The Austria-based Californian adventuress talks to Mary Creighton about starting skiing late, why she chooses big experiences over possessions or a flashy home and how women are paving the future of skiing
Mary Creighton: Molly, are we right in thinking you were a bit of a late starter in the world of skiing?
Molly Baker: Yes! I inadvertently got into skiing when I went to college at UC Berkeley, near San Francisco. I joined the ski team there as a way to get into the mountains more. After a few years on the ski team I did my first big mountain competition in Taos and I just fell in love with the people and the whole culture – it was a new scene and environment to me.
MC: So you caught the ski bug pretty quickly?
MB: Definitely. People always think it’s crazy, but it was the right time in my life. I was 18, just starting university and searching for a bit of a purpose, I guess. I just find that the direct physical feedback that you get from skiing gives a certain sense of control over life. It just really grounded me. I quickly had to play catch-up with everyone else who had been skiing since they were a couple of years old. Luckily I was with the right group of people, had the right mindset and really pushed myself for a long time.
MB: After finishing a project where we travelled around North America in a cabin on wheels for three years, I reached out to the Atomic marketing team to do a summer internship. I came here with no direction, but immediately I started working on how women fit into the brand. I put together a presentation based on info I’ve gathered as a skier and from meeting female skiers from all over the world for the marketing team. People were just really moved by it, because it was something that was so close to my heart. I ended up giving this presentation throughout the whole company! We’ve been working on things since then, putting energy into how women fit into the brand and skiing in general.
MC: And how do you see women fitting into skiing?
MB: It’s interesting because there are a lot of different opinions about that: whether or not it’s this separate entity or not. But the more I talked about who women are and what they want and why they’re skiers, the more I realised so many men feel the same things. There’s this theme of diversity that originated in the women’s conversations, but then spread through the entire brand. Nobody really wants to be stereotyped as a certain type of skier. You don’t just want to be a piste skier or a powder skier. In the end we discovered there’s not that much separation between men and women, but that women can lead the way the industry evolves and the way skiers identify with their sport.
MC: When you first came to Austria, you moved into an old two-room hut in the mountains which could only be reached by skinning. Are you still living there?
MB: Actually… no! I went back to North America over the summer, and while I was gone the farmer who owns the hut decided to remodel. When I came back it was basically a normal house and it just didn’t feel like home any more. So I moved into a flat closer to Atomic HQ – I can even ride my bike there. I think that by moving into the hut I made the farmer realise he had a bit of a commodity!
MC: And before that you travelled around the US in a Tiny House? What was the appeal of that?
MB: It was really cost-effective for one thing! Throughout my twenties I’ve lived with such little stuff and I’ve moved around pretty frequently. At this point I just don’t know any other way of living. My entire adulthood has been living minimally. But at the same time that’s given me the finances and flexibility to have really big experiences.
MC: What’s the perfect day on a mountain for you?
MB: Last year I went up the Dachstein, which is Upper Austria’s highest peak. We had a large group so it took us a while to descend the west ridge, and we realised that if we went back down the Via Ferrata to the lift, it would already be closed. We had to ski down. We ended up having a six-hour mission involving lots of route-finding and a long walk out of the valley, but we got out safely. The element of adventure that came into it made it the perfect day of skiing for me. So often in the Alps you are still right in the middle of everything – so to feel like you were away from civilisation was really interesting.