The Story Of a Skier Girl, From a Man’s Perspective

A review of "Pretty Faces" from the Salt Lake City premiere

One of two sold out shows in Salt Lake City last week for Pretty Faces. PHOTO: Erme Catino
One of two sold out shows in Salt Lake City last week for Pretty Faces. PHOTO: Erme Catino

The sidewalk outside the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th neighborhood last Wednesday, October 8, was packed with girls—young to old, several in Unicorn costumes. Pretty Faces: The Story of a Skier Girl, a film by Lynsey Dyer, sold out several days prior, as did the second showing at Brewvies later in the evening. Easily outnumbered by the opposite sex, no “bro-scene” in sight, I sat down to watch the film and see what came from Dyer’s highly anticipated two-year project, made to shine a light on women’s skiing.

Pretty Faces intertwines the dreams of women pro skiers, following the trials and tribulations while in pursuit of their passion. The movie is lighthearted and fun, like skiing is with friends, and it artfully transitions from GoPro selfies to young girls learning to ski to action shots of skiing in Alaska. And the skiing is good.

Dyer, Elyse Saugstad, Rachael Burks, and Ingrid Backstrom ski big lines in Alaska and British Columbia, with Saugstad in the air much of the time. Jacqui Edgerly puts on a clinic in Alaska with superb skiing and cinematography, demonstrating the fact that many of the female skiers in this film have just as good or better technique and style than their male counterparts. But the movie also features the many women riders, like McKenna Peterson, Amie Engerbretson, and Pip Hunt, who are not as much in the mainstream limelight, but who ski equally as hard.

Throughout the film, the story continues to circle back to the inspirational women who’ve followed their dreams in the mountains—how they made it work, the struggles they have gone through, and why.

“We wanted to show women of young ages and all backgrounds that they can do anything they want in the world,” said Claire Smallwood, associate producer of Pretty Faces executive director and co-founder of SheJumps. The film does just that, running clips from each athlete talking about how they’ve made it through shitty ski town jobs before they hit their stride in their ski career.

Unicorns and pretty faces. PHOTO: Erme Catino
Unicorns and pretty faces. PHOTO: Erme Catino

Looking to the next generation of women, the movie showcases the beauty, not in the cliché marketable women skier, but in the adventurous rosy-red-cheeked girl walking back to the lodge after a deep powder day. One clip in particular shows Burks after she comes back from a rough crash and shreds the Alaskan spine of her dreams. When she stands in awe at the bottom of her run, the physical and mental toil drives home with the mixture of laughter and tears that the audience can hear through her P.O.V. camera.

Following the trend of ski movies in the past couple of years, Pretty Faces keeps storytelling at the focal point, and showcases women who rip in all their glory. With this film and segments like Angel Collinson opening up Teton Gravity Research’s Almost Ablaze, this is the year for women in ski movie history.

Watch Pretty Faces now on Vimeo On Demand.