PROFESSIONAL BIG MOUNTAIN SKIIER AND FILMMAKER
Lynsey Dyer is a professional big mountain skier who grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho. Starring in films like Teton Gravity Research, Warren Miller, and Sherpa’s Cinema, she has skied on six continents, won every big mountain competition she entered, and been awarded Female Skier of the Year by Powder magazine multiple times. This is her story in her words.
The skill needed most to be a professional athlete is persistence. I’d say the biggest thing that I encounter is being told no or getting zero response from people in power. In my case, the weather and snow dictate what is possible. My mantra has become, “Let go of expectations and continue to show up.” You have to stay in the moment without judgment, continue to show up, work with what is, and be willing to step down, over and over, before the doors open.
By the time you’re dropping in, you’re fully focused and sometimes that’s hours after you showed up due to weather and circumstance. I’m training in breathwork now. But before that, I’ve been using my breath as a tool to focus to either down-regulate my nervous system or up-regulate it, if this needs to be. By the time you drop in, it’s nothing but full presence. And some of the biggest lines I’ve skied, have required the full check-in with all the cells in the body, to make sure all the parts are on board with my decision. Because, oftentimes in scary situations, your soul wants to just jump right out of your body. And I’ve experienced that too, it’s called “being gripped”, where your body takes over and literally overrides everything else. You cannot move because it’s so frightening for the body to be in the situation you’ve put it in. That’s when I use my breath and take one step forward knowing it will bring my awareness back into my body.
I typically will look up at the mountain and there’s always something that for a split moment looks fun or exciting. Or I simply think “I could do that.” And then right behind that comes all of the doubts. Can you? Really? That doesn’t work because of this,” or there’s a red flag here. And I’m always looking for the red flags, right? What’s above it where I want to ski? Where could things slide? How are the temperatures? All of the things we’re trained to look for in terms of the mountains and all the reasons to say no. When enough of those things are green, there’s no reason not to do it. Those moments, they don’t come too often. That’s why I have to show up again, and again, and again. Because I’d say less than 50% of the things you show up for you actually do. One has to be okay with failing a lot before things come together.
To find or cultivate courage in the moment, that’s where it comes down to wanting it. You have to really want it. You have to want the outcome, the goal more than you’re afraid. And I would say again, on the biggest things that I’ve done, the excitement of feeling the goal is maybe 51%...over 49% being scared. It’s right on the edge. And that’s where amazing things can happen. The more I study flow states the more I recognize the science behind these states. Where magic can happen, but it’s also really dangerous and that’s part of it, too.
As a young ski racer, I learned to get over all that superstitious luck stuff, because it didn’t work. I think ultimate presence, especially as a female, getting myself to a level of aggression has been the biggest challenge, as I’m not very aggressive in my natural personality. I had a coach that really nailed it. Teaching us that “as scary as the mountain is, you have to be scarier” to stay ahead of the dragon’s breath you’re awakening when skiing down these giant mountain faces. And so, ramping up is really needed in this arena.
Like any kid, I had challenges in school and with education. Primarily from a young age, second through third grade. That’s where you start to define yourself. I thought that I was stupid because like a lot of dyslexic kids, I struggled to read but was not diagnosed. I had to have special tutoring that took me out of class. It made me feel a lot of shame. Numbers were also really difficult.
I remember being so stressed every day when the teacher in third grade would say, “Turn to page 354,” for example, I didn’t understand how the symbols built on each other, and I was too ashamed to let anyone know. All I would do is flip through the 300-page book looking for the picture that I saw in my neighbors’ open book. That stress was a lot, just praying that I wouldn’t be called on to read when I couldn’t find the page.
“Showing up again, and again, that’s what separates the people that succeed from those who don’t.”
Skiing gave me an outlet to express myself physically. Being out in nature and breathing fresh air, I’m so grateful to have that. And recognizing that my parents, by putting me in the ski programs, helped me build a skill. That skill has brought me far more than anything I ever could have imagined. And that’s in terms of the word privilege which comes up a lot these days. This silly skill on two planks has brought me the greatest privilege, and hope that I can do good with that now that it’s giving me a voice.
I think skiing is my workaround and it’s been my golden ticket. Warren Miller was a filmmaker who was just looking to ski for free as a young skier and did that in the late ‘60s. He started camping out in the Sun Valley parking lot. He found that if he told the resorts that he would be filming on these old cameras and making documentary films, that they would give him free tickets. He had this great personality and would narrate the ski films he made. He started the industry I am a part of today and made skiing relatable to the average person and continued the fantasy.
After ten years of being sort of “this doll” in films and commercials, I saw a lack of that relatability that inspired me as a young girl watching Warren Miller’s work. One, I saw that women were underrepresented and two, the films were exclusively stunts. I wanted to make a film that was inclusive, funny, lighthearted, and welcoming. A film that touched on all of the real-life aspects that make skiing important to any kid. Whether it was skiing with family or friends playing pranks on each other versus just being, the bimbos at the bottom in films. I wanted girls to know they had a place in the mountains. Or just the fact that on our way to a big ski day we can pee on the side of the road, too.
Our film “Pretty Faces” was an example of making a million calls and being turned down or laughed at or ignored. No one had seen anything like it and I heard so many times “women’s skiing is boring” or “you’d have to put a nude pillow fight in the film to make people watch.”
I turned to Kickstarter and raised $113,000. Put all of my money that I was making through skiing or sponsorships to bolster that number. That response validated that the community wanted to see this film and then the industry was like, “Oh, we do want to get involved.”
Then I got some big names like REI and GoPro to put in some support. “Pretty Faces”
ended up winning all kinds of awards and sold out a grassroots tour of over 100 shows
and raised $65,000 for girls programming of the non-profit I co-founded, SheJumps.
It was a wild success. Since then, the industry has absolutely shifted, and women’s
skiing is probably the most exciting thing in the industry. Now 40% of skiers are
female, the industry is finally recognizing this and highlighting these stories while
making more opportunities for other minority groups to feel welcome. Ski films today
actually have female skiers in them, and it’s been
a beautiful shift.
Learn more about Lynsey Dyer and SheJumps by visiting the website at www.lynseydyer.com.