PHOTO: Adam Clark
Since her breakout performance in Matchstick Productions' film Yearbook, in 2004, Ingrid Backstrom hasn't stopped pushing herself and the limits of big mountain skiing. Among the most decorated freeskiers ever, her day job for the last decade has been Alaskan spines, snowmobile treks into the British Columbia backcountry, and chasing winter around the world—and yet delivering her daughter, Betty, her first child, on March 15, was incomparable to any adventure.
"The birth was crazy empowering. It was so physical in a way I was not prepared for. I've done a lot of really hard physical things, and this blew it all out of the water," says Backstrom, 38. "But it was amazing and so cool. When we got to hold our daughter for the first time, I just thought, Wow, we did this. I felt so connected to my body and to another person."
"I've done a lot of really hard physical things, and this blew it all out of the water." —Backstrom on the birth of her daughter
As an athlete, Backstrom is very conscious of her body and how she uses it for skiing, but as her pregnancy progressed, her body transformed from a tool for sport into something new she was sharing with another life. "It was not just for me anymore," she says. "It made me want to be strong and to take care of myself for her."
Backstrom gave in to her new center of gravity—"I mostly kept it on the ground," she says—and skied until 10 days before Betty was born. That's when life changed.
"I don't know anyone who has a kid and says, 'I'm going to stop skiing,'" she says. "It is such a great adventure. We go on ski trips now with her and welcome the new challenge and new part of our lives. It's nice to have it not be all about me. It's really good for me to have a focus besides a selfish career and skiing."
Seeing her own mother volunteer on the Crystal Mountain ski patrol for 20 years while raising a family of skiers (most days, she's still on the mountain until the lifts close) showed Backstrom that while it undoubtedly requires sacrifice, it is possible.
Like skiing, bringing a child into the world can feel like something to muscle through; it takes incredible strength. But a time will come when you have to relax and give in.
"She was an amazing example, and it feels selfish or harsh to say, but it's important to have something to show your kids that the world doesn't revolve around them," says Backstrom, who was back on skis just three weeks after giving birth. "Skiing will always be my favorite, but this is priority now."
Before Betty was born, a friend offered Backstrom advice to take with her into labor: Like skiing, bringing a child into the world can feel like something to muscle through; it takes incredible strength. But a time will come when you have to relax and give in. Those are the two extremes of skiing, and that's what mothers do—everything they can, until the moment they have to let go.
“A Mother’s Nature” was first published in our December 2016 (45.4) issue of POWDER. This excerpt is one of a five-part series that pays tribute to the women who made us skiers.