Women Are Dominating This Year’s Crop of Ski Films, On Both Sides of the Camera
A ton of female-led ski films are launching this fall, with appearances from up-and-coming skiers and industry legends.
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If you want to watch lady shredders rip it up this year, you’re in luck. A ton of female-led ski films are launching this fall, with appearances from up-and-coming skiers like Madison Ostergren as well as new and unique stories from industry legends like Ingrid Backstrom.
It’s a breath of fresh air to see women getting more screen time, with an emphasis on creativity and unique storytelling that breaks the mold of the predictable male-dominated shred segments. “When I first started, there were only a few spots for women to be in ski movies and they were fiercely guarded,” remembers Backstrom, who’s been laying down turns on the big screen since the early 2000s. “And there were hardly any women on the production side. It’s definitely changing as we’ve collaborated and proven to the industry that there is a huge audience out there who will show up to see women shred.”
With more and more female representation on both sides of the lens, women are showing the industry that we’ve just barely scratched the surface of what’s possible. “Being a younger athlete, there are so many amazing female skiers I have to look up to now,” says Madison Ostergren. “They’ve laid down the pathway to show me that I can do it, and that’s the message I want to continue for the younger generation: if you want it, you can do it.”
When Ingrid Backstrom and filmmaker Anne Cleary asked themselves what they wanted to see more of, the answer was easy: more women shredding. “But we quickly realized we wanted to expand that to include more diversity in front of and behind the lens,” says Backstrom. The Approach is a ski film elevating women, people of color, and adaptive athletes, featuring Backstrom, Brooklyn Bell, Leanne Pelosi, Vasu Sojitra, Emilé Zynobia, Sophia Rouches, Anna Soens, and Marie-France Roy.
From big lines in Alaska to deep pow skiing in Jackson, working together to lift each other up is a theme that stays true throughout. “It had been a dream of Brooklyn’s to go to Alaska, and it was cool to be there with her and Emilé,” says Backstrom. “For me, it was a time to step back, be a part of the team, and work towards someone else’s dream. In a way, it was a sort of passing of the torch and that’s something that’s really cool to be a part of.”
What happens when you get to go skiing with one of your role models? “Girl Crush” tells the story of just that, when skiers Mali Noyes, Nicole Jorgenson, Lani Bruntz, and Mary McIntyre head out on an overnight ski mountaineering trip in the Tetons with Jess Baker. “We were all so excited to learn from [Jess] because she just has so much experience in the backcountry as a skier and guide,” says McIntyre. “And she’s a mom. She had so much insight to share, but she also wanted everyone to have a role in the decision-making and be a leader.”
Over the course of the trip, the group works together to make complex decisions as they deal with weather, plan out ski lines and arc turns in deep powder. Between ripping ski shots, goofy moments, and whiskey at camp, the team of five talks about the power of female mentorship, decision making, and what it means to support other women in the mountains.
“Boot Over Brim”
Some might be surprised to know that Amie Engerbretson is a classically trained dancer. In fact, when she was in middle school and had to choose between ski racing and dance, she quit the race team. Classical ballet, jazz, ballroom, country-western; Engerbretson has done it all. In fact, “Boot Over Brim” was inspired by a few nights at the Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, when Engerbretson and her dad were kicked out after throwing a series of aerial moves. The bouncer grabbed them, shouted “No boots over brim!” and promptly tossed them out.
This short film produced by Sweetgrass Productions, highlights the connection between the rhythm and grace of big mountain skiing and country western dance, a part of Engerbretson’s life that she’s excited to finally have the chance to share. “When I was a little girl this would have been my dream project,” she says. “But I never would have dreamed of putting this out there until now. The box of what it means to be a skier, especially a female skier, is changing and it’s really exciting to get the chance to work on something so creative.”
Madison Ostergren and Iz La Motte teamed up to create “Fuel,” a short film that puts a personal and creative spin on some dreamy ski segments shot in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Shot in the backcountry in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon and inbounds at Alta, Fuel features a variety of terrain, from backflips in the backcountry to pow segments, and railing fast groomers. But the story is about more than the young skier’s ripping capabilities; Ostergren wanted to showcase her quirky and creative side and talk about the importance of acceptance. “When I was young I always felt encouraged to fit into these molds; do this, act like this, wear this. I followed what other people told me to do for so long and it was really unfulfilling,” she says. “With this movie I wanted to embrace who I really was and show people that you can be whoever you want to be.”
Ostergren says the goal was to showcase both her and La Motte’s creative sides and bring in as many women as they could. “It was so cool to be surrounded by so many badass female skiers throughout the project.” In addition to La Motte directing and shooting, Ostergren was joined by her former college teammates Anna Marno and Megan Dingman and the film’s color editor is Brooke Sweeney. “There’s just a lot of female empowerment going on and it was really awesome,” she says.
“High Points: The Bicentennial Project”
When Christy Mahon became the first woman to ski all of Colorado’s 14ers in 2010, she was just getting started. High Points: The Bicentennial Project, is a short film about Mahon’s seemingly never-ending list of Colorado ski mountaineering objectives, which now includes the state’s 200 highest peaks. In 2016 Mahon, her husband Ted Mahon, and Chris Davenport became the first people to ski the 100 highest peaks in Colorado, earning them each a nomination for National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year award. Then she added 100 more. Though Mahon’s ski mountaineering resume is stacked with ski lines some might think are impossible, she talks about how challenging herself has shown her what she’s truly capable of, and despite her monumental accomplishments, being an athlete isn’t without its insecurities. Plus, she’s skied all these peaks while working a 9 to 5 job, an impressive feat all on its own.
Bonus entry! Don’t miss the legendary Rachel Burks and up-and-comer, Megan Dingman, in their short webisode “Open Doors.” This won’t be the last you’ll hear from either of them, that’s for certain.