all-female action-sports website femalewolfpack.com. Kim Havell announced her freeskiing and ski-mountaineering film, Hecuba. And gear brand K2 created Missfits, a web series featuring its female stars.

These aren’t the first all-female ski endeavors—consider Christian Begin’s 1998 film, No Man’s Land—but one of Dyer’s specific goals is to inspire and encourage other female athletes. “Women are often waiting for someone to invite us somewhere or make the first move,” she says. “But we can figure out our own dreams and then open the door.”

Burks’s website aims to make it easier and less expensive for rising female stars to reach potential sponsors, as well as to serve as a clearinghouse for high-level female action-sports content. “I got to a point in my ski career where it felt like my progress depended on how much money I could get together, which didn’t make sense to me,” she says. “So I decided to give women a platform where they can get visibility without being reliant on financial alliances.”

It seems that hard-charging women are exactly what ski-film audiences want, says Matchstick Productions star Ingrid Backstrom. “After a movie, people are always asking, ‘Why weren’t there more chicks in there?’ There is way more appetite for the content than is being met.”

So why the disconnect between audience desire and production-house reels? ESPN Snowboarding editor Melissa Larsen, who has been in action-sports media since the late ’90s, chalks it up to the men who control the budgets—the commercial brands that finance the films and the producers who make them—thinking that aggressive female athleticism won’t resonate with mainstream female viewers.

“Women inside these athlete cultures are pushing boundaries, living and breathing skiing and snowboarding and skateboarding,” Larsen says. “But the common rationale is that if you show something too ‘gnarly’ or unfeminine, they aren’t going to be interested.”

Greg Epstein, supervising producer for Teton Gravity Research, says the opportunities have expanded—to a point. “The level of what women are doing in the field has improved a lot. Women are getting into heavier lines, doing bigger tricks, really pushing it. We want female representation. But there has to be sponsor alignment.”

But Dyer and Burks aren’t sitting around, waiting for movie houses and commercial sponsors to catch up. “The best way is to lead by example,” Burks says. “The idea is to inspire women by showing them what other women are doing, what is possible, and to up the ante.”

“I’ve been quiet for a while,” Dyer says. “But now it’s time. It’s taken this long to get the credibility to do something like this. It’s a huge risk and we could fall on our faces, but we won’t. I think sponsors are starting to figure it out.”

And they are. The work of female athletes, as well as their digital and internet-marketing savvy, is getting noticed in the ski industry, “This is a real opportunity for those of us on the business end,” says Geoff Curtis, vice president of marketing at Marker Völkl USA. “The magazines are heavily weighted in favor of men, and one of the challenges for us suppliers is how to get the message out in front of a female audience.”

While female film stars may be what the ski industry needs now, Havell sees a future when gender isn’t as an important distinction. “We do ourselves the most justice when we integrate and not make it about gender,” she says. “We’re doing this film as women, yes, but we are athletes first.”

But that doesn’t mean young female skiers should be content that Dyer, Havell, and Burks are doing all the work. Says Larsen: “Women who are coming up need to keep pushing, and never assume that they are owed anything because they are women—it’s 2013 and that doesn’t fly anymore. It’s up to us to not be pushed aside because we are women.”

Anna Cole, communications manager at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which sponsors several of the major players in these projects, says the success that may come of such assertiveness would help grow the female skiing demographic—to the benefit of not just the pros, but the resorts, the industry, and the sport itself.

“These are smart businesswomen now,” Cole says, “not just 22-year-old skiers.” 

Watch Pretty Faces and Hecuba trailers here.

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