Sophie Nicholson speaks to the pioneering big mountain athlete, activist and community builder…
WORDS SOPHIE NICHOLSON
Sophie Nicholson: You’ve spent over a decade at the top of the pro skiing game. How did you get started?
Lynsey Dyer: I started, like most, skiing with my family and on the local ski team in Sun Valley, Idaho.
In a world that constantly reminded me as a girl that my looks or social status were most important, skiing gave me a way to level the playing field.
On the hill it was my abilities that mattered; something I could build versus something I was born into.
SN: You’ve starred in 18 ski films, won Powder Magazine’s Female Skier of the Year award, and produced, directed and starred in the first all-female ski film Pretty Faces. What changes have you seen within the industry in terms of the approach towards pro women skiers?
LD: First, it’s important to say I am eternally grateful for all the support I’ve had from positive role models – male and female – and am delighted to see the industry increasingly recognising the female audience.
That said, my experience as a female skier hasn’t always been positive. I used to wonder whether I was given opportunities less for my abilities and more for the smile I was born with.
One time I hit a massive cliff and made powder turns after. Later I saw my sponsors just used the powder shots for their media campaign, stating the cliff shots were ‘unrepeatable’, further reiterating the narrative of the bubbly blonde playing it safe while the men were portrayed going big.
On every shoot I felt the need to prove myself, sometimes even jumping from unsafe places in order to ‘belong’.
I’ve been made to ‘model’ when I thought I was going skiing. I’ve had photographers tell me it would help my career if I got naked, I’ve turned down FHM and Playboy, and said ‘no’ to big sponsorship opportunities from the likes of Coca Cola.
These decisions haven’t been easy, as it’s very difficult to make an income as an athlete.
Plus I’ve watched others take the deals and play up the sexuality card and do well.
SN: Skiers have excellent female role models now. Do you believe this is key to increasing female participation?
LD: It’s imperative; the more the mainstream media represents women as skiers, directors and drone operators, etc, the more change we will see for the better.
I love that we’re seeing a more diverse range of athletes and creatives step up and make skiing their own by telling their stories and sharing their experiences.
The more black, brown and LGBTQIA stories in the media, the more we understand there’s a place for everyone in the mountains.
SN: You co-founded the non-profit SheJumps with Vanessa Pierce in 2008 to support women who want to take a ‘jump’ to do something adventurous…
LD: SheJumps was born out of the magic of friendship and the power of a supportive community to enable an individual to reach their potential.
It’s evolved into something incredible with events taking place all over the world, organised by healthy role models teaching outdoor skills to their communities.
SN: While many brands are focusing on women’s-specific kit, Fischer are taking a different approach this winter with the launch of their ‘genderless’ ski collection. How do you feel about this?
LD: I’m so glad to see brands like Fischer taking risks and acknowledging what we all have known for a long while – that gender does not equate to ability.
The best skiers deserve the best product and they are finally getting it.
This move has been a huge risk for Fischer, and while it’s upset much of the industry, I expect to see it becoming the norm because it is born out of truth, rather than a marketing campaign.
SN: Where do you sit on social media and the role of the ‘influencer’?
LD: When social media first came on the scene it allowed you to authentically and organically control your own image without having it interpreted or manipulated by a sponsor and/or the media.
These days it’s full of self-proclaimed heroes.
I’ve watched some of these big name Instagrammers, who claim to be ‘mountain athletes’ on social platforms, properly melt down in the actual backcountry.
It’s alarming to see, while those who deserve to be highlighted are too humble to self promote and go unnoticed.
I’m not prepared to pay for self-promotion, use my body or make controversial statements to get attention.
SN: 2020 has been, and continues to be, a challenging year. How are you staying positive?
LD: I believe everything that’s been happening is forcing us to take personal responsibility for our own wellbeing.
Over the course of six weeks we will learn from leading experts across the field of high performance to help us adopt healthy habits, build authentic community and step UP to our goals.
SN: What has been your greatest accomplishment to date, and do you have any goals in life you’d still like to achieve?
LD: Experimenting with my belief system and shifting my mindset to think beyond the norms dictated by society has been my greatest accomplishment to date. Empowering others to adopt a similar mindset and move beyond feelings of powerlessness is next!
Rules are meant to be broken, limits are designed to be pushed.