By: Klaus Polzer March 26, 2020

This is an excerpt of an article is from the Downdays 2019 Book of Ski Stories. To read the full article, visit our webshop and order your copy while they last.

In February 2019, Silvia Bertagna invited a select crew of her female peers to join her for a session in Seiser Alm. One of just a handful of women-focused ski events, it was a special chance for the girls to shred together as a crew, and a unique chance for us to catch up with this diverse crew of talented skiers on a range of different topics.

A group of female freeskiers gathers for an exclusive session at Seiser Alm.

The gang´s all here.

Interviews: Klaus Polzer & Silvia Bertagna | Photos: Alice Russolo

How was the Seiser Alm session for you?

Coline: It was really great to ride one of the most fun parks in Europe with an awesome group of girls. And it was so nice to have a few dedicated shooting days where you can take the time to get good shots!

Kea: I loved the session, especially with all the invited girls who made it extra fun. I think the most important thing about this session was to get together outside of competition. Everyone was more calm and relaxed. We all got to know each each other better.

Margaux: I had such a fun few days! Seiser Alm is a special place and I was very thankful to be there with a sick crew. The whole experience was amazing, everyone looked after us like royalty. From the beautiful hotel, yoga sessions, spa and horse carriage ride to an amazing local restaurant, a great park and great vibes.

Emma: It was a lot of fun to get together with a bunch of very talented ladies. The stoke was high, and the long laps in the park at Seiser Alm didn’t make it any worse!

Emma Dahlström at Seiser Alm

Whether she´s hitting the jumps or slashing up the sides, Emma Dahlström packs style in spades.

Some steeze, please: Coline Ballet-Baz serves one up hot.

Silvia Bertagna

Born: 30 November 1986 in Brixen, Italy
Home/Resort: Val Gardena/Seiser Alm, Italy
Hobbies: Biking, surfing, climbing
Sponsors: Seiser Alm, Smith, Völkl-Marker-Dalbello, Under Armour, Level Gloves, Cober Poles

Silvia Bertagna

Coline Ballet-Baz

Born: 12 June 1992 in Dijon, France
Home/Resort: Sallanches/Chamonix, France
Hobbies: Hiking, slackline, traveling, reading, concerts
Sponsors: Völkl, Picture Organic Clothing, Monster Energy, Level Gloves

What’s the benefit of an exclusive session with just a few riders?

Giorgia: You can ride more often and focus on what you want to do!

Coline: It’s easier to stay all together and have group vibes, and it makes it less complicated for the filmer to get good shots, too.

Kea: The smaller the group of riders, the more intense the riding is, I have the feeling. Also, with more riders there would be a chance that more little groups will form. The group size we had at Seiser Alm was perfect.

Emma: I like it small. You really get to connect with everyone and it feels like a very tight group of friends on the mountain. The vibe that grows from that helps to bring the stoke up and everyone took advantage of that and did some really cool stuff in the park.

Girls don't get many events like this, where the spotlight is only on female park riders.

Is it important to have sessions dedicated to female riders only?

Giorgia: It definitely is! We are not so many and don't get many opportunities to rider together; personally I love it! It's amazing to push each other, but also just enjoy the time together. With girls I feel we ahve nice ideas and try more stuff, with boys it is a different level. I like that, too, but often I feel we are doing different sports.

Kea: There is also an advantage to riding with boys, because they can push you to get to a higher level, but girls are way better in encouraging and understanding while learning a new trick. A mix might be perfect.

Silvia: It's fun to be girls only. I wouldn't say that it's better than riding with boys, but it's always about those special vibes that a session creates. The benefit in my opinion is that you can compare yourself better to another female skier than to a male. On the other hand, boys can be very inspiring to watch.

Margaux: It’s important to have sessions like this because the level of skiing is a lot closer if it’s just females riding together. We can relate more and we know that we aren’t being judged for not having the same level as male skiers. I do believe, though, that skiing with men also has benefits. Skiing with boys when I was younger really helped me reach another level, pushed me in the right direction and gave me confidence to do things I might have not done with female riders.

Emma: Girls don’t get many events like this, where the spotlight is only on female park riders. It helps us to understand our value in this sport and it also helps us to get more motivated! To ride among boys is the normal way most of us ski, as it’s a male-dominated sport. It’s fantastic to learn from the boys as they have often done the tricks that we aim for, and they are a huge inspiration. But sometimes it’s nice to be just girls and get the spotlight for ourselves.

Squad up.

Session organizer Silvia Bertagna is no stranger to the skies above Seiser Alm´s jump line. Photo: Francesco Perini

Emma Dahlström

Born: 19 July 1992 in Torsby, Sweden
Home/Resort: Eksjö/Kläppen, Sweden
Hobbies: Playing with my dog, work outs, photography, most types of x-sports: surfing, skate, MTB, guitar,
friends, climbing
Sponsors: Monster Energy, Völkl, Smith, GoPro, Dope, Marker, Dalbello

Giorgia Bertoncini

Born: 16 June 1994 in Bergamo, Italy
Home/Resort: Bergamo/Foppolo, Italy
Hobbies: Skiing, drawing, climbing, partying
Sponsors: ON3P, 686, Outof, Foppolo Freestyle

How do you see the position of female athletes in freeskiing at this point? What’s good and what needs improvement?

Giorgia: The level is growing so fast and there are more girls every year, that’s good! But most of these girls are doing comps and I would love to see more girls improving in filming and other stuff.

Coline: It feels like our position is getting better and better every year, as is our level of riding! Girls’ freeskiing is getting really impressive, and therefore gets better recognition and more respect. What could be improved is our representation in films and edits!

Kea: We are still far fewer athletes than male freeskiers. Nevertheless, the progress is insane. Especially last season, many girls did doubles and added their own cool style to each of their tricks. I really enjoy where this is going and I can see a bright future for us.

Margaux: I think our position is getting better. The level of women’s skiing has improved hugely in the last few years and I think we are being taken a lot more seriously than in the past. Obviously, there are still some men complaining but that’s the case in any sport, and us ladies just need to keep pushing for equality and remember we are badasses, too.

Emma: Since our sport entered the world of World Cups, World Champs and Olympics, I have seen a major change. Before, it was very uncertain that girls were allowed at every contest. A lot of them were only dedicated to male athletes. But today, we compete at the same conditions, at the same courses with the same prize money. This has opened up the possibility for more ladies to actually have this sport as their profession and it has helped progress our sport a lot, which is fantastic to see! Still, there is more to do when it comes to TV time and sponsor money divided between the genders, but I hope that will change in the future.

Giorgia Bertoncini´s rail game is up to date.

Kea Kühnel wraps up a cork 7 "con molto stile."

Do you think we need more women in leading positions at brands or federations in order to continue improving?

Coline: That’s a really good point. There are so few women working in this industry, even though the few I have worked with always did a really great job. The number of female coaches, team managers, federation officials and so on should definitely increase; that would be for the benefit of the whole community.

Kea: More female judges! I think it is important to have female perspective on our contest runs. Additionally, in each nation’s ski federation it is essential to have women representatives in top positions. What I really hate about contests is that most of the time we are gifted with bad weather conditions, and usually the girls’ qualification will be pushed behind so that the boys have the better conditions. Telling us that there are more male competitors, so they need to get them through qualification, doesn’t make us feel any better.

Silvia: Sure it would be awesome to have more girls in important positions, but since there are still not a lot of females in this business, it’s not an easy thing to reach. It would be really nice to have some female coaches in the scene, as this could maybe help to get the community growing and get more girls into this sport.

Kea Kühnel

Born: 16 March 1991 in Bremerhaven, Germany
Home/Resort: Innsbruck/Nordkette, Austria
Hobbies: Traveling, reading
Sponsors: K2, Full Tilt, Smith Optics

Kea Kühnel

Margaux Hackett

Born: 2 June 1999 in Annecy, France
Home/Resort: Manigod/La Clusaz, France
Hobbies: Skateboarding, reading, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, cooking, Monopoly Deal
Sponsors: Faction, Forward, Mons Royale, AJ Hackett International

Elisa Nakab

Born: 8 May 1998 in Briançon, France
Home/Resort: Serre Chevalier, France / Livigno, Italy
Hobbies: Running, mountain biking, yoga
Sponsors: Livigno, OutOf, Armada, Team Feet&Fit

How do you feel major sports brands do with women’s products in how they’re developed, designed, and promoted?

Coline: It feels like there is a wide variety of female-specific products, and not only with the classic girly style. Us girls also like to wear green, blue or brown! As far as promotion, it’s a shame in my opinion that girl influencers are sometimes used to promote action sports brands instead of girl riders, whereas brands always use male skiers to promote their products and never male influencers. It gives the impression that having a nice body is enough for girls, whereas performance is the only thing that matters for boys.

Silvia: It’s something very important at the moment; a lot of brands use influencers to promote their products, which I can somehow understand, but some of them even use them for development of their products, where I think athletes who really use the stuff would be way better suited. Plus they are already paid by the companies, so why spend extra money? Sometimes it feels like it’s more important to be a good-looking girl than a good athlete.

Margaux: It’s a shame to see influencers getting paid to represent our sport when they are not the ones putting in the hard work and putting their body on the line. Brands should use their athletes to promote their products.

Emma Dahlström sends into the sunset.

Does freeskiing impose on your femininity?

Coline: From what I see in the freeskiing world, you can definitely be a female freeskier, go hard in your sport, and be 100% feminine. Girls also like to do action sports and push themselves, it’s normal and doesn’t mean they are acting like boys.

Margaux: Freeskiing is seen as a man’s sport, so to be a woman in this sport feels great and makes me feel like a badass woman. I think most people get excited when they hear that women do crazy tricks on jumps. Freeskiing is unique and I’m so happy to be a part of it.

Silvia: The first years I was in this scene it was kind of cool as a girl to be quite masculine and not act girlish. I remember a younger girl telling me she liked my skiing because I didn’t ski like a girl. At that time I thought it was a big compliment, but now I think it sounds funny; why shouldn’t we ski like girls? We are female and our skiing isn’t any worse because of that! Nowadays things are different, the girls are strong with big technical tricks and a lot of style, while still bringing their feminine side to the sport.

Emma: Freeskiing is a male-dominated sport and I definitely think that has shaped me a lot. With that said, I don’t necessarily think it has been in a bad way. When I was little I didn’t care so much about my looks, a lot like the boys; I didn’t care about dressing up or make-up. But through sports I got the acknowledgement I needed to feel good. Without that I probably would have been a very lost soul. Today I’m grown up and a little more lady-like, and that’s okay too. Freeskiing is a very accepting sport in my eyes. Just be you, and everyone will be okay with that!

We need to make girls and women feel welcome to join, make them feel equal.

How do we get more girls and women involved in freeskiing?

Coline: It’s a positive circle in my opinion: if there are more female athletes, chances will be higher that they’ll work in the industry in other positions after their career, and encourage more girls to get involved. But mentalities also need to change within brands and federations. They need to accept the fact that women can do a great job, sometimes better than men, at every position, even the higher ones. But unfortunately this is an issue within the whole society, not just in action sports.

Kea: What I think most girls are still afraid of in our sport are the big jumps. But especially nowadays, there are many more opportunities to learn new tricks. I mean, look at the popular airbags that make it possible to train authentically and take away the fear.

Silvia: This is the biggest problem I see nowadays; the girls we have in the business are strong and competitive, but there are not many girls in the sport. A lot of countries, more in Europe maybe, have one or two girls competing at the high level, but not many coming up from the lower levels. It’s hard to find a reason for this or a simple way to change it. Maybe an idea would be to have more female coaches who could reach out better to the younger girls, and maybe even more importantly to the parents, as the sport is still in some places seen as crazy, extreme or dangerous.

Margaux: We need to make girls and women feel welcome to join, make them feel equal. I think as athletes we can talk to the younger generations and tell them about our sport, and how they can be a part of it and don’t have to be a boy to do so. That they can be badass strong women and they don’t have to follow the rules of society. The doors are open for them and they can have fun, too! Having events for women is also huge. Just inviting women of all levels to come join us for a day of riding and let them experience what it’s like is awesome.

Behind the Session with Silvia Bertagna

How did you get the idea to organize the Seiser Alm Session?

That actually goes back to the very first Nine Queens event. We were only a few female skiers and snowboarders sessioning a great obstacle at that time, and I was missing that vibe for a few years. So three years ago I thought about starting a similar thing for skiers, but it took a while to materialize. The first push I made two years ago, but only this season I found strong partners—Smith Optics, Seiser Alm, Völkl, and Level Gloves—who finally made it possible. Particularly Seiser Alm was really supportive in many ways, so I’m happy that everything worked out.

Is it easier or harder to promote a female only event in skiing?
Since this is the first event I have ever been involved in organizing, I can’t really say. I guess it depends on which partners you are looking for. Some will prefer a male event because they hope for more output, but others will like it specifically because it is a female only event. It’s definitely more special. For example, Seiser Alm thought the concept fits them very well and they may not have been interested if I had proposed having both male and female riders.

Are you planning to organize another session next season, and if so, will you change something or keep it the same?
I definitely will push hard to make a second edition happen. I also would like to keep the concept the same, so only a small group of skiers and just riding the park for a few days, which Seiser Alm is the perfect place for. Probably the cast of riders will look a bit different. I have no specific aim in that respect, I just want it to be a diverse group with different ages and different nationalities. For this season I simply asked some girls who I was in touch with already. For next year let’s see who is interested and has time.

How was the experience of organizing the event and at the same time being a part of it? Are you happy with how everything turned out?
I have say I was really lucky that Francesco Perini, the manager of the Smith team, helped me a lot with all the organizing onsite during the event, otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible to do both. Danke Franz! It is really stressful to organize such an event even though we were only a few girls. It’s almost impossible to find a date that works for everybody in the first place, and then there are so many things to coordinate that you would never think of when you are just attending an event. But I have to say everything worked out pretty much as planned, so I am really happy. It is a great experience to do all that, but once a year is enough. I am glad I can focus on skiing the rest of the season.