Dyer Straits: The trials and tribulations of the “Pretty Faces” film

Dyer Straits: The trials and tribulations of the “Pretty Faces” film

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Making a ski movie? Not easy. Altering the landscape of women in sports? Even tougher. Lynsey Dyer found out the hard way, through her new film Pretty Faces, that real change comes with a price.

Sydney Dickinson was in the middle of an Avy 2 course in Crested Butte, CO, last winter when she got a message from pro skier Lynsey Dyer, whom she’d never met before.

It was an invite to join Dyer and fellow pro Rachael Burks for a last-minute filming trip to Retallack, a cat-skiing lodge in British Columbia, for Dyer’s new women’s ski film, Pretty Faces. A week earlier, Dickinson had won the Crested Butte Freeskiing Extremes, and a mutual friend had recommended her to Dyer as a good addition to the movie’s athlete roster. Still, Dickinson was surprised.

“I couldn’t believe they wanted me up there,” Dickinson says. “I thought, Are they sure they have the right person?”

Anyone who knows Dickinson knows she’s got a rare, natural strength and finesse on her skis. She has the skills to be a pro skier if she wanted to, but that’s never been her priority. Instead, she works a couple shifts at a ski shop in Crested Butte, does the bookkeeping for her husband’s painting company and is starting as a cat-skiing guide this winter. Her filming experience is limited to a few web videos, and self-promotion is not her thing. But the opportunity to shoot for Pretty Faces was too good to pass up.

So she booked a plane ticket using miles, got her work shifts covered and left town bound for Retallack the day after her avalanche course ended.

On the first day of filming, Burks scouted a gorgeous double-stacked pillow drop, while Dyer picked the face’s only other viable cliff. Dickinson was left without much of a line choice but Burks noticed her eyeing the same double feature.

“If you want to ski that, you should totally take it,” Burks said, offering up her line. “This is your week.”

“No, no. You should ski it,” Dickinson said. “You’ll do it better anyway.”

“Dude, just take it,” Burks responded. “And stomp it.”

It was the kind of social dynamic you’d only find on a girls’ trip: passiveness, flattery, modesty. Dickinson skied it, and of course, she nailed it.

“Sydney crushed more shots than any of us,” Burks said later.

This situation—where a local girl who skis hard but never receives much recognition suddenly gets the call to join a film crew and appear in a ski movie—never happens. It’s not reality in the ski industry as we know it today. Instead, major ski movies feature a microscopic number of elite female pro skiers who earn their token spots through a tremendous amount of work and alignment with the right sponsors. Less than 15 percent of the athletes appearing in major ski movies today are women.

But if Lynsey Dyer has her way, and if Pretty Faces—the film she’s spent the last two years slaving over—is a success, then perhaps all of that could change.

[Full Film] Purchase Pretty Faces now via Vimeo On Demand

In the fantasy world Dyer envisions, girls of all ages will, as she says, find their own magnificence. They’ll discover the things they excel at, whether it’s skiing or something else entirely. When others tell them they cannot do something, they’ll push harder and prove them wrong. Girls will celebrate their own successes, and confidence will come.

“I hate the word empower,” Dyer says. “It’s not about giving girls something they don’t have, but helping them recognize what they already have within them. I want to put up a mirror in front of them so they see what they are innately good at, and they remember that they have what it takes.”

If it sounds like Pretty Faces is a feel-good, feminist rant that only your 12-year-old neighbor girl would watch, think again. It’s part ski porn, part documentary. Forty five minutes of girls ripping steep lines and deep powder mixed with historical skiing figures, inspiring moments and an exceptional sense of fun. “This movie is not obnoxious, girl-power fluff,” Dyer says. “It’s about questioning yourself. It’s about showing what’s possible.”

But to show the world what’s possible, first Dyer had to pull off something that everyone said she couldn’t do, something she was entirely ill equipped for: She had to make a ski movie.

Pretty Faces isn’t a film about Lynsey Dyer. She’ll be the first to tell you that. “That would be so boring,” she says. The movie features an impressive lineup of female skiers, both well known, like Burks, Ingrid Backstrom, Elyse Saugstad and Angel Collinson, and unknown, like the 11-year-old girl who submitted GoPro footage of herself learning a new trick.

But you can’t talk about this movie without honoring the woman who’s put her life on hold for two years to create it.

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