Female Freeski Pioneers

Stay Golden

Michelle Parker was 17 years old when she got her big break. A former racer who’d turned to freeskiing contests at 15, Parker was invited to appear alongside her idols in Freeskier’s 2004 “Women of Freeskiing” issue. The exposure could cement her place as a torch-bearer for the next generation of women in a blossoming niche of the sport. Except it turned out to be more exposure than she was expecting.

“I remember being really excited, but also kind of nervous—my first big photo shoot,” Parker says. “They had hired a model to help us figure out how to pose and all that kind of stuff. At 17, I was pretty uninterested. I was still very much a tomboy and I was like, ‘Yeah, you guys can take these modeling classes. I’m going to go skateboard.’ I remember coming back from skateboarding and stuffing my face with potato chips, and the model was like, ‘You should probably put the chips down. Your shot’s up next. You’re in the bathing suit.’”

Even as Parker started compiling contest podiums and wins, that photo shoot, in which she appears in a bikini standing in a hot tub, was a subject that haunted her for years to follow. The sport, though growing, still had uphill battles to fight that had nothing to do with how women represented themselves on the hill. Women freeskiers began to be included in events, but it was often without TV time, on courses not designed for them, and without a weather day. That often meant competing in poor conditions and for a fraction of the prize money offered to men…

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