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Ingrid Backstrom grew up shredding the slopes of Crystal Mountain and later began entering—and winning—big-mountain comps during her first year of ski-bumming at Squaw Valley. Then, during the winter of 2003, Backstrom received a fateful phone call. It was Matchstick Productions founder Steve Winter, who’d seen her ski at Crested Butte and wanted to know if she’d be interested in filming. The resulting movie—Yearbook—launched Backstrom’s career, which has included 13 movies, 17 awards, and the unofficial title (you heard it here first) Godmother of Gnar.
One of the coolest things about skiing is that it teaches kids to explore their world, as long as they abide by certain rules. We skied in a brat pack while our parents were patrolling and quickly learned lessons of responsibility, independence, and freedom.
Being a ski bum [in the early 2000s] was amazing, but something was missing. I felt listless and goal-less—until I entered my first freeskiing contest at Kirkwood and placed third.
My first big film trip was to Bella Coola with Shane McConkey, Hugo Harrisson, and Mark Abma. It’s still the best conditions either Mark or I have had on a film trip—perfect stable snow without even any slough, and you could literally ski whatever you wanted without thinking about it.
In the beginning, we were very green and new to filming, so it was easy to only see possibilities and not all the consequences; it was a very different frame of mind to be in, very idealistic.
Shane taught me so many important lessons, like one time in Haines when I was being a total wimp. I was on top of a line whining, “But the snow is going to be baked on that side, and then icy at the bottom!” Shane said, “Instead of worrying about it, why don’t you ski it like you know the snow will be bad in certain parts and just expect that and be prepared?”
Losing [my brother] Arne has definitely changed the way I feel about and operate in the mountains; it has removed some of that competitive drive and edge that you have when you are innocent and naive to the dangers. At the same time I know Arne would want me to be skiing, and so I know it’s the right thing.
I’ve BASE jumped off the bridge in Twin Falls. But something about it helped me realize that that was my personal line in the sand and I didn’t necessarily need to cross it or even really touch it again.
I’m working on finding a balance within the ski-filming lifestyle, trying to feel at home anywhere in the world. Otherwise I’ll come home after many months traveling and be like, “Where is everybody?” Ski because you love it; if you are trying to be a pro skier for other reasons, it will catch up to you.
» Backstrom’s brother Arne died in a fall in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca in 2010. While the loss “removed some competitive drive,” she skis because “Arne would want me to.”