The Best Female and Non-Binary Led Ski FilmsPublished on 01/09/2023 · 7 min readSki Expert Ireland Johnson shares her top ten favorite ski films directed by and featuring women and non-binary athletes for you to check out and get inspired by.
Photo by Alex Lange
When the weather starts to get cold and the forecast starts predicting over six inches of snow, everyone is feeling eager to start skiing, myself included. In fact, the moment I can comfortably start wearing a beanie again, I’m usually jumping at the bit to strap my skis on and pop through the trees with my friends.
As a kid, and even now, I’d pass the time until I could ride up the chairlift by watching some amazing athletes ski wild lines and complete insane tricks. My brother and I would sit, noses to the television, and shout, “No way!” or “How is that possible?!?” every time an athlete threw a double cork or flat spin. We would then, of course, plan and practice how to do those jumps ourselves.
However, something was always missing. My brother was inspired in a way that never matched how I felt and it took me a long time to realize why. Let’s be real. The outdoor world is male-dominated, which can be extremely frustrating, especially for a girl who wants to play hard but doesn’t feel like there’s a space for her to do that.
After I watched my first film centered on a female athlete, I was hooked. I no longer felt like I had to be in the boy’s club to do wild tricks, hit crazy lines, and go into the backcountry. If she can do it, then so can I. It was like a lightbulb had gone off. If this amazing, fearless woman could navigate the world of skiing, then there was no reason why I couldn’t do the same. As you might expect, this quickly became a very dangerous, although a very exciting mentality.
The first time trying to ride switch, I ran into a tree. My first time going off a jump? Two bruises the size of grapefruits. My first time on a rail? A concussion. My mom was pissed. But, I pushed myself, stepped out of my comfort zone, and became more confident, all of which I wouldn’t have done without watching something that inspired me to dream bigger.
The truth is, we girls and queer kids shred too. So there’s no reason we shouldn’t watch more amazing women and non-binary folks rip it up on the slopes.
Best Female and Non-Binary Athlete-Led Ski Films
And without further ado, in no particular order, here are my favorite ski films directed by and featuring women and non-binary athletes.
1. “Nexus” (2022)
“Nexus” was just released this past year and was completely directed and produced by women. The vast majority of cinematographers, photographers, and creative directors are all women. It features five distinct groups, including experienced old-timers, women of color, and best friends. You not only get to witness some amazing skiing (my favorite scene begins around minute 34), but you also learn how the community of skiing has changed and shaped their lives.
2. “Shades of Winter” (2018)
“Shades of Winter” is a collection of films from the past decade, all of which are fantastic flicks. Austrian skier and filmmaker Sandra Lahnsteiner is talented and focuses on redefining female-led ski films. Who doesn’t want to watch someone ski down a volcano in Hawaii? These films hype you up and give you that inescapable and indescribable itch to get out there. Proceed at your own risk. You’ll either be non-stop watching the whole collection or running out the door to catch a line of your own.
3. “Pretty Faces” (2015)
“Pretty Faces” was the first ski film to feature a cast entirely of women. At the time of its production, only 14% of athletes in major films were women. It is phenomenally well-crafted, with some gnarly skiing and big mountain shots. But, like “Nexus,” this film also peers beyond just skiing. It’s a film that celebrates and encourages women to support women doing things they had only dreamed of. It is raw, authentic and vulnerable, something many other ski films skip over.
“Pretty Faces” is available on Apple TV.
4. “The Approach” (2022)
“The Approach” features female, BIPOC, and adaptive athletes that encourage community and empowerment. Created in partnership with The North Face and with major athletes, including Ingrid Backstrom, Sofia Rouches, Brooklyn Bell, Vasu Sojitra, Anna Soens, and Emilié Zynobia, it celebrates a group of diverse skiers and snowboarders looking to push boundaries. The filming is top-notch, and you can’t help but grin from ear to ear as you watch the film from start to finish. Uplifting with fantastic vibes.
5. “Girl Crush” (2015)
“Girl Crush” is full of many laughs. This short film features five women (including Jess Baker), snow camping, a whiskey shot or two and backcountry decision-making. It highlights teamwork, backcountry safety, and how to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. In addition, the group talks a lot about being women in the outdoor industry and how their perspectives have changed as they’ve grown up.
6. “Fuel” (2021)
“Fuel” is another short film with old-timey vibes. So warm yourself a cup of tea and throw some fuzzy socks on for a fun and cozy couple of minutes. Madison Rose Ostergren skis some amazing lines and leaves your jaw on the floor. Production and cinematography are excellent, and nothing beats a couple of girls making perfect turns down the slopes.
7. “High Points: The Bicentennial Project” (2021)
“High Points” features Christy Mahon, an industry legend, who was the seventh person and first woman to ski all of Colorado’s 14,000ft mountains. This film series focuses on her next goal—climbing and skiing Colorado’s 200 highest peaks. Mahon is inspiring and driven, climbing and skiing routes that look near impossible. She gets real and doesn’t shy away from telling the truth about how she feels and what she’s gone through to get to where she is now.
8. “Anna Gasser: The Spark Within” (2021)
“The Spark Within” technically isn’t a skiing film. Still, I’ve decided to loop in this phenomenal snowboarding film featuring Anna Gasser, a world-class snowboarding legend who didn’t start snowboarding until her late teens. She’s this amazing inspiration and reminder that it is never too late to follow your dreams. She’s broken barriers and this film is a reflection and commendation of her character, work ethic, and drive. It’s also full of some rad lines and tricks.
9. “Maritime Air” (2022)
“Maritime Air” features Hank Stower (also one of the directors), an exceptionally skilled skier from my hometown of Portland, Oregon. It is a glorious intersection of queer and ski culture that is simple and fun. Stower is also the co-founder of Open Slopes PDX, a group dedicated to encouraging ski equity and helping more queer and BIPOC athletes get out on the slopes. I am also in love with the straw hat that makes a frequent debut during the film. It’s a pretty short film, so there’s no reason you can’t watch this one while waiting in the lift line.
10. “Originate” (2018)
“Originate” is a series, with three seasons and 16 episodes so far, that follows Michelle Parker as she navigates finding the best snow in the world, going after new experiences, and advocating for the environment. Parker also stars in several other films, including “Nexus” (number one on this list) and “All In” (consider this a bonus film for you to watch), and has made a name for herself skiing wild and massive lines. However, “Originate” is a more intimate look into the person behind the fearless skier that we see shredding mountains that terrify most of us.
The above is hardly a complete list. There are many other amazing women and queer-led films out there that need to be added to everyone’s must-see list. If you make it through the list above and are hunting for more, I recommend checking out RedBull TV and IF3 Festival to start your search.
The ski world is a male dominated industry, and it can be tough to navigate finding the best gear to fit your needs without the help of someone who has a ton of experience skiing and trying out gear (enter Curated Experts!). Experts here on Curated can help everyone find the right skis that are perfect for the slopes. Reach out here to chat now!