This series, Women In Freeskiing is simply that. Three influential women in freeskiing, talking about “women in freeskiing”. I am not a woman. I listened to what Ingrid Backstrom, Coline Ballet-Baz, and Sarah Hoefflin had to say and transcribed it for you. This week Ingrid talks about how things have changed since she broke through in the early 2000s:

“I’m super impressed by women in freeskiing in 2021. There are more outlets for women to get out there and express themselves.”

There are more outlets for women to express themselves, whether it’s through social media or different movies and contests. There are more women charging harder than ever, so I think this is a really exciting time for women in skiing. It’s already changed a lot and there’s a lot of really impressive talent out there and it’s just going to continue to grow and expand more.

Back in 2004, when I broke through with my part in Yearbook, then there just weren’t as many women doing it and not as many opportunities. Sarah Burke and I were in Yearbook, and usually, there was one woman in a Matchstick movie and maybe one in a TGR movie. It really seemed like there were only a couple of spots.

Those were really your only chances, other than that you could be a ski model. There were women in Warren Miller too, but back then the prevailing attitude in the industry was still; they wanted women to look good and sell the ‘feminine side of skiing. It was more marketing appeal and less about women as athletes. There are definitely exceptions and a lot of women were taken very seriously, but in general, the prevailing attitude was about what they looked like, in the industry as a whole.

Ingrid (reflected in the window) taking a photo of two freeski icons; Sarah Burke and CR Johnson

“Sarah Burke was absolutely incredible. There’s no doubt that she was one of the biggest influences on women’s freeskiing, in every aspect of it.”

She just pushed so hard. On a personal level, she pushed herself, but she also pushed the whole industry. She did it in a way that was really true to who she was, just such a kind person who was only doing it for the good of everyone. She didn’t have a selfish bone in her body. She was super-competitive, but there’s a difference between being competitive and selfish and she was not selfish. She competed because she believed in healthy competition, a good competition making everybody better and raising everyone’s level up. In the way that she only wanted the good for everyone, like if someone beat her, she just wanted everyone to do good, because she believed that women had so much more to offer than what was being shown. She really showed what was possible to so many people and I think she’d be incredibly impressed with the state of freeskiing in 2021. I know that she’d be out there pushing it and pushing herself, in so many ways.

“I’ve heard ‘Oh you’re behind the rest of the world in equality’ from other sports”

I think that’s mainly people who are vocal on the internet, are a certain type of person who’s maybe insecure and needs to take down people on the internet, in order to feel better about themselves. I don’t think it’s just skiing, it’s a lot of sports. I think that skiing is an old sport, it’s one of the older action sports. The longer something is around, the longer it takes to change. Snowboarding, for example, is a newer sport and it’s more subversive by nature. Same with skateboarding and the same with surfing, they’ve been around for a long time, but the culture is newer —in a lot of ways—around those sports.

With freeskiing and skiing in general, it’s just been done the same way for a long time and that takes a while to change. I always say, most men can say: “my grandfather had a chance to ski”, but not a lot of women can say their grandmas skied that much. It's not just women, anyone needs a role model and a strong presence to look up to and that hasn't always been the case for women. I think that’s really starting to change in skiing too, but it takes a while.

Ingrid in her natural habitat; Alaska. Credit:Taylor Boyd/Approach film

The thing that makes the biggest impact for skiing is if people can remove their preconceived set rules of how things should be.

I really like what I’m seeing in women’s skiing right now; people are saying ‘’I can make that or do that myself, I don’t have to sit around and wait for those other opportunities to come up.’

When people start to take that initiative, that’s when things really change. Rather than sitting around and arguing about it on the internet, if people just go and do it, that’s the best and I think it’s really encouraging. Right now, women are making their own stuff. It’s creative and different and it's amazing.