We Want You!
Women’s freeskiing is currently experiencing explosive growth. With increases in the number of participants at major competitions and retail sales of female specific equipment, ski companies are now taking a more dedicated approach to the female market. Most ski manufacturers now have a women’s specific twin-tip ski as part of their line, and a dedication to developing their women’s product. Skis with shorter lengths, lighter weights, and forgiving flex are making the introduction to freestyle skiing a lot easier for most girls. But surrounding that is an overwhelming growth in freeskiing in general. This year, events that previously struggled to muster enough competitors for a female division found themselves turning away girls. The inaugural Queens Cup Open, the first ever girls-only slopestyle event, had to cut off entry at 80 girls, with demand overwhelming event organiser Anna De Masi, who admitted she would have been happy with 20 girls! The US Open in Vail only allows entry to 30 female competitors, and all spots had been filled within 10 minutes of online registration opening. But number of participants is not the only area that is experiencing massive growth. With the increase in the number of girls at a competitive level, the standard of women’s skiing has been pushed higher than ever before. This year saw 900’s becoming a minimum requirement to win a major comp, with some switch 9’s being landed by Kaya and Sarah at the Orage Masters in May. With scouts watching to determine whether female freeskiers should be allowed to compete in X Games slopestyle, the future is looking bright for the girls industry.
For many years the only female park skiers that were in the limelight were North Americans Kristi Leskinen and Sarah Burke, and they had to compete with the boys in order to get recognition. Now there is a wave of female talent coming through. Unlike men’s competition, where any one of 30 equally talented guys could win on the day, there seems to be a lot less pressure when the girls compete. I found that while the top guys remain very focused and keep to themselves on comp days, the girls are helping each other pick their runs, training together, and being a lot more vocal in their support of each other at the top of the course. There is a collective desire to see the bar raised at each event, almost regardless of who emerges the winner. This past Northern season saw local girls enjoying some well-earned international success. Pip Simmonds, who has signed to new ski company Liberty, posted a 10th place at the US Open Halfpipe. Whistler-based Cat Smiley placed 5th at the Apex World Cup Halfpipe and Amy Sheehan spent the season in Aspen, and destroyed local events before an injury put her on the sidelines. Across the Tasman, sisters Stephanie and Natalie Sirriani ruled the comps they made it to, with Natalie placing 5th in Slopestyle at the US Open for the 2nd year running and Stephanie placing 8th in the pipe. Natalie was also a member of the team that placed 2nd at the Queens Cup Open in Park City. I even managed to make it onto a couple of podiums with a 2nd at the Aspen Snowmass Open (held on the X Games slopestyle course) and 3rd at the European Freeskiing Open in Laax, Switzerland. This season some of the best girls in the world will be coming to New Zealand to spend their offseason honing their skills at SnowPark. X-Games competitors Michelle Parker, Marie MartinoldRoutin & Virginie Faivre, as well as new sensations Kaya Turski and Kim Lamarre will all make an appearance in August.
You don’t need to have been skiing all your life to get into the park. Other sports cross over easier than you think. The 2 most successful newcomers to the girls circuit this year were an ex diver and an inline skater. I thought I hated comps, but I ended up having a lot of fun this year, and competing is definitely the best way to push yourself to improve. But there is a distinct lack of young girls in New Zealand that are showing an interest in freeski comps. This year the SnowGirls program at SnowPark is expanding to include more camps, and more coaches. SnowPark has also created the Switch Academy to nurture the young local talent in the Wanaka Queenstown area, and educate them about the realities of being a competitive snowsports athlete. They will train every weekend of the season in a fun progressive environment, and hone their big mountain & park skills. Several local girls have already signed up for the season. Plus check out the GP Wednesdays (Girls Progression) at Remarkables/Queenstown.
But if you want to be a part of it all, the athletes are only the tip of the iceberg, and I will be the first to admit that it is a long, often painful road to succeeding as an athlete! The ski industry is comprised of many jobs behind the scenes: Photographers, filmers, editors, journalists, team managers, event organisers, sales representatives, designers – and as the industry grows, so too does demand for these jobs. You don’t really need any on-mountain skills to be a valid member of the ski community! Unlike traditional skiing, which was based on family holidays, alpine race events, and the solitary enjoyment of the sport, freeskiing is fueled by image, and therefore is completely dependent on the media. If we are to look at Snowboarding as a more mature example of a media-dependent sport, the biggest differences you will see are in the level of corporate support – at events, which are a lot bigger and generally have larger prize purses, and in advertising, resulting in more films, magazines, and TV adverts. As freeskiing slowly gains mainstream recognition, the demand for images and words is going to increase. And as womens freeskiing grows, so to will the opportunities for women in all areas of the ski industry. If you are a member of the ski club at school or uni, start writing stories about any trips you take or events you have. If you have photography skills, get out there on the hill and start taking photos. New Zealand magazines love any local content and are demanding more. If you are studying any type of design or business course and wondering what on earth you are going to do when you finish, look at the awesome ways people are using similar skills in the ski industry.
If there is one piece of advice I can give to someone on the outside of the ski industry looking to get in, it is that 99.99% of the available positions are never advertised. No one is going to give you a leg up, you need to ask for it. A lot of the time you just need to create a position for yourself, rather than waiting for one to appear. Contact companies that you might be interested in working for, ask your local ski area if they need promotional images taken, offer to submit regular articles to your local magazine or paper.
So if you’ve ever dreamt of turning your lifestyle into a career, the possibilities are endless, you just have to seek them out. If you do, however, want to give freeskiing a shot, with SnowGirls Tuesdays every week of the season, and a camp always running during the school holidays there is no excuse not to get down here and at least give it a go! If you can stand on one foot for more than 10 seconds, you probably have the balance required, and if you make it up the road to the ski hill without having a nervous breakdown, you have more than conquered any fear you might encounter – so what’s holding you back? Pip and I will be coaching again, and there are always guest pros hanging around that are more than willing to devote some time to get more girls stoked on skiing!
Name: Victoria Jane Beattie Height: 164cm Weight: 66kg Years of Experience: 22 Lives in: Wanaka from May to December Favourite Hill: SnowPark Has skied in: A Dress. Ski’s because: It’s the ultimate freedom. Boyfriends: Currently accepting applications! Dislikes: Lift Lines And as the industry grows, so to does the demand for skilled young individuals in all areas.
Donner Pass in Tahoe. "As womens freeskiing grows, so to will the opportunities for women in all areas of the ski industry."
Tori at SnowPatch