A bit of an absurd thing

Fragments Choisis: Elisabeth Gerritzen in Interview

By: Ethan Stone December 14, 2022

This much is certain: “Fragments Choisis” (Selected Fragments) is unlike any other ski movie you will see this year.

This short documentary written and directed by Alicia Cenci puts 2021 Freeride World Tour champion and Peak Performance athlete Elisabeth Gerritzen in the center of attention. It’s not a place she’s always comfortable being in; but in the intimate setting of her own kitchen, chopping a cucumber, Elisabeth is ready to open up for the camera.

What Elisabeth has to say is compelling in more ways than one. For starters, her subject matter is far from your typical ski chatter. Instead of pow-day dreams and soliloquies on how blessed her life is, Elisabeth wrestles with uncomfortable topics: the environmental consequences and absurd realities of her profession, and the enduring social disparities that remain prevalent in the ski community and beyond.

What’s just as fascinating is Elisabeth’s openness in addressing these issues. Some pro skiers seem to live within a “shell of radness,” a comfortable bubble of neutrality that shelters them from hot-topic issues. Elisabeth isn’t afraid to step outside of this bubble, show her own vulnerability, and use her platform to advocate for change.

I wanted to learn more about Elisabeth’s motivation in creating “Fragments Choisis” and what her next move will be. She was kind enough to respond via email to a few of my questions.

Photo: Melanie Braillard

Ethan Stone:  Hey Elisabeth, thanks for the chance to ask you a few questions about “Fragments Choisis,” and thanks for your courage in sharing this project with the world.

Elisabeth Gerritzen:  Hey Ethan, thanks for giving me a platform to talk about it! To be very honest, I’m actually a bit reluctant about the term “courage” as it reinforces the very narrative that I’m (humbly) trying to shift. But it’s something I’ve been told a lot these past weeks and I know it comes from a place of empathy and kindness. But how you name things is so important.

ES  You’ve often stated that you aren’t entirely comfortable being the center of attention. Since your overall FWT win in 2021, have you gotten more comfortable being in the spotlight?

EG  I still struggle with the attention. But I’ve come to realize that having a voice, however big or small, comes with some sort of responsibility to speak up for others who don’t necessarily have the same privilege.

I absolutely do hope it creates some kind of precedent for athletes that will come after me. It’s very reason I did it.

ES  You mentioned both Alice Coffin and Megan Rapinoe as motivations in your public coming-out in April 2021.Do you think that without prominent examples like them and others, that you would have come out the way that you did? And do you hope you can be that same example for someone else?

EG  It was really important to me to give them some credit. And there are many other names I could have mentioned. I believe when you do or say something that you will ultimately be valued for, it’s honest, if not necessary, to let people know it falls within a broader narrative that others before you fought hard to make visible. To put it metaphorically, I wouldn’t write a paper in school without citing my sources.

And yes, I absolutely do hope it creates some kind of precedent for athletes that will come after me. It’s very reason I did it. I believe the more people talk and claim space from the “margin” of the industry, the less marginalized these very voices become.

Fragments Choisis screenshot

ES  “Fragments Choisis” is a film that stretches the boundaries of what a “ski movie” can be. Was it hard to get sponsors like Peak Performance and Faction on board? What does it mean to you to have their support?

EG  One could argue it is not even a ski movie. But yes, it’s all the more exciting that these two brands were willing to support it, almost unconditionally. I always knew that the core values of these particular sponsors were in line with mine, and their willingness to support the project really set that in stone. I have been skiing Factions since I was 18 and wearing Peak Performance gear for the last five years, so frankly it didn’t come as a huge surprise that we are a good match. In many ways it made me realize that, to some extent, we are fighting the same fight.

ES  You often mention that you have imposter syndrome, that you don’t feel you deserve the attention you get as a world champion and a world-class athlete. Has using your voice to speak out about issues that matter to you helped you to feel more comfortable in your role as a professional athlete?

EG  That’s a good question. Yes and no. For a bit, I felt I was becoming the “militant” or “activist” skier who was only seen through that lens and not through a performance lens anymore. And it was a hard pill to swallow somehow. But I put my ego aside and went with the role. I guess the movie is the very materialization of that. Due to competition schedules and shitty snow, Alicia and I really struggled to film the kind of lines I would have liked to be featured in the movie. And to be honest we almost didn’t make the movie because of that insufficiency. But Alicia managed to convince me we could still put together something that mattered and that was worth sharing with the world.

It’s a bit of an absurd thing when you think about it too much. A lot of effort and energy and CO2 emissions for a few minutes of fame or pride.

ES  In the movie, you mention wanting to make an all-women’s ski movie, from filmers to guides to directors. Does “Fragments Choisis” fulfill that standard for you? Do you want to do more filming in the future?

EG  Once again, yes and no. The people we worked with for the project specifically were all female (and that was hard enough to organize) but we also used some shots from male filmers I had worked with, which I was very grateful for.

I enjoy filming. It’s a bit of an absurd thing when you think about it too much. A lot of effort and energy and CO2 emissions for a few minutes of fame or pride. But life itself is quite absurd so I just roll with it.

Photo courtesy of Peak Performance

ES  What’s your outlook for the upcoming 2023 Freeride World Tour? Do you have any major goals still to reach on the FWT stage?

EG  I’m excited! I’m part of the older crew nowadays, which feels weird and makes me question whether or not I can keep up with all the newly qualified super stars. My only goal each season has been to make it to finals in Verbier, and I’ve managed to do that for five years in a row now, so I hope this one will be no exception!

This is obviously a sociological issue and it should be dealt with as such. It’s a shift that will take centuries, not years.

ES  What do you believe should be the main focus for the ski industry to evolve in terms of equality and women’s representation?

EG  I could write a 10-page essay about this haha. But essentially what I’ve identified as an issue is the false idea people have about what “equality” really is or ought to be. So many times I’ve been told women’s skiing is objectively not at the same level as men’s skiing, so therefore the representation and financial disparities are justified. This is meritocratic, capitalistic bullshit (sorry) and this narrative needs to end. Why isn’t anyone asking why there are less girls competing, less girls encouraged to freeride, less girls valued to take risks, less girls encouraged to perform in sports in general? This is obviously a sociological issue and it should be dealt with as such. It’s a shift that will take centuries, not years. But until then, women need the right gear to perform, proper financing, and for their voices not only to be heard within the industry but to be amplified. Also, ski companies and even organizers need to diversify who they hire at decision-making positions within their ranks.

ES  Elisabeth, thank you for taking the time to respond, and for using your voice to speak out on equality and representation in skiing. You’re fighting the good fight!