On the eve of Women’s Halfpipe skiing taking centre stage at the Olympics, another shift is happening in the world of skiing. Amidst a sport that is ever growing, we see change often enough, but from time to time there are bigger shifts… events that place a marker in the timeline and send us flying into a new era. Female skiers are stealing people’s attention left right and center, showing with fierce power how much they deserve a larger spotlight, and that’s just what we’re beginning to get. With events like Skiercross and Ski Jumping finally including a women’s division in the Olympics, along with Slopestyle and Halfpipe for both men and women, a lot is happening in the industry.

Strength is beauty and the ladies of freeskiing are embodying that more than ever. – Sierra Quitiquit

Zoya Lynch, professional skier, photographer, and adovcate for Women’s Ski Jumping’s inclusion in the Olympics.

Zoya Lynch knows all about working hard for a larger women’s spot in the ski world. An accomplished photographer, she recently scored herself 1st place in Whistler Blackcomb’s Deep Winter Photo Challenge. After growing up in Calgary Alberta, Lynch has relocated to the powder heaven of Revelstoke BC. Before the move, she took part in a strong campaign to have Women’s Ski Jumping in Vancouver’s Olympics; A dream that ultimately did not transpire, but paved the way for the 2014 installment of the Games to accept the sport.

Looking back to Calgary a few years ago, were there any female athletes that inspired you to join the campaign to get women’s ski jumping into the Olympic games?

Zoya Lynch: I was really inspired by the USA Women’s Ski Jumping Team. The girls were very outspoken and not afraid to stand up to the IOC. I quickly got on board and we fought for our rights as an international team.

Two-time X Games gold medalist Jen Hudak

It’s the girls’ turn to shine; the world will love and respect them. – Jen Hudak

 It may be better our time was pushed until the 2014 Games, as Jen Hudak points out. “The gaps have filled in between the women at the top and the women are still climbing the ropes. Our debut now will be much more well received than it would have in 2010.”Strides have been made within X Games and the Dew Tour as well. When the female portion of Dew Tour was nearly cut, together, with help from Paul Mitchell, the girls showed why they deserved a place in the competition, thus securing their place for future years.

Professional skier and model Sierra Quitiquit

Skiing is the most fun thing in the entire world. If I have any hope in winning a gold medal at the world championship of fun then I’m going to have to keep skiing. – Sierra Quitiquit

 A strong connection between successful people has always been stories of mentorship and the inspiration received throughout their journeys. Even in a sport where many professionals try to step away from the role of mentor, there are still lots to be found, and it seems ladies have no trouble sharing with those who ask. From the young guns to the veterans, those who are on the forefront seem more concerned for progress across the board then their own success. Lynsey Dyer’s project ‘Pretty Faces’ showcases just that, great athletes getting together to showcase their outstanding talents in an all-female environment, while also having an absolute blast during the experience. Sierra Quitiquit has a wise outlook towards her own role models in the ski industry, and as she says below, it can be a wonderful thing when your mentors also become your friends.

Has there been any moments in women’s skiing that stood out for you, perhaps when you were younger that made you say “I want to be like them, I want to be that good.”

Sierra Quitiquit: When I was a young ski racer Julia Mancuso was my idol. She was always so fast and I wanted to be just like her. Now that we’re friends nothing has really changed, I still want to be like Julia when I grow up. She is an incredibly talented athlete and has more fun than anyone else on the mountain, to me that’s a winner.

Zoya Lynch

Most people look close to home for inspirational figures, mentors they can interact with, fellow kindred spirits. Creating a close link to outstanding people to better push themselves. In comparison, ‘Pretty Faces’ embodies a grander scale of just that. For the women of skiing, the sport is not a pissing contest; they get together pushing the sport as a whole, encouraging and sharing with every step forward. Lynch has been around strong influences since the beginning; from her family to the friends that surround her. She shows the power a phenomenal circle of friends and mentors can have.

Moving to Revelstoke and picking up your camera, you’ve taken a large step into big mountain skiing. Was there any female influence that inspired you to excel in this new area?

Zoya Lynch: My life in the mountains has been strongly influenced by lots of different females in the ski industry. My sister Izzy has pushed me as a skier and encouraged me to pursue photography. Leah Evans gave me my first paid photography job with her company Girls Do Ski, and has continued to employ me for the past four years. Kitt Redhead and Christina Lusti are two ski guides that have passed on super valuable mountain knowledge and backcountry skills. Robin O’neill is my main photography mentor.

It’s important to not underestimate the ladies’ drive simply because they’re friendly; self-discipline plays a big role in their focus. Skiing is such a creative sport that it leaves us with endless areas to improve, hit goals and create new ones. Self-motivation and a true love for the snow is often enough it seems, for the ladies to stay on top of things mentally. Staying on point physically, however, is another story; one where girls often feel the lash out that ‘you just can’t cut it’. It is this uphill battle that women have most publicly faced within skiing. From onlookers saying our bodies simply can’t handle the forces of ski jumping, to the lack of competition creating a less aggressive circuit advancing the physical achievements. Whatever your standpoint on the ability of women, it may be worthwhile to reference history before assuming any capabilities. Within the recent history of running women have proved themselves against science. Prior to the 1980’s they were banned from marathons. The reason? If a woman were to run over 26 miles it was believed she would tear her uterus. We may not have barrios to the same extreme today, but the generalization that girls are less capable than men is still very much alive.

Jen Hudak. Photo by Matt Morning / ESPN Images

Competitive circuits may have a smaller involvement from the ladies, but it’s still a playing field helping professionals live their dreams. Jen Hudak discussed the impact competition can have on a career when sponsorships are unable to help with basic financial needs.

You have a strong voice for females in today’s ski world, and personally know a great deal more female professionals than the average skier. Being immersed in that world, what type of events do you notice tend to catch the spotlight the most for the ladies?

Jen Hudak: I’ve noticed that in order to financially be able to do this sport as a female, the contest route is the most appealing. It is so challenging to find the support from sponsors and contests give you the opportunity to make money from prize winnings if you’re not making money from sponsors. There is more and more support every year from companies within skiing wanting to support females, but there are also more and more women every year fighting over those resources. The biggest events now are X Games, Dew Tour and Grand Prix – and the Olympics of course, but that’s an entirely different topic. These events, especially X Games and Dew Tour, have a lot of media presence and exposure – as an athlete, you want to do well here, but that is the same for men and women.

12-year-old freeskiing phenom Kelly Sildaru

Athletes in our lifestyle look to the mountains with joy oozing from every pore, as you must when your life is based around a physical sport that can be hard to survive off. It doesn’t matter if you grew up on the grand slopes of Whistler, or like Kelly Sildaru, who calls a hill in Estonia no bigger then Andreas Hatveit’s backyard park home. When you find something to love as passionately as most skiers do, a little thing like location will not diminish your joys.

Fear is your worst enemy. The only way to beat it is to fight it, not let it take over you. – Kelly Sildaru

The gals of today are upbeat, accomplished athletes taking our sport in a marvelous direction. A healthy mix of dedicated focus, serious outlooks and a humbled sense of humour is what we have leading our sport. A great group of ladies are guiding us into the future, women like Quitiquit who will take creative liberties in an interview to add the fact if she could be any animal: “I [would] be a puppy that always stays a puppy and never grows up. I would play in the snow and cuddle all day.” Veterans like Hudak who are so keen on the talent pool and always eager to speak out about the brilliance in all the ladies of skiing. The multi-talented folks like Lynch, showing such an adaptable skill set, to the next generation with Sildaru leading the way, a girl who is wise beyond her years and impressively focused. This is to simply name a few; some of the accomplished figures who are accompanied by an endlessly growing gang of talented ladies.

Skiing is the most fun thing in the entire world. If I have any hope in winning a gold medal at the world championship of fun then I’m going to have to keep skiing. – Sierra Quitiquit

Women have a lot to be proud of with all that has happened in recent years. Shaking up the scene in what has always been a man’s world, we may differ in career decisions, but the skiing is what will strongly influence our reputation for the future. Keep your eyes on the Games, as we have a great world introduction in many events and it may just be the catalyst for a brighter, more equal career path between the sexes.

#CelebrateSarah