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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY: CELEBRATING INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN ON THE SLOPES


The theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceForBetter. Balance isn’t just an essential skill for any snowsports enthusiast: it’s also better for everyone when it’s achieved between genders in skiing and boarding. To celebrate IWD and the push for balance, we’ve spoken to three inspirational women in skiing and boarding about the expanding opportunities for women in the industry right now, closing the gap, and the future of female Snowsports.

MELISSA BRANDNER

Melissa is currently studying for a PhD in marine biology, whilst competing on snowboard in the Freeride World Qualifiers and producing split-board films with fellow athlete Manuela Mandl. 

What does being a woman in snowsports mean to you?

I feel privileged to be a part of the community. The female snowboarding community isn’t huge, but it’s friendly, fierce and rapidly growing. I feel that it is my job to inspire more women to join; Manuela and I want to show more female freeriders in our film projects because females deserve equal exposure in films. Also, I have to play a part in raising the level of female snowsports, because I think we have huge potential for progression. I am really proud to be a female snowsports athlete right now!

How do you think we can encourage more women to get involved in snowsports at a competitive or professional level?

Competing in freeriding as a woman is different to the men’s sport. There are not as many of us and we are not at the same level, even though I know we have the potential to be (I’ve seen plenty of rad chicks in the mountains). The first year that I competed in Norway we had vastly different prize money, but I am happy to say that last year both genders were paid equally. However, at an international level we still have a way to go - we don’t even have an equal number of starting spots for males and females in freeriding. Making women feel equal to men would be a great first step. It’s hard to enter a competitive sport knowing that, as a female, you could never make a career out of it. As an athlete who works a full-time job alongside training and competing, I know how stressful it is to find a balance and keep motivated. We as females need to support each other, praise women when they inspire us in sports and give top female athletes as much attention as males for their athletic abilities.  

What direction do you see female snow sports taking in the future?

I think women are stepping up every day and the progression right now is insane. Watching Anna Gasser land back to back doubles and triples is incredible. This year, Hedwig Wessel was the first female to land a backflip on the Freeride World Tour, and have you seen how incredibly stylish and talented Mia Brookes is?! It’s truly inspirational to see her progression. I see gender being irrelevant in the future of snow sports and I hope that more women will push themselves, like all of us out there competing are doing.

AMY MARWICK

Amy is a full cert ski instructor and freeskier living in Scotland. She has competed in Freeride World Qualifying comps in Scotland, Europe and New Zealand and now coaches for British Freeride juniors. She teaches skiing through the winter in the French Alps and works with Glenmore Lodge in Scotland, whilst also running skiing and yoga retreats with her own company Yoyosno. 

What does being a woman in snowsports mean to you?

I think being a female in the industry right now is a great thing, we are getting a lot of recognition and respect. There are lots of opportunities for women, but I think sometimes we can be put off by believing the industry in male dominated and exclusively so. In my experience, most of the men I have worked and skied with have been nothing but encouraging and always spoken to me as an equal. 

How do you think we can encourage more women to get involved in snowsports at a competitive or professional level?

I think by more women stepping up to take on roles as trainers, assessors, coaches and instructors, others can visualise themselves in that role and maybe think actually, I could do that too. 

What direction do you see female snow sports taking in the future?

I’m not completely sure but I think female athletes will be closing the gap and stepping up their game in terms of what they can achieve on skis or snowboards. The equipment available for women is getting better and better. I am writing this from the SIGB Ski Test in Pila and have been testing out some brilliant women-specific equipment designed for shredding at full gas... the years of shrink and pink are waning.

EMILY SARSFIELD

Emily ‘EmSkiCross’ is Britain’s top Ski Cross athlete, making history in 2010 being the first British female to win a Europa Cup Ski event and representing Team GB at the 2018 Olympic Games in Peyongchang.

What does being a woman in snowsports mean to you?

I love being an athlete, the chance to push my body to the next level to see what it can do is weirdly exciting. The reward you get after the grueling training sessions, the opportunity to travel the world and see some amazing places, meet some awesome people and make lifelong friendships. 

 

Being in an extreme sport like ski cross can have its risks but the rewards definitely outweigh them. I’ve been involved in ski cross for over 10 years, from its early days, and been part of its ever-changing movement. It’s been great to be part of this and carve a way in the UK for this amazing sport. Becoming a role model and inspiring other keen skiers and ski cross athletes is pretty special and something I’m proud of!

How do you think we can encourage more women to get involved in snowsports at a competitive or professional level?

When I was younger, my older sister Victoria and I joined a dry ski slope and week in, week out, we would practice our skills with friends at the club...I would definitely recommend a UK ski club to any one!

 

There are undoubtedly more barriers for women in snowsports than men but this doesn’t have to discourage anyone. There are opportunities out there for women to enjoy, for example in the winter I run a ladies-only ‘Ski & Yoga Retreat’ in Méribel with The BaseCamp Group. It’s amazing to get a group of girls together, enjoying the mountains, sharing experiences and teaching them new skills!

What direction do you see female snow sports taking in the future?

We have some great British talent at the moment and after the success of Jenny [Jones] in 2014 winning her bronze medal in the Snowboard slopestyle we are seeing more and more girls get involved. The future is definitely bright for UK Snowsports and the females!