Featured Image: Aaron Blatt
Last month, I highlighted freeskiing’s most influential women: The Pioneers. This month, I’m giving the current queens the recognition they deserve. Mind you, this list has nothing to do with looks. From creating standout film segments to conquering first descents, sweeping contest podiums and overcoming wicked injuries, these 13 ladies are at the top of their sport right now, showing the boys exactly how it should be done.
Coming off of what may be her hottest year yet, Elyse Saugstad has been absolutely slaying. Named FREESKIER’s 2018 Skier of the Year –a peer-voted honor given to the best male and female skier for their season’s successes–Saugstad earned the top honors namely for her role in Matchstick Productions’ All In. Her standout performance in the film, from crushing Alaskan spines to hucking her meat off of every feature she could find, solidified Saugstad’s position as one of the best female athletes in skiing. Beyond her own skiing, Saugstad, along with Michelle Parker, Jackie Paaso and Ingrid Backstrom, founded the SAFE AS Clinics in 2013 to get more women safely into the backcountry.
Michelle Parker has been making massive waves in the ski industry since she first ditched ski racing for freeskiing at the age of 15. Growing up on the slopes of Squaw Valley, California, Parker has a smooth and strong style that’s all her own. Despite her fair share of injuries, the Red Bull athlete continues to defy what’s physically possible for herself within the sport. In a constant pursuit of improvement, Parker has ventured into the realm of mountaineering and, on top of filming with big-name production companies, she also stars in her own Red Bull series, Originate. Seemingly, not even the sky is the limit for Michelle Parker.
Arguably one of best Alaskan-spine skiers to grace this Earth, Angel Collinson makes this list for her pure grit and tenacious skiing. The daughter of Snowbird’s ski patrol director at the time, Collinson grew up at the base of the Utah ski resort and has been skiing since she could walk. At the age of 19, Collinson shifted her focus from alpine ski racing to big-mountain and in her rookie year on the Freeride World Tour in 2010, she claimed the overall title. She repeated that cycle the following season. In 2014, Collinson became the first woman to ever open a Teton Gravity Research (TGR) film and her performance in that opening segment of Almost Ablaze earned her FREESKIER’s 2015 Skier of the Year. Building off that momentum, Collinson became the first female to ever win “Best Line” at the Powder Video Awards in 2015 for her performance in TGR’s Paradise Waits–the same film where she also became the first female to ever snag the closing segment of a TGR film.
Jackie Paaso first got her start as a mogul skier on the Ice Coast with dreams of one day making it to the Olympics. Plagued by injuries, the skier eventually burnt out of the discipline and moved her life to Lake Tahoe, California, where she chased the Freeride World Tour. The big-mountain rookie had to fight for a wild card slot when the tour stopped in Tahoe in 2010, but after stomping a 45-foot monster of a cliff, she had everyone’s attention. With a reputation for pushing her physical limits, Paaso has competed on the Tour for nearly a decade and has solidified herself as one of the best female riders to ever hit the circuit. Beyond competition, Paaso has graced the silver screen alongside friend and pro skier, Eva Walkner, co-starring in the movie Evolution of Dreams.
Arianna Tricomi is, quite frankly, a f#cking badass. Hailing from the land of pasta and wine, this Italian charger is the two-time reigning queen of the Freeride World Tour and quite possibly one of the most charming people you’ll ever meet. The daughter of an Italian World Cup Ski Racer–her mother, to be clear–Tricomi grew up in the mountains and ski raced until she was 16. When she lost a friend in an avalanche, she realized life was too short for the rigid rules of racing and decided to chase her freedom on wider, big-mountain skis. Tricomi has been competing on the Tour since 2016 and shows no signs of slowing down.
Christina Lustenberger grew up in the mountains of British Columbia. Alpine ski racing was “Lusti’s” focus for many years, landing on the World Cup circuit, which sent her around the world and back again to ski at many of its most iconic destinations. Lusti’s yearning for her home along the Columbia River, however, led her back to British Columbia where she has become Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) certified–arguably the most prestigious guiding certification in the world. This year, Lusti is making her major silver screen debut in TGR’sWinterland.
Sandra Lahnsteiner is an Austrian to her core: a helluva a skier, but also an incredibly hard worker in every aspect of her life. On top of being a Fischer freeski athlete, Lahnsteiner is also the producer behind all of the Shades of Winter films, which aim to feature and provide a platform for the industry’s amazing lady shredders. At 38 years old, Lahnsteiner is still at the top of her game; her performance in Shades of Winter: COUPLES earned her fifth nomination for Best Female Performance from iF3. No easy feat.
Born and raised in Lake Tahoe, California, Amie Engerbretson first learned how to ski at Squaw Valley at the ripe age of 10 months old and hasn’t stopped shredding since. A regular in Warren Miller Entertainment ski films, Engerbretson’s skiing career has taken her all over the world, from Japan to Alaska to Iceland. When Engerbretson joined the Spyder family, she was the only female backcountry athlete on the roster and took the lead on the women’s outerwear offerings. Now, she’s helping the brand launch its brand-new freeski category and rocking the outerwear kit she had a heavy hand in designing.
At the end of the 2016-17 season, Tatum Monod was at the top of her game. Confidently and stylishly hitting natural features in the backcountry and dominating massive Alaskan faces, Monod’s skiing was the best it had ever been. So much so, her segment in Level 1 Productions’ Habit awarded her Powder’s “Female Performance of the Year” as well as FREESKIER’s Female Skier of the Year. But when you’re at the top, in Tatum’s words, “sometimes the only way to go is down.” After a wicked crash in Alaska, Monod found herself on the operating table with one of her knees completely obliterated and a 12-plus-month recovery looming over her. Like the ultimate champion that she is, Monod faced her recovery head-on and was back on snow to join the ladies–Elyse, Angel and Michelle–in South America to film for MSP’s All In.
When you grow up with Jackson Hole as your playground, it doesn’t really matter when you get your start. Hadley Hammer is living proof of that. Hammer, along with her two brothers, grew up skiing the mighty slopes of Jackson Hole but it wasn’t until she left the famous Wyoming ski town to go to school at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and then on to Washington D.C. for the start of her career in hospitality, that Hammer realized she wanted and needed more. After six years away from home, Hammer moved back to Jackson Hole, entered her first freeskiing competition and quickly found herself pursuing a professional skiing career at the age of 25. Since moving home, Hadley Hammer has competed on the Freeride World Tour and become a staple athlete in TGR films.
In her first year on the Canadian Olympic roster, Cassie Sharpe took over the world’s biggest sporting stage when she snagged the gold medal for women’s halfpipe at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February of 2018. Hardly out of nowhere, Sharpe’s accolades, at that point, already included a first-place finish at X Games Norway in 2016; three more gold medals at the World Cups held in France and New Zealand and the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, CO, in 2017; and started out 2018 with a first-place finish at Aspen’s World Cup. Since the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sharpe has continued her podium sweep, including taking home the gold at the 2019 X Games in Aspen, Colorado. At 27 years old, Sharpe exudes a style and confidence, as well as a genuine good attitude, that is being compared to one of freeskiing’s greatest female skiers, Sarah Burke.
Kelly Sildaru has been shaking up slopestyle and halfpipe competitions since the young Estonian first stepped onto the freestyle scene at the ripe age of 10–yep, you read that right. At only 17, Sildaru has solidified herself as one of freestyle skiing’s greatest competitors and continues to defy what is possible for women in the sport–including setting a new high-score record at the 2019 Winter X Games when she won gold in slopestyle. The young-yet-tenacious athlete was unable to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang due to injury but we’re certain the Northern-European phenom will dutifully represent her country at the next Olympic games.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was the first time freeskiing–halfpipe and slopestyle–was included in the games and Maddie Bowman, just 20 years old at the time, became the first woman in history to win an Olympic halfpipe gold. Before snagging the first-place finish on the world’s biggest stage for winter sports, Bowman already had two X Games Superpipe titles under her belt and after she brought home the Olympic hardware, Bowman continued to dominate the halfpipe scene with two more consecutive X Games golds in 2015 and 2016. In 2018, Bowman earned her fifth X Games gold. Beyond the competition circuit, the young freestyle skier is venturing into the backcountry to expand her already impressive skiing repertoire.