How do we expand professional opportunities for women in freestyle skiing without role models, sponsorships, and media exposure? How can we increase sponsorships and exposure with so few women competing at the highest levels? The first article in this series explored these questions with a discussion of the experiences and challenges of growing as an elite female skier. This article continues the series by addressing professional obstacles women face in taking up freestyle skiing.
The fact that there are more men than women participating in freestyle skiing is obvious. The question of whether it is harder for women to make a living as a freestyle skier, however, is up for debate. “As soon as [slopestyle skiing] becomes your job, I guess it’s harder for a girl to actually stay in it. Girls probably have less chances of getting into a movie, less chances of sponsorships – just less fortune of ease,” Alice Michel said.
Additionally, women have fewer role models than men in freestyle skiing. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons there’s less girls … look at every ski movie [out] there, only sometimes there’s a girl,” Michel says.
While the general consensus is that it’s more difficult for women to compete in the sport, some skiers think women match men’s athleticism. “For sponsors, I think guys are more interesting [to brands] for campaigns [and] TV commercial – they want to see a boy because it’s more of the ‘wow’ effect when a boy does a trick,” said Giulia Tanno.
After reflecting on the smaller number of elite women skiers competing for sponsorships, Tanno added, “It’s probably easier for a girl at a good level to make money, than a guy at the same level.” Casey Davis, a former member of the University of Colorado at Boulder freestyle ski team, agrees. “In a sense it seems easier [for women to get sponsorships] since there are so few girls in freestyle skiing,” said Davis.
“I think that it’s easier [at this moment in time] for women to make a living because there are so many good men now that it’s harder for all of them to be picked up by sponsors,” said Coline Ballet-Baz. “That does not mean it is [in reality] easy for girls.”
“At the same time, not many companies seem to want to have a girl freestyle skier as the face of their company,” said Davis. Playing devil’s advocate, she added, “Girls have all the opportunities that boys do if they want them. It’s all about confidence.”
Izzy Atkin ’21, Olympic Bronze Medalist in skiing, points to the difference between gaining a foothold and making a living: “I think it’s harder [for women] to get the recognition that leads to sponsorships, which leads to money, which can allow you to pay for flights to go somewhere to train. But I think because there are less girls competing in the sport, it’s usually pretty easy to start out and get into competitions.”
Rosina Friedel, an Austrian freestyle skier and the first female finalist for the SuperUnknown ski edit competition, says that freestyle skiing is dominated by males on and off the slopes – the majority of brand managers, agents, and judges are men. Friedel also points out the more sexualized portrayal of women in freestyle skiing media outlets. “You can´t really make money with it … only when you are naked.”
Other skiers agree with Friedel’s take. “I think sponsorships are more based on look. And I think that’s society’s fault, I mean how do you change that? I don’t know,” Hoefflin said. Tanno went further, saying, “Brands care more about if you look good. And then it’s going to be a portrait shot, not an action shot – which sucks because you’re a skier and you don’t want to just show your face.” Bertoncini agrees as well: “A woman probably [has] to be pretty and work on her image more than on her ski skills for a good sponsorship.”
The idea that women as a group are second class in the freestyle skiing industry is evident. When the discussion of equal prize money came up, however, all of the skiers agreed that while money was a worthy goal, they could understand counterarguments.
“Me, myself, would like to get the same prize money as the boys,” Tanno said. “But I can see when boys are bothered when girls get the same prize money, because the field is larger and the competition more fierce. Yet it’s not really our fault that there are [less] girls doing what we do. [Still] you kind of get punished.”
Stay tuned for the final article of this three-piece series, in which the skiers discuss the effect of social media and offer ideas on how to create more opportunities for young women to get involved in freestyle skiing!