Montana State University

Spring 2013





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Mountains and Minds


Photo by Kelly Gorham

She jumps May 07, 2013 by Anne Cantrell • Published 05/07/13

Big-mountain skier Lynsey Dyer takes the line for females in sport

It's a bluebird day in the high country near Jackson, Wyo., and professional skier Lynsey Dyer is determined to do something she has never done before.

In fact, no woman has ever been known to huck herself off of this cliff in the Teton Range and land it, but Dyer is ready to be the first. She has studied every inch of the terrain so that she knows where she'll take off and land. Over and over again, she has visualized making the jump correctly and landing it safely.

Dyer makes a few turns as she drops into the line known as "Smart Bastard," the snow that her skis kick up following her. She negotiates a smaller cliff band before pointing her skis toward a large cliff.

She jumps. Dyer is airborne for several long seconds, flying about 65 feet through the air, but time seems irrelevant to her in the moment.

"Once it's time (to jump off a cliff) you have to let your brain shut off and your body take over and do what it instinctively knows how to do," she later said. "There is no room for emotion. I think that's why we love it. We're just focused, being in the moment...it's very clear and calm."

With the spraying snow obscuring her body, Dyer sticks the landing. A crew from Teton Gravity Research, or TGR, a studio that makes popular ski films, has caught the feat on camera.

Dyer landed the jump in 2009, but even years later, she is still perhaps best known for it. The moment was impressive, as TGR co-founder Todd Jones later said in a film segment about the achievement. "It's a pretty wild line...and (Dyer) sent the thing," he said. "Almost sent it with as much heat as I've ever seen that line hit with."

Such fearless accomplishments are rare for women in the sport, yet the Montana State University graduate has earned media attention, endorsements and a cult-like following through her success. She says she wants to use the recognition for more than promoting her own career.

"Luckily I got good enough at (skiing) to be able to say something important someday," she said.

And what she wants to say is this: Skiing is more than skiing. It can teach skills for real life, as well as self-confidence. And it's something no one can ever take away.

"Skiing has brought me so much joy," Dyer said. "I feel like it's my mission to share that with women and kids."

 

Dyer is only 32, but her long list of accomplishments includes success as a big-mountain skier, artist, model, television host and non-profit founder.

She has appeared in multiple ski films made by TGR and Warren Miller Entertainment, among other studios. She was named Powder Magazine's Female Skier of the Year in 2010 and was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Freeskier Magazine, which depicted her mid-air on the "Smart Bastard" line.

Dyer has hosted several television shows for NBC and ESPN, appeared on Good Morning America and designed signature clothing lines and graphics for Eddie Bauer and Rossignol. In addition, she co-founded She Jumps, a non-profit organization that seeks to get females into outdoor sports.

But if Dyer's accomplishments are impressive, they're matched only by her personal characteristics, according to those who have followed her career.

Megan Michelson, freeskiing editor for ESPN.com, calls Dyer a "rare breed" among professional skiers.

"As an athlete, she's strong, talented and capable in big-mountain terrain. But she brings so much more to the table than just athletic skills," Michelson said. "She's an artist with an eye toward the creative, and through the non-profit organization she founded, she has become one of the ski industry's most relentless advocates for getting women involved in outdoor sports and highlighting other female athletes who rarely get the attention they deserve."

Dyer's insistence at challenging the status quo is similarly impressive, according to Jeff Brines, who writes for the online ski magazine Earlyups.

"Lynsey is always looking to make things better, be it her athletic endeavors as a skier, getting girls outside through her non-profit or showcasing the best females in the sport of big-mountain freeskiing... Good enough is never good enough. She is always finding ways to move things forward and discover new growth."

She's also just plain fun and interesting to be around, Brines added.

"They say time warp is impossible... spend an evening with Lynsey and tell me she hasn't figured out how to bend the time-space continuum. Six hours will go by in minutes. She's a rare combination of lightheartedness, depth, quality and kid-like spirit.... The girl oozes three things: passion, energy and laughter."

 

Dyer, who has lived in the Jackson area for about six years, grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, the elder of two kids. Her dad worked as a ski coach, snowcat groomer, building inspector and fire marshal, and her mom often held three jobs at once.

That her parents chose to hold multiple jobs so they could live in an outdoor-lovers' paradise made sense to Dyer.

The activities that Dyer's family enjoyed, including water skiing, camping, river rafting and, of course, skiing, helped develop Dyer's passions.

As a ski racer in high school, Dyer won a junior national championship in downhill skiing. She considered heading east for college--"I had always pictured myself at an Ivy League school," she said--but MSU, where she was offered a ski scholarship, ended up being a good fit.

"I had heard that MSU had a good graphic design program, but of course it was the mountains (that drew me there)."

The students Dyer met at Montana State made a lasting impression.

"There are just really good people there," she said. "That's the part I miss the most (about MSU)."

The wisdom of a few professors also stuck with her.

"Thank God for professors like Jeff Conger," Dyer said. "Jeff is not just a professor of design, he's more of a professor of life."

Conger told Dyer to combine what she loves with her job. The advice particularly resonated during the middle of Dyer's junior year, when she won a coveted design internship at a firm in San Francisco.

"I remember so clearly sitting there (at the firm in San Francisco), looking out at a perfectly manicured lawn, and I was miserable. I thought, 'They lied. Society lied about what makes us happy.'"

But Dyer recalled Conger's advice, and she knew without a doubt that she loved mountains and skiing. She thought back to when she was young, sitting with her family in a theater in Sun Valley, watching Warren Miller movies.

"The crowd would see a skier do something amazing, and they would go wild," she said. "I wanted to do the same thing, help inspire people."

From that moment, she said, Dyer started training. Just two years later, at age 21, Dyer landed a spot in a Warren Miller film.

 

Clearly, skiing has been a positive force in Dyer's life. But, in her experience, the industry is also cutthroat--and that's something she wants to change.

One of the ways Dyer is doing that is through She Jumps. She Jumps seeks not only to get females into sports, but also to cultivate a supportive, inclusive community of skiers, and to provide girls with strong female role models who are athletes.

She Jumps offers clinics to help women and girls learn to ski, as well as clinics on avalanche safety. It also sponsors trips that are designed to help females push their personal limits.

For Dyer, the organization also allows her to share one of the greatest gifts she's received from skiing--confidence.

"There's so much pressure (on women and girls)," Dyer said. "Pressure to be popular, pressure about what you're wearing, pressure to get attention from men.

"All I know is that skiing makes me feel good," continued Dyer, who said she wasn't pretty as a child. "It makes me feel good about myself. I'm so thankful that I have (skiing), and no one can take it away from me."

This winter Dyer spent much of her time in Alaska, which is one of the most popular spots for big-mountain skiers. It's a place where she feels at peace, because she knows there is enough terrain to keep her busy for a lifetime, yet she also looks ahead to a time of transition.

"The scary part is, I've done what I wanted to do (with skiing), so what now?" she said of her move.

She knows she wants to help people, maybe get into medicine. With She Jumps currently relying on volunteers, she'd like to help it become a more sustainable organization. She'll also continue her quest to encourage more females to push their boundaries in sport--a mission where she is already seeing evidence of success. (Since Dyer landed the 65-foot jump in the Tetons, three other women have followed suit.)

And, whatever path she chooses, Dyer knows skiing will continue to be an important part of her life.

"I'm so thankful I have (skiing) to focus on, so I don't have to put my self-worth on other things," Dyer said. "I love how I feel floating down the mountain."