The opening shots are of a skier getting ready for the day—
“The Mountains” calling on the phone, teeth getting brushed, bites taken out of a breakfast burrito, gear organized in piles—only the toes that hit the floor ready to be shoved into ski boots have bright pink polish on them. And so begins Pretty Faces, the revolutionary ski film featuring solely female athletes.
When I first heard about the project several months before it premiered, I cringed at the fact that a movie trying to fight back against the astonishing lack of female representation in ski films would carry a title that seemed to focus on the attractiveness of the skiers rather than their prowess in the mountains. However, within seconds after the opening credits, a voice over informs the viewer “Behind every pretty face is a story. And this is the story of a skier girl.” Cue professional skier Rachael Burks sending a massive snot rocket.
The film challenges the “attractive woman” prototype that has been perpetuated for ages through television and fashion magazines, and shows us an entirely different kind of pretty face—one that is goggled-tanned and lit from the inside by the fuel of doing what she loves. It shows us women who aren’t afraid to jump cliffs and chase storms and get after big-time lines. It shows us women who are unapologetically goofy, women who have dance parties on top of snowcats, women who relentlessly pursue what they love. And Pretty Faces also showcases any skier’s favorite kind of pretty face: the glorious, steep, powder-coated kind.
While Pretty Faces features skiers ripping down feathery spines in Alaska, soaring off cliffs in British Colombia, skinning along ridgelines on the East Coast—all shots that could be found in most ski movies—it also goes deeper into who these women are and not just how badass they look coming down the mountain. We get a clear sense of how much zeal and enthusiasm for life and the outdoors they possess, and how much they try to inject fun into their lives at every turn. They are not just women, they are not just skiers, they are vibrant, powerful, beautiful people. Some of the film’s most unique and memorable moments occur while depicting the women off-slope: Lynsey Dyer and Rachael Burks discussing the finer points of car snacks on their roadtrip up to Canada, Rachael Burks spitting champagne all over herself, Lynsey Dyer and Rachael Burks squatting on the side of a snowy road in their ski boots to pee (basically, just anything Rachael Burks does), a huge group of skier girls in big ski pants and boots doing coordinated dance routines in the snow. By the end of the movie, you don’t just want to ski with these women—you want to be best friends with them too.
Pretty Faces also directly addresses something most ski films don’t—what the athletes have to do in order to support their lifestyle. It’s not all helicopters and ski-boot dance parties and face shots—most of the athletes have to fund their adventures by working several jobs in the off-season: skier slash waitress, skier slash commercial fisherwoman, skier slash window washer, skier slash babysitter, skier slash whatever it takes. These women don’t just wake up every morning and get to play in the snow—they have to put in serious work and make sacrifices to get there. You have to pursue skiing relentlessly, the voice over tells us at one point in the film, and for most skiers, even professional ones, this means working unglamorous jobs to stay afloat. Despite all this, skier Izzy Lynch reaffirms that it is all worth it to be able to do what you love.
This mantra—that all of these women are skiing because they love it—is so much more prevalent than in most male-dominated ski films. Gone is the more-badass-than-thou feel that so many movies have, this sense that you’re watching an hour-long King-of-the-Mountain contest. This is not to say that men ski to prove something and women ski to have fun, merely that this particular film seems to make a conscious attempt to be about something beyond a montage of epic action shots. Pretty Faces is all about the pure joy and unadulterated fun that life in snowy mountains brings. Being absurdly badass is just a by-product.
The women in the film are not just twenty-and-thirty-something blondes in beanies and nose rings (though there are certainly a few of these)—two of the most noteworthy pretty faces featured are that of 4-year-old Katie Rowekamp, shown tearing down a groomer with a GoPro attached to her helmet, and gray-haired Marion Schaffer (a skier for 35 years), who talks about the desire to get to the top of mountains with the biggest, most genuine smile on her face you’ve ever seen. Pretty Faces seeks not only to speak to adults in their physical prime, but to the next generation of little lady skiers, and also to the seasoned veterans of skiing who can still rip with the best of them. And framed by this new definition of beauty as a state of mind, as a product of chasing your dreams and living the life you love, the film presents a whole new set of positive role models for girls and young women.
As the end credits roll, a skier comments that:
“If you seek empowerment, it suggests that you don’t have it. So what I think is going to make the biggest difference for women athletes in the future is to not seek empowerment, but to just own that they already have it.”
And we do. Every female from the age of 18 months to 88 years has the power to do whatever it is she wants—to huck cliffs and rip groomers and send insane lines—and to not look beautiful while doing it, but to be beautiful because of it.