At Faction we celebrate women with the X Series every damn day. We are immensely proud of our team at the forefront of women’s skiing, breaking boundaries and pushing the sport to new heights. For International Women’s Day, we caught up with our athletes on their first steps into freeskiing, the challenges they’ve faced, and where they want to see the future going.
From snarky lift line comments, to sponsorship pay gaps, underrepresentation and even hate mail, this kickass collective has experienced discrimination in a multitude of forms throughout their careers. We want to take a moment to highlight their stories, reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go to achieving gender equality in freeskiing.
Here’s what they had to say.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO FREESKIING AND WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE TO START?
SARAH HOEFFLIN: I got into freestyle skiing in my first year of university in 2010. It was a brand new sport I'd heard nothing about and I was so excited to discover a whole new world of fun.
LORRAINE HUBER: It was all thanks to my snowboarding friends! They were the ones who showed me the possibilities of playing with different terrain shapes, doing long turns, building kickers in the backcountry and jumping cliffs. I was introduced to a whole new world that was so exciting and fun and I knew from then on, that’s what I wanted to do with my skiing.
MATHILDE GREMAUD: I got into freeskiing mostly because of my cousin, who taught me my first 360. I was definitely interested before but he pushed me to do it the very first time and then I spent the next few years building jumps with my friends at my home resort. It was such a great feeling, I never wanted to stop and had so much fun doing it! Still do!
KELLYN WILSON: I was in early middle school when I joined the park and pipe team at my home mountain. We learned how to slide rails and do spread eagles and it was the most fun that I had ever had skiing. Just me and a bunch of boys jumping off everything in sight, making up our own grabs and tricks. Our amazing coach even filmed us on his camcorder and made a season edit for us. That eventually turned into competing in slopestyle competitions, and then that turned into big mountain skiing.
Top Left: Mathilde Gremaud, Top Right: Sarah Hoefflin, Bottom Left: Kellyn Wilson, Bottom Right: Lorraine Huber.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH FREESKIING?
ELISABETH GERRITZEN: As a slightly rebellious kid that had just quit the strict and boring world of Alpine races, freeskiing represented everything I had longed for during my childhood without even being able to put words to it. No coaches, no gates, no competitivity. I also loved being away from large crowds in the resort, as I was spending more and more time in the backcountry. I quickly realized that an important part of freeriding was the community you shared the stoke with along the way and I believe this was a big part of what I fell in love with as a teenager.
AYAKO KURODA: It was just so much fun skiing with the freeride club, pushing our limits, and being able to do something that I couldn’t do before. And it’s not about racing, it's about having fun and expressing yourself. I also love freeriding because of its community.
GIULIA TANNO: The feeling of it. I did a lot of different sports when I was younger, but nothing ever came close to the excitement freeskiing gives me. You're free to do whatever you want because there aren’t really any rules. Also the whole community and the people you meet doing it. In our team it's like being with a second family and I really appreciate that.
ASTRID CHEYLUS: What made me fall in love with freeriding was the feeling of freedom, of going to make your mark and your line in incredible places. Discovering new faces, new slopes, jumping off all the rocks you see, being in the air... I feel good in the mountains, I feel at home.
Top Left: Ayako Kuroda, Top Right: Astrid Cheylus, Bottom Left: Giulia Tanno, Bottom Right: Elisabeth Gerritzen.
Have you experienced gender discrimination in your discipline and how did you respond to it?
EILEEN GU: Hearing snarky comments both online and in person have become part of the daily routine of being a female freeskier. From comments like “if I was a girl, I would also be able to *insert achievement here*” to “just quit, you’re embarrassing yourself, women don’t belong in sports.” Overall, though, I’ve noticed that almost every single sexist comment originates from an uneducated, unskilled, and likely incapable source. I try to surround myself not only with positivity, but with people who I look up to in some way, or have achieved more than me. People who have had to work for their goals with passion and determination know the hard work it takes to be a successful athlete, regardless of gender. These people never leave hate comments ;)
MARGAUX HACKETT: Not so much to my face but I do still hear the boys complain about the girls sometimes and it's really frustrating. I'm not scared to call them out on it though, girls shouldn't be put down just because we are not at the same level as boys. We have a right to do whatever makes us happy and should be proud of who we are. I do feel like it's getting a lot better though as the level of the sport is growing and more girls are joining!
SARAH HOEFFLIN: Yes, especially in the beginning. My first contest (The Brits, 2014), the boys won €1000 for the best rail trick. I won the best rail trick for the girls (I did a front flip out of a box and my first 450 onto a rail, still a cool trick even for the British dudes at that time) and I won a hoodie. I thought this prize difference was incredibly unfair. Now, although the prizes are globally the same for men and women, there is a big difference in exposure. Guys tend to be represented so much more than the girls, and this makes it hard for the women's field to grow and gain popularity if the women's screen time is limited. X Games is leading the way for this and I think it's awesome.
ELISABETH GERRITZEN: This is an interesting question because my first natural answer would be no. No because I can’t recall being insulted or mocked. But I believe most gender discrimination is invisible at first... So yes I have been discriminated against, many times I will never know about. That kind of “invisible" discrimination can hold many different forms; pay gap in contracts with my sponsors compared to male athletes, lift line comments about my skiing or my body, only being invited to product shoots and never for actual skiing, etc.
Top Left: Elisabeth Gerritzen, Top Right: Margaux Hackett, Bottom Left: Sarah Hoefflin, Bottom Right: Eileen Gu.
As a female athlete what would you like to see improved in freeskiing or sports in general?
DEVIN LOGAN: Female freeskiing has progressed so much and continues to keep progressing but I would like to see equal payment with sponsorships.
EILEEN GU: The biggest change I would love to see in women’s freeskiing and women’s extreme sports in general is increased participation and representation. Sometimes people don’t even know that female freeskiers exist, much less the rate of progression we see happening every day. As a young person, I’m talking about my generation. I can’t wait to see more young girls out on the slopes, pushing their own boundaries, having fun, and expanding the sport.
ELISABETH GERRITZEN: I want more transparency about these issues. I want them to be thematized by brands, media, and the industry in general. For so long the general rhetoric was that freeskiing was a cool, alternative, progressive sport, and therefore there was no need for institutionalized change, like it’s been done for example by the IOC and equal pay for all genders. I think for many years, the whole industry has swept the issue under the rug and it was extremely difficult for womxn to have a voice in the issue. Things are changing (very) slowly and I am delighted to be a part of it. To keep fighting this fight is also a way to honour the many sportswomxn who have fought it way before it was a cool and trending subject and who were often met with patronizing sexism by the industry.
KELLY SILDARU: Main improvement I would like to see is the attitude in general. It's really easy to underestimate women in male dominant sports if their results don't measure up with men. Does that immediately mean women don’t put in as much effort as men? I don't think so. It might be even the other way round, because women have to deal with overcoming different limits that have been put on us by nature and that means struggling with mental games on another level, as well as physics. Just to get equal recognition with men in the things that are just more natural for them.
Top Left: Eileen Gu, Top Right: Devin Logan, Bottom Left: Kelly Sildaru, Bottom Right: Elisabeth Gerritzen.
If you could travel back in time and meet your younger self, what advice would you give them?
KELLYN WILSON: I wish I could tell her to stop comparing herself to others. I have some mantras that I tell myself when I'm skiing; "you're not trying to prove anything to anyone" and "it's all just for fun". It is so easy to compare yourself to the other women in skiing because there are fewer of us. If you're on a trip with a bunch of guys and one other girl, it's easy to feel competitive or compared to one another. But I like to remember that there's room for all of us in skiing. We all bring different skills and styles, different perspectives and different goals. There's no use in comparing yourself to others because when we're all uniquely ourselves, there's space for everyone.
LORRAINE HUBER: You don’t have to know exactly how you’re going to get there, you just have to know what it is you want to create in your life. The how will work itself out as you go along. Just get started.
MARGAUX HACKETT: Be brave and don't let negative people bring you down! You are strong! You can achieve anything you set your mind to.
EILEEN GU: When I was 15 years old, I began receiving a lot of hate mail. As a young teenager who was very new to competing at a professional level, the negativity impacted me more then I wish it had. If I could go back in time, I’d tell 15-year-old me that the people hating on me and directing their own anger toward women’s skiing were not people whose opinions should matter to me. I would remind myself of my goal to improve both my own skills and to contribute to the legacy of this generation of women’s freeskiing, which starts with self-empowerment and connection and encouragement toward other female skiers.
Top Left: Kellyn Wilson, Top Right: Eileen Gu, Bottom Left: Lorraine Huber, Bottom Right: Margaux Hackett.
Today, March 8th, we are donating 15% of all sales made via our website to Outdoor Women’s Alliance, a nonprofit that engages, educates and empowers females worldwide through the lens of human-powered adventure.