The Daily Pow, November 12, 2012

A snow-covered ponytail — or pigtails, as the case may be — is the winter equivalent of a girl on a bike, a bell that rings with tones of sweetness, femininity, sportiness, and strength.

When I was coming up through the powder ranks, there weren’t that many women who ripped the goods. Oh, sure, there were plenty of women who skied. And who skied on dumping days. But there wasn’t a culture of it. There was no tribe of young women chargers, as there is today. As recently as the late 80s and early 90s, you could count on one hand the number of high-profile women who could and wanted to hang with the men. There was Kim Reichhelm and Kristen Ulmer. And then Emily Coombs. And then Alison Gannett and Wendy Fisher. Far more prevailing were the golden-tressed Warren Miller cuties, seemingly always floating in slow-motion against a cobalt Colorado sky — accomplished skiers to be sure, but decorative.

Today, though, on every hill, in every state, in every country, there are powerful and graceful female skiers — women who embrace the powder life with the same gusto and all-in verve of a typical skid dude. There are countless high-profile skiers — Kit Deslauriers and Hillary O’Neill come to mind — and, even more important, a tangible and growing sisterhood. For evidence, check out the video, the teaser for Pretty Faces, an all female ski movie produced by Lynsey Dyer and due out next fall, just one of two girls movies currently in production.

All this is happening because of the efforts of role models like Sarah Burke, because of the success of racers like Lindsey Vonn, because powder as a way of living is exploding, and because our broader culture has changed dramatically. There might not be equity in women’s pay for contest winnings or in TV time and media exposure, but across the board there’s been a massive cultural shift in not just the acceptance of women athletes but the expectation of what women and girls can and should be doing. When my wife was growing up on the beach in Southern California in the 1970s, a girl who paddled out could expect to get hazed. Now when you put your board in the water, it’s common to see women charging, but even cooler is that at beginner breaks the girls often outnumber the boys.

New Hampshire now has an all-female slate — the governor, two senators, and two representatives are women. In the next Congress, the U.S. Senate will have 20 female members, the House 77. Four years from now, we might very well elect the first female president. It’s progress, for sure, terrific progress even if there’s still a long way to go. But I take almost equal comfort knowing that movies like Pretty Faces are just starring women but are being made by women — and that the mountains are increasingly filled with athletes like Caroline Gleich — talented, versatile, smart, charming, and mad passionate for the snow.

Skier: Caroline Gleich at Solitude, Utah, by Lee Cohen.

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