Words by Nina Zeitman, photos by Phil Tifo.
Last month an epic set of shots landed on our editor’s desk, fresh from the wilds of British Columbia. Three riders were pictured trekking along a crisp blue untracked ridge, dropping fluffy eight stack pillow lines and spraying rooster tails across untouched cliff faces. There’s no doubt that the riding was awesome, the terrain breathtaking – but this wasn’t what caught our attention. It was the fact that these shots were of an all-female splitboarding crew.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, women have been taking on gnarly couloirs and dropping 30ft cliffs ever since Victoria Jealouse exploded onto the pro freeriding scene in the 1990s. But it’s not every day that Whitelines receives a series of shots that capture a lesser-shown side of snowboarding, that of the female professional freerider. Even in 2013, it’s mainly male riders – the likes of Xavier de le Rue and Jeremy Jones, among others – that the spotlight shines on most fiercely. This begs the question: aside from major forerunners like Annie Boulanger, Hana Beaman, Anne-Flore Marxer and Leanne Pelosi, why are there seemingly so few female freeriders making a name for themselves in the backcountry?
We asked our readers their thoughts on the subject and the response was phenomenal. Within 12 hours we’d had dozens of enlightening responses, including a few top snowboarding figures chipping in with their opinions. Some felt it was the difficulty and expense of accessing the backcountry that deters female riders, while others believe it’s a lack of financial support from the industry that’s proven to be the biggest hurdle.
Each morning they gathered drinking water from a nearby lake. Just an hour’s hike from the cabin’s front door were freshly covered cliff faces that no-one had ridden in over a decade. No cats or snowmobiles accompanied them. It was just three girls and their splitboards.
Fortunately, there are still women pushing boundaries and striving for recognition, even in the face of adversity. One such individual is Roxy rider and backcountry slayer Robin Van Gyn. It was Robin that set about pulling together this epic backcountry photographic mission. “I was watching an edit from some skier friends who film with Matchstick Productions. It looked like the most amazing terrain. I phoned them up and said, where is that place? It was Golden Alpine Holidays, which is a funny name for a really sick terrain resort. You’re not thinking gnarly, you’re thinking, ‘Yay, toboganning!’ It became my two-year mission to get there.”
She enlisted riders Marie-France Roy, one of snowboarding’s most progressive female backcountry riders, and North Face Masters champion Maria DeBari to come along. The crew was heli-dropped in the middle of British Columbia’s desolate terrain and spent seven nights in a small cabin completely off the grid, running on solar power. Each morning they gathered drinking water from a nearby lake. Just an hour’s hike from the cabin’s front door were freshly covered cliff faces that no-one had ridden in over a decade. No cats or snowmobiles accompanied them. It was just three girls and their splitboards.