All Photos by Rogue Otter Studios
Women’s freeskiing has been progressing very fast, I’d say for the last five/six years, even before that. I think we’re on a different curve of progression now, a steep learning curve.
It’s getting much harder and progressive. We’re seeing a lot of girls throwing doubles now. That’s something we didn’t really see until the last three or four years.
It’s really exciting, not only for the girls who are taking part but also for the viewers. I think before, there was always a bit of a stigma about women’s freeskiing because it was such a long way away from the men’s level. I think now we’re really seeing the girls stepping it up and making it really interesting for the public to join in, watch it and that’s really exciting for me and all the girls to be a part of this progression.
Of course, the women’s level is still below the men’s, but I think it’s more interesting to watch, to the layperson.
I think our tricks, being that little bit more simple, just makes the sport a bit more comprehensible. Sometimes, I think watching the boys, especially in big air contests, you just have no idea what’s going on, because all the tricks look the same. It’s just spinning and it looks like tornadoes coming out of the sky, which is super cool, it’s so complicated and they’re such difficult tricks. I just think sometimes the public doesn’t even understand —even myself as a pro skier—I’m not even sure if the boys have gone switch or forward. That just makes it really hard for someone to follow the sport and maintain interest, when you have no idea why someone has had such a high score when someone you thought was really impressive had a low one. In that respect, I think women’s freeskiing is a bit more interesting because it’s easier to tell the difference and appreciate what’s happening.
At the end of the day, it’s a sport that, yes we do it for ourselves, but it’s for the public to watch, to appreciate and to enjoy. We’re entertainers, so it’s important for the public to be able to engage with our sport.
For a newcomer to participate, it’s maybe a little bit more difficult. I think one of the reasons that I, personally, got into freeskiing and had success competing, so late in my life, is that the level was still attainable. Now I think it’s a lot harder, so I think if I were 20 now, with no experience in freeskiing, it would be a lot harder for me to catch up.
There’s still a big difference between the level of the girls and the boys. Especially at a young/early level. I think it’s important to remember, that when you’re starting out freeskiing, you do need to keep it safe.
I think girls, as well as boys, need that little bit of experience in order for a jump or competition to be safe for them.
I think expecting young, inexperienced girls to perform under very difficult conditions can sometimes be unsafe. I really think that at that early level, it seems to me that girls struggle more with things like speed and landing safely. We see more crashes with girls than boys, when the conditions are difficult. It’s still important to realise that there is that difference and when you have girls who are new to the sport, we need to respect that they may not be good enough yet to perform under difficult conditions.
For professional girls, who ski all the time, I think it’s reasonable to carry on in poorer conditions. It’s not so much that it’s boys and girls, it’s more that the younger generation maybe doesn’t have the right experience.
Maybe some people still think action sports aren’t really something a girl should be doing!
I think that’s a huge consideration, as to why the level of women’s sport is not always as good as the men’s.
I really do believe that young girls aren’t as encouraged, at a young age, to do more dangerous or more adventurous sports. I think that’s a societal issue. We just live in a society where ‘we need to protect the girls more’, we don’t really believe that they’re capable of doing difficult tricks or we’re more scared that the girls are going to get injured. I think that’s the reason girls get held back, but we’ve seen from girls that have been encouraged, from a young age, where parents/coaches have just not treated them differently because they’re girls, those girls have managed to get to a very high level.
I think that if we can start changing as a society and realise that girls are capable of pushing themselves, and if they get hurt, it’s no worse than a little boy getting hurt, then we’ll start seeing more equality across the sport.
Sarah showing off her Olympic Gold Medal with fellow Swiss, Silver-medalist; Mathilde Gremaud
I think that change is happening. I think there’s a big movement on equality across the genders.
I think it’s a push that we’ll keep seeing throughout the coming generations. It’s not something that you can just change overnight.
That change is exactly what we were talking about, we’re realising that younger girls or just girls, in general, are able to do what the guys are able to. Therefore, we shouldn’t necessarily hold back. Maybe we can expect more of the girls?
There is still a difference between the men and the women, I’m not saying that men and women will be equal across the sport, I don’t think that’s possible, because it also has to do with our bodies and physicality. We can definitely try and reach a point where things are more equal, and I think we’re getting there. We’re seeing a lot more girls taking up the sport and we also have a lot more female role models. I think once you have a few girls doing doubles, then the younger girls can see that it’s possible. The coaches and the parents can see that too and let the girls try more difficult tricks. I think that’s why we’re seeing such a big progression.
That’s it for the series, but keep the convo going in the comments, forums and on the mountain.