The 11th Spot
We are all, in some ways, guilty of gender bias and media plays as large a role as any in how women are perceived in sports.
In one of the best of this year’s ski films, “The Collective,” Faction Skis flew an international
roster of nine A-list women freeskiers (with 58 pro-level medals among them) to Switzerland to film. The segment featured Faction skiers Olympian Caroline Claire (a recent grad of Stratton Mountain School), Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hoefflin, X Games gold medalist Mathilde Gremaud, Kelly Sildaru and a few others. They appear alongside 2019 World Cup slopestyle champion Mac Forehand (a current Stratton Mountain School student), Will Berman and other top male skiers. (You can watch the full feature film at the bottom of this page.)
“The Collective” is in sharp contrast to Matchstick Productions’ 2019 release. Matchstick, one of the best-known producers of ski films, earned resounding cheers on social media for featuring extreme skiers Angel Collinson, Tatum Monod and Elyse Saugstad alongside its male stars in “All In,” its 2018 film. But in 2019, many of those cheers turned to boos when it released its 26th feature film “Return to Send’E r,” featuring 11 male athletes and not one woman.
Level 1, the film company which lists Stowe native Freedle Coty on its masthead released “Romance” with a roster of athletes that included Chris Logan, brother of Olympic medalist freeskier Devin Logan, but again, not one woman. Level 1’s roster of “current athletes” features 34 men and not one woman.
On April 6, Level 1’s popular “Super UnKnown” talent-search contest returns to Mount Snow’s Carinthia Parks and addresses that. Sort of.
As the Level 1 website states: “Level 1 will be awarding 11 spots to the Finals this year, hand-selecting 9 of our top picks and filling the 10th spot with the winner of the Wild Card Poll as we have in the past. The 11th spot will be awarded to the winner of the Women’s category, to the most talented and deserving female in the qualifying field.”
The 11th spot?
Green Circle Girl
While it may be easy to look to media, governing bodies, manufacturers, ski areas and others to help bring gender equality to snow sports, until skiers and riders themselves address what is often unwitting bias, the 60/40 ratio of men to women on the slopes is unlikely to change.
The Facebook group Ski The East (related to, but not moderated by, the film and apparel company of the same name), has close to 20,000 members—people who weigh in on anything and everything related to skiing and riding from West Virginia to Canada.
Stuart Winchester of The Storm Skiing Journal podcast recently wrote about the group in a tongue-in-cheek post titled, “The 10 People You Meet on The Ski the East Facebook Page.”
Winchester’s caricatures included the “Everybody’s-a-Jerry-Guy,” the “Vail Sucks Guy” and the “Looking-for-Advice-But-Not-Really Guy.” There was only one female on the list: “Green Circle Girl.”
“Solid Green Circle Girl just skied for the first time at Mohawk Mountain, and she’s found her new obsession. Unlike the other archetypes here, everyone loves Solid Green Circle Girl. She is obsessed with what we are all obsessed with and wants to get better at it, but literally knows nothing, so she makes everyone feel useful. What do I wear? Where do I ski? How do I improve? Solid Green Circle Girl is everything that the Ski The East Facebook group is not: sweet, sincere, earnest, kind. Even the most cynical Everybody’s-A-Jerry Guy likes Solid Green Circle Girl, because even he knows that our sport needs new people loving it to survive.”
“What would you say to the author of that post?” I asked Kaitlyn Fowle, the head of ski patrol at Bolton Valley Resort and a 13-year ski patrol veteran.
Her reaction was midstation between a smirk and a smile. She thought for a second and then said, “I’d ask the guy who wrote that to come ski with me.”
The Collective | Faction Skis
Featured Photo: Kristi Brown Lovell charges off Mt. Mansfield for the cover of Vermont Ski + Ride. Photo by Nils Schlebusch
Equal Risk, Equal Pay
In January, the World Freeride Tour—the largest international extreme skiing/riding tour—announced it would start offering equal prize money for women and for men in 2020. “This is huge,” said Darian Boyle, the 2000 Women’s Extreme World Champion who now coaches the Sugarbush Bush Pilots program. “Back when I was competing, the prize money for women was maybe $2000 while guys would be getting something like $10,000. I competed because I loved it but women were taking all the same risks, doing the same travel and pushing themselves as hard as men and not getting nearly the same support. It’s great to see this change. Women have worked hard and we’ve earned it. Today, you’ll see someone charging these huge Alaskan lines and you don’t know if it’s a woman or a man, the level is that high.” Here, Boyle cuts loose on her home turf off Sugarbush’s Lincoln Peak.