In The Company of Strong Women

Get inspired by the enduring power of strong women for International Women’s Day 

This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the athletes, entrepreneurs, activists, and creatives who live fearlessly and inspire us to follow in their footsteps. Get inspired by the stories of 5 amazing, rule-breaking women leading the next generation with their skills and unapologetic confidence.

Michelle Parker | Pro Skier, Advocate, Filmmaker

Where are you from and what do you do? What are your passions in life?

Born and raised in Olympic Valley here in Lake Tahoe. I currently live in Tahoe City and I am a professional skier. My passions in life are definitely skiing, mountain biking, climbing, photography, a good read, exploring, women’s sports, cooking, friends, family, community, our environment and spending as much time in nature as possible.

 

What is the driving force behind your appreciation for your sports and passions?

These activities give me an outlet. When I am skiing, biking, climbing or learning something new, is when I feel the most present and appreciative of life. Sounds corny, but it’s the truth. Being outside makes me feel more grounded and connected. It’s where we are meant to be! I love finding nature wherever I am, a city park, leaves on a tree, or dirt under my feet…I feel like when I spend more and more time in nature I am more in tune with myself and others around me. What makes that even better is when I am with friends and there is no cell service and you truly get to disconnect from any distraction that takes you away from being in the present moment. I suppose that is really my answer to your question, my driving force behind my appreciation for these sports is the fact that they bring stillness and presence into my life. All of these activities are also where I have built my community and where I find the deepest connection to my friends.

 

What inspirations guide you and help you achieve your goals?

This has certainly changed over time. Initially, it was progression; learning a new trick, pushing the sport forward, or landing a spot on the podium at a contest. Then it became more focussed on individual progression and learning as much as I could about the mountains, how to access them and all of the knowledge that is necessary to be in the backcountry and or on human powered accents. While all of this can also lead to progression of the sport, it became a lot less competitive for me. I think that’s why I stopped competing in the first place. The mountains, to me, are a place for friends and camaraderie. I wasn’t filling that bucket competing, but I was when I was filming. We all had each others backs and wanted badly for each other to succeed. However, the most common thread that has inspired me throughout my entire career is having fun. If it ain’t fun then why the heck are we doing it? It’s not about bagging peaks, getting first descents, or one uping someone; it is about building deep friendships, pushing myself physically in good company, hearing stories, sharing stories, long days in the mountains and the relationships that have resulted from skiing/biking/climbing and the goals that I have set within this arena.

Women who you look towards and appreciate these days?

SO MANY HOW DO I LIST THEM ALL?! I’ll try my best… The first that is coming to mind is Kimmy Fasani. Kimmy has been a close friend for a very long time. She is now an amazing mother of two and really helped push for more protection for women in our contracts with these brands. Prior to Kimmy making waves, I would have feared that starting a family would be viewed as an injury from sponsors. Huge thanks to Kimmy for pushing for support and changing the wording in our contracts. Kimmy was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer and watching her navigate illness among so many other things that life has thrown at her has been nothing short of inspiring. She has so much courage and strength. Being in Kimmy’s presence, it’s clear that woman has a special strength within her. Aside from all of the things I adore about her, Kimmy’s snowboarding has always pushed me forward in skiing. She’s a boss!

Hannah Bergemann, an incredible mountain biker who is pushing the boundaries, on top of her game, yet all the while bringing everyone up with her. That’s what makes an inspirational athlete to me. Watching her do her thing inspires me to give back more. Love that girl.

Then there is Casey Brown, another mountain biker who is really pushing the sport forward, competing with the guys, and also giving back so much to the community. I once drove 9 hours just to watch her compete. I love being a fan.

Spencer O’Brien, pro snowboarder who just released her film titled “Precious Leader Woman.” Spencer is a long time friend who has overcome serious injuries and set backs. She left slopestyle behind and started filming more in the backcountry…her new film showcases an impressive breakout year for her first real year of filming. More importantly, I am inspired by her sharing her story and her newfound love of her culture. You must watch her film!

Marie France Roy is another snowboarder who I have always looked up to. From filming amazing riding her entire career to standing up for what she believes in, Marie is just an all around lovable person who isn’t afraid to take a stand. Love that woman.

In skiing, I can’t help but to mention Sarah Burke and all that she did for our sport wether that was in progressing our sport, demanding equal pay, pushing for halfpipe and slopestyle to be a part of the Olympics…that woman was an incredibly graceful leader and we are all lucky to have had her pioneer our sport.

Ingrid Backstrom has always been a huge inspiration as well. She had some incredible segments with MSP and has always carried herself humbly and compassionately. I really appreciate Ingrid’s contribution to the sport of skiing which is still happening as she opens up the doors for others as well. Check out her latest film called “The Approach.”

Hilaree Nelson also comes to mind when I think of people who make me want to be better at what I do. Her ability to push through the glass ceiling and pave her own way has always stood out to me. She has a laundry list of accomplishments, but mostly is just super fun to be around.

I’ve had the most fun times filming with Elyse Saugstad over the years as well. Her and I played off of each other in the mountains and I truly think we leveled up together.

One of my biggest local heroes here in Tahoe is Bonnie Zellers, a pioneer for women’s snowboarding back in the day. She is one of my main mountain partners and is 60 years old. We got for the longest walks day after day and Bonnie’s grace and style on her board right now make me so happy. It gives me something to strive for and look forward too. Hiking mountains, a zest for exploration, her strength and attitude are all really inspiring.

 

Any challenges you have recently overcome that you feel have made you stronger?

Honestly, producing my own series with Red Bull felt like one of the more empowering lessons that I have learned in the past five years. It made me step up to the plate, learn how to lead with curiosity and confidence and ultimately taught me so much about myself and my process. To have such a big responsibility on top of skiing was a challenge and it pushed me to step up. Many life lessons are super relatable to skiing for me. This one up leveled my confidence. You can check that series out on Red Bull TV or Youtube. It’s titled “Originate.”

 

If you had one super power what would it be?

If I had one super power it would be the ability to take CO2 out of the atmosphere simultaneously solving the climate crises and saving all of the old growth forests.

 

Interesting projects or life goals that are on the horizon for you?

I’ve wrapped up filming “Originate” which took up most of my time for the past 4 years. While that project was absolutely amazing, it was a lot of hard work. I’m focussed on tapping into what brings me the most joy on my skis right now. So as far as projects go, while I’m taking a small break from producing my own short films, I am honored to get to participate in other’s projects. Heading to Europe in a few days to do just that! As far as life goals go, continuing to focus on what brings me the most joy and tap into that on the daily. In the past, I’ve felt like I was chasing a fleeting feeling of that next pow turn, the next big air, the next project, but I’d really like to live in the present more. It’s funny because this is probably the most commonly asked question and I find it evokes a feeling of angst. My past self was always looking to have something going on at all times. Over the years I’ve learned that it’s really important to give myself a break from what’s next. So yeah, long story short what’s next is happening right now. Right here and I’m addicted to it.

 

Any advice you would pass along to the next generation? Or anyone in general that might need some inspiration?

Take initiative and always do your best!

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Molly Hawkins | Entrepreneur, Creative Director

Where are you from and what do you do? What are your passions in life?

Well, do you want the short story or long? I was abandoned as a baby when I was born and adopted from Korea to Southwest Washington to a small cow town called Ridgefield where I learned the simple pleasures in life and how to dream. Growing up in a small town, leaves a lot to the imagination, but as a kid I thought I'd be a broadcast journalist, olympic snowboarder, drummer and hockey player. None of which came to fruition, but in little ways I'd consider my pathway having intersected all those passions and now fuel my thirst for life still to this day. As Founder and Principal of We Are Unicorns, a creative and marketing agency that works with active lifestyle and outdoor brands, I kind of get to live out all those dreams in little ways every day. Snowboarding was really a catalyst for me, something I was passionate about at a young age, the one thing I sort of excelled at and found community in. Watching snowboard films got me interested in becoming a filmmaker and working in that industry. And though I never became a full fledged filmmaker, through the brand and marketing work I do now, I get to help shape many of those brands and support them inspiring the next generation.

 

What inspirations guide you and help you achieve your goals?

Really it was awesome to see how folks would translate their passion for being in the outdoors to lucrative businesses or post-athletic careers. Many people, myself included, have passions that seemingly diverge from their skills. I always thought that there had to be a way to align your passions (mine being snowboarding and being outdoors) and your skills (marketing, strategy, branding), and I was hell bent on not settling on a career that made me choose between the two... so I started my own company.

 

Women who you look towards and appreciate these days?

Too many to list... but Capita team rider, pro snowboarder, gentle giant, Jess kumara comes to mind. She recently released a pretty interesting film where she shares an extremely vulnerable story of what it was like to carve out a space for her in the snowboard industry, the toll that it took and what she learned. In so many ways, but differently, I feel like so many of us women have experience something similar, just trying to carve a space out for ourselves in a male dominated industry, feeling like we had to double down and work harder, sacrifice a ton and came out the other end asking ourselves if it was worth it. Man... otherwise it's ladies like Barrett Christy, Megan (Pischke) Porcheron, Shannon Dunn Downing, Priscilla Levac, Tina Basich and a whole bunch of the early women of snowboarding who paved the way for the rest of us, and have found ways to give back and support furthering women in snowboarding.

Any challenges you have recently overcome that you feel have made you stronger and more empowered?

Wow, in February of 2017, I was 5 years into owning my own company and finally took my first vacation in years with a group of friends to Japan. On day 1 of nearly a month-long trip, I fell on a 35 ft cliff drop and broke my leg and spent the next month in a hospital in Japan... and spent the next 5 years in and out of surgeries (4 more), PT, and finally this last fall, a knee replacement. It's been hard. I can't do the activities I'm used to at the pace and ferocity that I am used to, I don't sleep well and my body has changed. That said, I wouldn't take it back... the universe knew that I was working too much, going too hard, not prioritizing myself and since I wasn't doing anything about it, it decided to intervene. After the accident I took into consideration what I was doing, how I was doing it and really thought about what I wanted from life then and in the future. If it wasn't for the accident I dont think I would have found the success and contentment that I have.

 

If you had one super power what would it be?

Invisibility for sure.

 

Interesting projects or life goals that are on the horizon for you?

Now that my glass is relatively full and spilling over, I look forward to finding ways to fill other peoples glasses through mentorship and creating vehicles for helping others. Through We Are Unicorns I have the opportunity to work with interns, helping nurture early career paths for others, but I'd love to expand on that platform and take it even further.

 

Any advice you would pass along to the next generation? Or anyone in general that might need some inspiration?

Figure out what your passion is and what skills you might excel at, figure out how to align those.

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Elyse Saugstad | Mother, Pro Skier

Where are you from and what do you do? What are your passions in life?

I’m from Girdwood, Alaska, the ski resort town right outside of Anchorage. My passions in life are enjoying the outdoors (especially skiing and surfing), traveling the world, spending quality time with close friends and family, and now being a mother to an amazing little boy.

 

What is the driving force behind your appreciation for your sports and passions?

My appreciation for sports comes from understanding and appreciating the constant boundary breaking feats humans are able to achieve.

 

Any challenges you have recently overcome in sport or life that you feel have made you stronger and more empowered?

Pre and post baby has physically been very hard on me. In fact, it’s been a much bigger setback than what I expected so that threw me for a loop. I’m in the process of the comeback right now. I don’t doubt that I can do it, and that’s probably because I’ve had injuries and traumatic events throughout my career as a professional skier that I’ve had to overcome so it’s just a matter of putting in the work.

Women who you look towards and appreciate these days?

There are so many females breaking through barriers in all aspects of life these days it’s really a great moment in time. That being said, since I am a new Mom my understanding and appreciation for all the mothers in this world has grown to a whole new level. Raising a child is a huge challenge and major achievement, and there are so many mothers who are not only trying to be an amazing mother but also strive to continue their professional careers and/or physical pursuits. Or raise a child as a single parent. Or have two  jobs to get food on the table. The list goes on of what mothers will do to be the best mother they can be, and it’s all impressive.

 

If you had one super power what would it be?

To not need sleep! It’d be a real life super power that is totally overlooked. I love sleep, but what I don’t like is not being able to mentally and physically function at full capacity without a good night’s rest. Also, about a third of our lives are spent (and  wasted) sleeping. I find myself saying, “if there was only more time in the day…” But there doesn’t have to be more time in the day if you did’t have to sleep.

 

Any advice you would pass along to the next generation? Or for anyone in general that might need some inspiration?

The whole "follow your dream” sounds great but also kinda overwhelming. But, it’s totally conceivable! If you break down whatever it is you’re trying to achieve into steps and start chipping away at it before you know it you’re on your path to discovering what’s possible. To unlock your potential you have to give it your full commitment and be ready for the ups and downs that will surely ensue. Just remember the downs will be the biggest lessons to learn from and will make you stronger, so embrace those moments even though they’ll be uncomfortable. And even though this sounds cliche - in the end it’s about the journey - and it truly is.

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Fabiana Delfino | Pro Skater

Photo credit: Will Owens

Where are you from and what do you do? What are your passions in life?

I’m from South Florida and one of my largest passions is skateboarding.

 

What is the driving force behind your appreciation for your sports and passions?

As a human on this planet, I have many driving forces. The past, present and future is what I find the most inspiring. Everything and nothing at all. Living this one-in a lifetime existence is the common denominator that keeps me going.

 

What inspirations lead you to your passions and help you achieve your goals?

Knowing that we only live one time, absolutely drives me to reach any achievement in this life.

Women who you look towards and appreciate these days?

Plenty! And that is the sickest thing to take away from, these last few years; the growth of women involvement in skateboarding. So much to appreciate.

 

Any challenges you have recently overcome that you feel have made you stronger?

There are so many challenges to face, skateboarding aside. Every moment one can beat the odds, is an empowering feat. It’s what’s keeps us going.

 

If you had one super power what would it be?

Wish I could make everyone feel alright!

 

Interesting projects or life goals that are on the horizon for you?

I’m just looking to get back into the swing of things since the long break we all took. As for skateboarding, I have got a full part for Santa Cruz in the works for 2022.

 

Any advice you would pass along to the next generation? Or for anyone in general that might need some inspiration?

Know who you are. Know what you want. Do it right. Don’t settle for less.

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Emily Tidwell | Sports Photographer

Where are you from and what do you do? What are your passions in life?

I am an action sports and adventure lifestyle photographer from Grand Marais, MN a very small, very cool, town tucked on the north shore of Lake Superior. I now reside in Reno, NV. I’m passionate about so many things but especially skiing, baking, and creating.

 

What is the driving force behind your appreciation for your sports and passions?

I love seeing what limits I am capable of pushing. In skiing, biking, photography, there’s always a drive to step over the line of what I’m comfortable with to see what’s on the other side. I really strive to constantly improve myself.

 

What inspirations lead you to your passions and help you achieve your goals?

I grew up in a very creative home. My childhood bedroom was my dad’s art studio. An abstract landscape artist, he would spend hours at his large easel as I played at his feet. He taught me to critique art, think outside the box, and most importantly pursue what I was passionate about even from an early age. I had started skiing when I was 8 and was instantly hooked, spending most Fridays after school night skiing at our local resort until the lights turned out. When I was 13, I watched my first Matchstick Productions film. It was then that I fully realized I wanted to be an action sports photographer. I dropped the idea of being an archeologist, moved out west as soon as I graduated highschool, and began to pave a path to becoming the photographer I wanted to be. I moved to Mt Hood the summer I turned 20 and never looked back. I often think back to the movies that inspired me to be who I am today. Matchstick is still my favorite production company and every season it’s the one movie premiere I refuse to miss. It still feel the same awe I did when I was a kid when I watch their films and it still inspires me today to get out and pursue my passion and dreams.

 

Women who you look towards and appreciate these days?

I have been inspired by Robin O’Neill and her work in the outdoor industry for years. I had the pleasure of meeting her this year at the 2021 Red Bull Rampage. She’s spirited, kind, and incredibly talented. I aspire to keep energy like hers for years to come.

 

Any challenges you have recently overcome in sport or life that you feel have made you stronger?

I’ve recently come into owning my own voice. In that, I value my own opinions, I know my worth, and I am confident in what I do and who I am. It can be scary to own your voice as a woman, especially in the outdoor industry and in work that is historically dominated by men. It took years for me to finally work up the courage but I am so much stronger now and proud of who I am and my work because of it.

 

If you had one super power what would it be?

Super power, I’m not sure, but super hero is a given. Miss Wonder Woman herself. She’s strong, powerful, all around badass. I wanna be Wonder Woman.

 

Any interesting projects or life goals that are on the horizon for you?

I will happily be getting married this summer (which is right around the corner!) and also traveling a ton for work, which has been a huge life goal for me. I’m looking forward to seeing where both those things will take me.

 

Any advice you would pass along to the next generation? Or anyone in general that might need some inspiration?

Process is golden and the struggle is just as important as the reward. Give yourself time to grow in your career and learn from every opportunity. And really, not everyone who owns a business is a business owner. Not everyone knows how to talk to people. So, take harsh emails with a grain of salt. Or a tablespoon, sometimes you might need a whole bowl of salt. But you’ll get through it. Power on.

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8th Annual Mothership Classic