Social media can be a wonderful tool, but it can also be a blunt instrument for trolls. The female freestyle community uses Instagram as a tool for support and as a method for collaboration. When someone puts art into the world — in this case, in the form of videos, edits, or photos of themselves skiing — they are susceptible to online harassment.
“Sometimes the industry is really hard on women,” Brooke Potter, Copper Mountain freestyle coach, said. “I think that’s why maybe some women don’t [want to] be a part of it; it can be pretty hateful. I think most women skiers have experienced that part of the industry.”
Giulia Tanno, a member of the Swiss freestyle ski team, agreed with Potter’s concerns. “There is so much hate on girls skiing,” she said. “I think it’s just soul-crushing for girls to get into freestyle skiing.” Tanno also brought up “Newschoolers,” a popular website and Instagram account for the freestyle skiing community. “If you’re someone that’s new to skiing and you see Newschoolers [you’ll notice] there’s no girls’ videos,” she said. “Then when you finally do see a girl’s video, you see comments like ‘oh my god, she sucks, she can’t even do cool tricks.’”
To give a frame of reference, in the last 51 posts since April 7, Newschoolers has featured women twice — the first was an edit that included Giorgia Bertoncini, and the second was a video of a male skier in bed with several topless women. If that’s the current representation of women in freestyle skiing, Tanno’s frustration is easy to understand.
While it is virtually impossible to police toxic trolling, it can potentially be diminished. This could be done by creating more opportunities for women in the sport and by creating more spaces where women freestyle skiers are accepted and given equal status to the men in the industry.
Anne Tysseland, a freestyle coach in Norway, has worked tire lessly to create female-friendly environments for freestyle skiing. She has established girl-only camps in Norway for freestyle skiing. Only two girls attended the first season, but attendance has grown over the years to a present average of 50 attendees per season. “We started out with filming, but then dropped that because it was not many girls, so then [we] started the camp for all skiers, for beginners or those on the national team,” said Tysseland. “I think that’s a good way to start building up girl environments.”
Other skiers, such as Potter, have established all-girl ski gangs that create social media content encouraging young girls and other female freestyle skiers to become more involved. “I guess the ultimate goal [for Diamond Annie’s] was making a platform for women’s street skiing that there hasn’t really been,” said Potter. “That was our goal.”
Most of the skiers I interviewed agreed that putting content out there for young girls to see would probably encourage more female involvement in the sport. “Luckily, there are still some girls shooting with the biggest productions and even some female production crews that do a great job showing to young girls what girls are capable of,” Ballet Baz said. Izzy Atkin ’21 discussed an all-girls camp at Park City that focused on freestyle skiing and the comfortable environment a girls-only space provides for young girls.
Hoefflin, somewhat frustratingly, discussed the idea of creating more opportunities for women in competitions. “It’s so easy — just invite a few more girls and just up the prize money,” she said. “Don’t make it 5% of what the guys are [going to] get. I think once the good guys, like the [male professional freestyle skiers], start giving us props. That’s when the hate is [going to] stop.”
The topic of recruiting corporate sponsors to support female skiers in the industry came up in my interviews with the skiers. They said that corporate sponsorship would help support women financially and would allow them to create more content. However, sponsors likely would not provide the support needed until the public at large supports female freestyle skiing.
In short, it seems that women in the freestyle ski industry agree that creating content of women in the sport in tandem with establishing female-only camps will foster additional interest and involvement in younger girls toward freestyle skiing.