Posted by: Shanie Matthews | December 21, 2009

Interview to Inspire with Pro Freeskier Ingrid Backstrom

Her jaw dropping skill, grace and speed makes the best of them bow in respect. Her precise execution of ski lines in the uncontrolled, wild mountains is like no other in the freeskiing world. Who is she? She is, of course, the beautiful, strong, graceful and very humble pro freeskiing master, Ingrid Backstrom.

Backstrom is one of the most breathtaking and exhilarating skiers to observe in today’s big mountain ski world. Watching her effortlessly fly down steep, deep powder-covered mountains or jump off big rock cliffs will make anyone sit on the edge of their seat. With major ski movie endorsements like Steep (a film giving homage to the best in the sport), a freeride coach position at Chris Davenport’s South American Superstar Camp, her own woman’s big mountain skiing seminar at Squaw Valley, interview spots with major news shows such as Good Morning America and sponsors like Backcountry.com, Crystal Mountain, and The North Face, Backstrom has created an amazing life for herself. A lifestyle filled with accomplished dreams and immense happiness by doing what she loves most, Backstrom is an example for us all.

So, what helped this cute, petite girl who didn’t even like to ski in the beginning, dedicate her life to throwing herself down big mountains?

I was able to sit down with her and get the scoop…this is what she had to say…

Ingrid with Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, photo by Avalon7

SM: What brought you into skiing as a young girl?

IB: My parents got me into skiing—they were both on the volunteer ski patrol at Crystal Mountain (so they could ski for free and get passes for us for free), and so that’s what we did every other weekend when I was little, and then every weekend when I got older.

SM: What age did you start skiing? And when did you really start loving it, realizing that it would be a part of  your life?

IB: I started skiing at about 4 years old, and believe it or not, I didn’t really love it until I was probably 16 or so. Before that, I was embarrassed to have to drive to the mountain with my family in our huge old RV (a converted bookmobile from 1954 that is probably the ugliest vehicle to ever exist), and I wanted to be doing normal things on the weekend, like going to dances with my friends. But then I made some friends at the mountain and started enjoying skiing with them, not just racing, but freeskiing. That really made me enjoy it, the freedom of skiing. I realized it would be my life after college, when I just couldn’t bring myself to move out of the mountains to get a “real job.”

SM: Were you ever in the situation of people or circumstances holding you back because you’re a girl? How did you overcome such obstacles?

IB: I think I’ve been very lucky in that I was brought up to believe I could do anything that my brothers could do, and that other boys could do. Occasionally, when people don’t know me or haven’t skied with me, they just assume I’ll ski a certain way, or speed, or certain runs, or they’ll try to get in front of me because they think I’ll be slow. But then after we make a few runs, I usually get their respect. In other words, I try to overcome people’s stereotypes by just doing what I do—if you follow your course, people will usually see that you’re real about it.

SM: Who are your sponsors?

IB: The North Face, Volkl/Tecnica, Squaw Valley USA, Backcountry.com, Crystal Mountain

SM: How was it starting out; did you feel that you were accepted as an equal in the pro sports world?

IB: Not at first—when I was first getting sponsors, it seemed like the only girls in the business besides Wendy Fisher and Jamie Burge were just being used for their looks—sponsors didn’t care how you really skied if you were a girl. But now I think they see the value of having strong women representing their brands—the women’s segment of the market is the fastest growing right now.

SM: What aspect of the sport do you feel most proud about?

IB: Having a career doing what I love, even if it’s temporary, and getting to travel to so many places in the world is definitely a huge achievement to me—as is getting to meet so many amazing people who share a love for the mountains, and similar goals and values as myself.

SM: Has skiing helped you feel stronger as a woman? Do you feel that it has made you a better person today?

IB: Yes, skiing has definitely given me a lot of my identity and self-esteem as a woman. Just doing something for the love of it, pushing myself physically and mentally, and failing and succeeding is huge for my growth as a person. Giving yourself that confidence boost by taking risks and trying new things is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a woman, in my opinion!

SM: What is your favorite part to skiing?

IB: Everything! I love skiing with friends and enjoying their company, and also sometimes I love skiing by myself and just pushing myself to see how many laps I can do physically. The best part of skiing is challenging yourself, whether it’s a hard run, an air, or a long hike, and proving to yourself that you can do it.

Ingrid in Antarctica, photo by Robin McElroy

Another aspect that I love…just being outside—it’s a type of meditation to get outside and let your thoughts run to wherever they want. It’s like therapy.

SM: Do you have a favorite place to ski?

IB: Squaw Valley and Alaska—and anywhere there’s powder!

SM: Do you have an  idol in the sports world, if so whom?

IB: I look up to many women skiers, Wendy Fisher and Jamie Burge, as well as Lynn Hill, the rock climber. She’s amazing, and never let anything, especially not her gender, hold her back. She just did it because she could and wanted to and loved it.

SM: OK, then who would you say is you favorite skier and why?

IB: My brothers, Arne and Ralph. Ralph snowboards, but he rips—they both are so good and powerful, and just do it because they love it.

SM: How do you feel about the new generation of girl skiers that are coming on the scene?

IB: I’m really impressed and inspired by all of the younger women skiers who are up-and-coming—they can do tricks as well as ski lines, and it is so cool to see. It just makes me want to get better!

SM: Where do you see women going in the future with the sport?

IB: Just higher, faster, bigger, and more style—hopefully combining elements of big mountain skiing with tricks and fun, inspired skiing—using the whole mountain and natural terrain features for our own expression of grace and power.

Ingrid skiing the big mountains shadowed by a helicopter, photo by Endre Lovaas

SM: What other sports are you interested in now, as well as when you where a girl?

IB: I grew up playing soccer and swimming, and then in high school I swam, played basketball, and ran track. Now I still like to run, mountain bike, rock climb, and do anything outdoors!

SM: What does your cross training regiment look like?

IB: I run, bike, rock climb, and in the winter and fall I try to get into the gym and do some lifting and calisthenics.

SM: If you have a dream experience in regards to skiing what would that be?

IB: A dream experience would be to have perfect conditions filming/heli-skiing. Often you get many variables in place and then the conditions are less than ideal—still amazing, but it’s the best feeling in the world when the snow conditions are perfect for doing whatever you want. I’ve only had it happen one day heli-skiing, and I can’t wait for it to happen again.

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