The all-female ski film by Lynsey Dyer, Pretty Faces, has taken crowds all over the West for a wild ride inspiring ski stoke, and yes, pow-envy. Featuring steep Alaskan spines, fluffy pow pillows, backcountry bliss, heli heaven, and a chick on a sled who sends it so absurdly she should be cast in the next Tarantino movie, the film killed it as far as pre-season ski flicks go. Despite the standing ovations, hoots and hollers, and the palpable ecstasy among the crowd dreaming of skiing similar lines, Pretty Faces was more than just another pre-season pump-up.
The film’s title, Pretty Faces, is an obvious double entendre, showcasing these ladies’ shredding ‘pretty mountain faces’ while sending the message that each of them is more than “just a pretty face.” (And, yes, they are all gorgeous and savvy and incredibly talented and just plain badass). In relation to how the title’s irony landed within the industry, Dyer says, “It definitely caused a lot of chatter…but it’s controversy and that’s what gets people fired up and starts the conversation. I think it’s a conversation that needs to happen.” In the world of ski films, men dominate leading roles, with the occasional cameo by a skier chick “who can keep up with the guys.” Last season only 14 percent of athletes in major ski films were female—a record high, and up 9 percent from the previous season. Moving in the right direction, but still out of balance.
So Sun Valley-raised, and now Jackson-based pro big-mountain skier, co-founder of SheJumps, and all-around kick-ass chick, Lynsey Dyer was compelled to make this all-female ski film after years of being in the ski industry and watching women get the gloss over.
When I caught up with Lynsey, which is hard to do, she had just boarded a plane en route to the next premiere. But before the flight attendant orders Lynsey to shut her phone off, I ask her why women are consistently overlooked in the ski industry. She says, “No one has ever really tried to speak directly or consistently to women in the industry. Women are incredibly dynamic—they are featured in marketing campaigns all the time—but no one has really put the effort into reaching women on a different level.” While women are featured in countless ads (they do, after all, buy ski stuff), smiling with glossy lips beneath cute beanies, they are not necessarily cast to feature their talent. They are mostly portrayed in passive, stationary poses rather than sending it off Jackson Hole’s notorious ‘Fat Bastard’ cliff.
The ski industry was supportive of the film being made, but not in a financial way. No loot was handed over for the film’s production beyond existing equipment sponsorships. But, according to Dyer, the film was about making one’s own luck, so she recruited a talented team of die-hard skier chicks and filmmakers, and turned to Kickstarter for financial backing. As if the film weren’t barrier-breaking enough, it was also the first crowdsourced and crowdfunded all-female ski documentary. Dyer says, “My favorite part of filming was being able to give a lot of these ladies their first phone call to be in a ski film. It was awesome because these girls were chosen based on their talent alone, and they genuinely deserved this opportunity. We didn’t choose based on who was most marketable. And it was an opportunity I never really had growing up, so to be able to give someone else that opportunity was so surreal.”
Let’s face it—unless you want your 13-year-old in a mini-skirt twerking like Miley, mainstream media doesn’t offer many accessible role models for young girls. “One of the reasons I wanted to make the film,” says Dyer, “was that I wanted to show all the other aspects of what it means to be a woman that are neglected by mainstream media, and to get women to lighten up, embrace themselves for all that they are, and remind women they don’t have to fit mainstream media’s mold.” You don’t see these girls dolled up for an interview, but behind GoPros sweating, dropping in, and sending it.
Apart from giving these ladies a long-overdue platform to share their talent with the world, Dyer also wanted to make a film that inspires young girls to pursue their on- and off-mountain passions. Sure, the film focuses on impressive on-hill triumphs, but the off-mountain challenges, and the ways the ladies of the film meet those challenges, are important parts of the story.
And Dyer’s biggest on-mountain lesson? She recalls, “From a such a young age, I remember wanting to go so, so, so fast and thinking it was impossible. But I also remember what it felt like to finally go that fast and how I felt so free when I finally did it. I never would have had that feeling without skiing, and that sense of freedom has translated to the rest of my life. It reminds me, and hopefully other young girls, there’s so much more to life than worrying about whether or not the boys like you, or the newest Snapchat. Achieving—whether on skis or with something else—is a tremendous source of confidence.”
The confidence Dyer has acquired because of her experiences on skis is clearly responsible for her off-mountain successes. When I ask her about the scariest thing she’s ever done on-mountain, Dyer says, “Four years ago, I was the first girl to jump off Jackson Hole’s notorious ‘Fat Bastard’ cliff, which has killed a few guys in the past, but I trained for it, and I survived. Since I did it, six other girls have done it. It’s another example of what it means to set a goal and go further than you thought you could.” And in regards to the scariest off-mountain thing she’s done, she replies, “Making this film for sure. I was in way over my head, and had never done anything like this, but it was the confidence I gained from skiing that allowed me to do it.”
Pretty Faces celebrates these chicks who rip, but it’s not about beating the boys, and it certainly isn’t some on-snow battle of the sexes. This film shows how much these ladies have enriched their lives by following their dreams. This film and the skiers’ authentic reflections about their hard work and determination is part of a much larger picture—Dyer’s ideal vision for women in the ski industry. “I hope films reflect the fun you can have skiing, and skiers pushing each other to take it to the next level despite being a guy or girl. It used to be an insult to hear that you ‘ski like a girl,’ I want it to be the highest sort of compliment.”
Meet the Sun Valley Chicks Who Rip
When Sun Valley-born and -raised McKenna isn’t competing on the Freeskiing World Tour, she is commercial fishing in Alaska to fund her ski addiction. In the spring of 2014—with a decade of backcountry skiing under her belt—McKenna took part in the “Shifting Ice / Changing Tides” female-led ski and sail expedition to Greenland and Iceland that documented the recession of glaciers and promoted women’s participation in snow sport adventures.
What is your ideal vision for the future of women in the skiing industry?
It would be nice to see a bigger representation of women in ski media. There are so many ladies out there who are skiing really, really well. Getting the chance to watch these women ski has inspired me in all facets of my life and giving them a larger stage has the potential to inspire countless young women to follow their dreams and live happy, healthy lives.
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Last spring I completed a 6-day open water crossing from Iceland to Greenland on a sailboat (in order to access skiing). We were caught in a pretty big storm for 30 hours; it was definitely the most frightened I have ever been.
What has been your biggest on-mountain lesson learned?
The biggest lesson I have learned is to trust my intuition. Distinguishing the difference between my intuition and fear is something that I am always conscious of—on and off the mountain. It is important to know when to go for it and when to step away, in all aspects of life.
Best advice given to you was?
My favorite piece of advice is from Rachael Burks who told me, “When you are getting ready to jump off of a cliff, find where you are comfortable dropping in and then take three steps higher.” This mentality can apply to many different situations.
Any dirt on any of the ladies during filming?
We were randomly talking about tattoos one day and Lexi duPont mentioned that her boyfriend had “believe” tattooed on his shoulder. Another girl asked, “Believe in what?” Lex responded…“In cursive.”
Biggest on-hill accomplishment(s)?
My biggest accomplishment was a first descent that I skied in Iceland last year. I was initially very intimidated by the line and the far-from-ideal conditions. After checking the conditions again and finding them more favorable than I initially thought, I dropped in and fear immediately turned to excitement.
She may be small, but she’s got spunk. Having grown up ski racing in Sun Valley, Lexi turned to big mountain skiing in 2009 (thanks to her hometown friend McKenna Peterson), podiumed, and never looked back. With an impressive slew of on-screen segments and as a part of the Eddie Bauer / First Ascent development team, Lexi is living and breathing backcountry adventure. If Lex isn’t chasing pow around the globe with the best of the best, she’s training in Alaska or Revelstoke. The middle of three girls, Lexi learned the importance of never taking herself too seriously. But do not, whatever you do, get in between her and a first descent.
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
This may sound crazy with all the big mountains I have skied, but I think the scariest thing I have ever done was walking through this monkey forest in Bali. Those monkeys are so unpredictable and could snatch your stuff when you least expect it. I kept thinking they were going to jump on my head and claw my eyeballs out.
What has been your biggest on-mountain lesson learned?
When to say no. There are so many factors that play into skiing big mountains, whether it’s knowing the history of a place—the snowpack profiles and slide history—or elements of the present such as group dynamics, weather, and personal confidence. Sometimes you get lucky and they all come together. But sometimes something may feel a little bit off and that small hint of doubt could be the deciding factor that could save your life. Some people can sum it up as being “in tune with your surroundings,” but it’s so much more than that and nearly impossible to master.
Can’t live without?
I can’t live without my skis, duh! My K2 Remedy 112s are the loves of my life, and we do everything together!!
Best advice given to you was?
“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”—Zach Crist, legendary skier and my soon-to-be brother-in-law.
Do you have a pump-up ritual?
I used to listen to heavy death metal when I competed, but I would get too pumped up and crash, so now I listen to reggae.
What are you thinking about when you are sailing through the air off a cliff?
I relax and then think to myself I’m gonna STOMP
the piss outta this thing—
it’s like flying!
What is or has been your biggest motivation to push yourself in skiing?
Other girls. There are so many amazing female skiers, and every time I see one of them do something crazy or beautiful, I want to do it too.
Any favorite stories from making this film?
Any time I get to ski with my idols—it’s huge. But one moment that sticks out was in Crested Butte last winter when we went up to the Irwin Cat Lodge with The Eleven Experience and I had the opportunity to ski with Wendy Fisher—the Original Goddess of women’s big mountain skiing—Rachael Burks—the biggest hucker and funniest bitty around—Pip Hunt, the most consistent competitive skier to date—and Tatum Monod—the young-gun with more fire than anyone. Irwin built us a road gap and we all hucked big ol’ spread eagles over the cat. They were bumping Biggie out of the cat and shuttling us around on sleds. When someone went up to jump the rest of us would stand under the jump and dance, and we took turns doing this for a few hours. It was great.