Girls letting rip
Updated: Oct 31, 2018
By Caitlin Kennedy
To celebrate International Women's Day, we showcase the gnarliest girls making waves in the freeride scene.
The accolades attached to Angel's name speak in spades for the headway she's making for women in extreme skiing. First woman to win Best Line at the Powder Awards, two-time winner of Best Female Performance also at the Powder Awards and two-time champion of the Freeskiing World Tour (one of which was the first time she'd even entered), to name but a few. And all by the age of 26! Angel was destined to be hit by the skiing bug as her father was a ski patroller in Snowbird Ski resort, Utah and so immersed his children in mountain life. Both Angel and her brother trained as racers but fell in love with the backcountry and the vibe of the freeriding community. Since then, she has become a common feature in films with the Teton Gravity Research clan and recently became the first woman ever to open one of their movies. She is, quite simply, one of the best Big Mountain skiers in the world.
Elyse Saugstad This American decided to take matters into her own hands in order to put herself in centre frame by directing, producing, researching and of course starring in her entry for the Teton Gravity Research Co-Lab contest. This won her the coveted Female Athlete of the Year award at the Powder awards in 2013, basically the Oscars of freeskiing. On top of that, she has previously won the Freeride Wold Tour, seamlessly straddling the competition and film worlds.
Snowboarder Magazine's Number 1 Women's Rider of the Year for 2016, was the first person with two X chromosomes to throw a double backflip back in 2011. Having started out on the Slopestyle circuit, she now uses those skills to mix it up a bit in steep powder and so is a favourite for filmmakers. Last year she landed a segment in Absinthe films' new release which earned her line of the year from Snowboarder magazine.
Some call her the Godmother of Backcountry, a name earned when she first appeared in ski films, as she was one of the first women to do so. A professional big-mountain skier for over a decade now, Ingrid Backstrom has appeared in nine films from Matchstick Productions and won five Best Female Performance Awards at the Powder Video Awards. Having lost her brother to an accident whilst free-skiing, plus her friend and mentor Shane McConkey, she is now heavily involved in making the sport safer, which she does from a coaching role as Freestyle Coach and Chief of Stoke for Crystal Mountain. Yes that is her official title.
This American decided to take matters into her own hands in order to put herself in centre frame by directing, producing, researching and of course starring in her entry for the Teton Gravity Research Co-Lab contest. This won her the coveted Female Athlete of the Year award at the Powder awards in 2013, basically the Oscars of freeskiing. On top of that, she has previously won the Freeride Wold Tour, seamlessly straddling the competition and film worlds.
Lynsey Dyer and Unicorn Picnic
Lynsey Dyer is at the top of the Big Mountain game and wants you to be too. Having had a radical change of tact after completing graphic design at University, she embarked on getting girls to up their game in the world of adventure sport. And so Unicorn Picnic was born. It was originally set up as a video production company to make the award winning ski documentary Pretty Faces, which was a game changer in the ski film world, showing that an all-female cast could be pretty damn exhilarating. They now focus their sights on teaching women the ropes in the backcountry with the Unicorn School and encouraging younger girls and women to get into outdoor sports through Youth Initiatives and high profile events. Also, this is one of the pictures from their website so, really, they're doing something great for everyone.
Danyale Patterson and the Too Hard Girls
We need to talk about the Too Hard snowboarding crew, whose motto “We're too hard for you” inspired the name. Spoiler alert: they definitely are too hard for you. These seriously cool snowboarders and skateboarders are jibbing on everything from railings to lamposts. In the summer they grow weed. These ladies literally don't give a shit what you think and founder Danyale responded to criticism for their VICE series Lady Shredders with, “I’ve learned that I hate most people from this. Snowboarding is all I’ve ever known and it’s crazy to think that what makes me happy is wrong and shouldn’t even be attempted. Good luck to all the haters, I hope it gets you far”. She a bad bitch. Definitely check them out. Their website is utter shite, but as Kene pointed out, they're far too busy getting stoned and nailing the rails to worry about a fancy website. And it least it doesn't look like a Cath Kidston store spewed all (aka all women's sports clothing).
The biggest and baddest competition in the Big Mountain world is the Freeride World Tour and while many of those mentioned above eschew competition in favour of films, it's still an extremely impressive feat to make it onto the World Tour and as the name suggest, gives the participants the opportunity to ski all over the world. This year 11 skiers make up the competition, 9 of which have qualified from the previous year and two wildcards.
In each FWT competition, the 11 competitors are given a big section of the mountain and a starting point, with the basic rule that you can get to the bottom howsoever you choose. Difficulty, steepness and size of cliff drops are all taken into consideration in the choice of routes. And there's no dress-rehearsal. The first time you see it is the first time you ski it. Understandably this doesn't always go to plan.
Judging the descent of a skier is a tricky business, as it's all rather subjective. There's an art to the sport, which is what ski films so beautifully capture. So to all the ladies slaying lines, we salute you!