“Mommy!” she said to the woman sitting beside her. “Unicorns!”
We took our seats in the row behind the little girl, her little friend and their moms. As we waited for showtime, we talked to the two six-year-olds about tutus (they definitely love tutus), books (they’re into Ramona right now) and, of course, skiing (they looove skiing). They drew us pictures of unicorns skiing, and unicorns rappelling down zip lines.
That was just a taste of the genuine, not-at-all-cliche girl-power vibe that imbued the night. We saw the movie at the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vt., where skier-girls of all ages packed the room. There were high-fives. There were impromptu dance parties. There were, of course, unicorns.
And the movie itself! After the cheers and hoots and hollers from the opening segment died down, we all stared in rapt attention as Lynsey Dyer and Rachael Burks ripped the you-know-what out of Revelstoke. My friend Lauren turned to me and whispered, “I love it, because it’s not perfect skiing. They scrub turns just like the rest of us.” I nodded, fixated on the screen. She was right — the women were shredding, for sure, but the editors didn’t skip the scenes that were a little less pretty. It was amazing to watch not in spite of the imperfections, but because of them.
The movie also didn’t gloss over the less-than-perfect elements of the skier-girl life. One segment shows various big-mountain skiers doing the “day jobs” that allow them to ski—from washing windows to instructing Pilates (and even freelance writing!).
Perhaps my favorite part of the movie, and the aspect that sets it apart from every other ski movie I’ve seen, is that it acknowledged the presence (and importance!) of fear. Nicole Yavis spoke about repeating this mantra before dropping into an intimidating line: “Conquer fear, that’s why you’re here.” Rachael Burks, after getting swept up in an avalanche in Alaska, talks about how much the experience rattled her, and how she was happy to give up her spot in the helicopter for a few days.
It didn’t occur to me until I heard these amazingly talented skiers speak those words that we just don’t hear stuff like that in traditional ski movies. Which, by the way, is crazy. Why is it weird to hear people talk about how it’s scary and rattling to get caught up in an avalanche, or to huck a huge cliff in the middle of a line that you’ve only scoped out from a helicopter? Why does it take an all-women’s ski movie to hear someone acknowledge the fear that accompanies pushing yourself to the next level in any sport—extreme skiing or not?
Burks’ vulnerability and honesty makes it even sweeter to watch her shred her “dream line” at the end of the movie, and even more awesome to hear her giggle in relief and joy when she reaches the run-out at the bottom. It was a gorgeous reminder that in skiing and in life, that’s why we’re here—to fight the fear.
Bottom line: See this movie for the gorgeous, gutsy skiing, but also for the honest portrayal of a skier-girl’s life. And maybe even to see a unicorn or two.
* Why Unicorn Picnic? Dyer answers that question in this Outside Magazine piece : I have a nonprofit called SheJumps and the logo is a unicorn giraffe—a girafficorn. Every time someone sees it, they smile. You see this hint of nostalgia. I think it reminds us of when we were kids and anything was possible. Since my focus is to try and get more girls outside, I knew I needed to make it less intimidating and more playful. Bring back the magic of what we see in the mountains rather than, it’s so gnarly and scary. It’s fun. The picnic part is about community. Find that magic and then come together.
** Why do we need an all-women ski movie? According to Dyer, though women make up 40% of the skiing population and 30 percent of the adventure-sports-film viewership, only 14 percent of athletes in major ski films were female this past season. That’s up from 9 percent the previous season.