Professional skier, SheJumps co-founder, graphic designer, photographer, filmmaker, TV host, mentor, action sports model and adventurer—perhaps the most difficult part of writing a bio on Lynsey Dyer is defining her in the traditional sense. Transcending sport and media alike, Lynsey has become one of the most widely recognized and iconic figures in the action sport world. Whether standing atop a big line in Alaska or mentoring young girls through SheJumps, Lynsey is equal parts top caliber athlete, creative tour-de-force and a roll model for women-in-the-outdoors everywhere.
Living in Jackson, Wyoming, Lynsey is always seeking balance between her art and design, training as an athlete and non-profit work. “I can’t imagine it any other way,” She says of making a life out of the things she loves, “You can’t tell little girls to go follow their passions without putting yourself out there too, right? I’m doing my best to walk the walk myself.”
About her Presentation
Dyer has been involved in all aspects of the freeskiing scene for almost two decades, from skiing scary Alaskan spines to her involvement in the humanitarian organization SheJumps.org to the award-winning Pretty Faces film. In her 12-minute ‘poem’, Dyer speaks about the irreverent side of her career—the goods, the bads and the uglies that come along with life as a professional skier, and her continued commitment to shine a spotlight on the women’s side of skiing. Oh, and she’ll also poke fun at herself for her recent involvement in Bravo’s ‘Apres Ski’ TV series.
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Interview by Brian Peech
Tell us about your MULTIPLICITY presentation?
I’ve changed it a lot already, and I imagine I’ll keep changing it. But the general sense of it is touching on things we can all relate to, through stories around the mountains. And ideally lightening things up. I think in general we tend to take ourselves too seriously. I’m hoping to hit all the notes of some serious stuff as well that hopefully everyone can relate, and maybe make people laugh, even if it happens to be at my own expense. I mean, that’s my intention, but it keeps changing, because I want it to be good; I want it to be meaningful. It’s always a battle between what’s true for me, and what people want. But I really love saying yes to these types of challenges, even though they’re really scary.
You touched on something interesting, being torn between what the public wants and being authentic to yourself. Is that an ongoing theme in your career?
It’s a constant challenge. Even through social media these days. We all kind of know what gets the likes versus some of the things I’m the most proud to share, like my art, or more controversial topics that go deeper than a sweet ski shot. But those don’t necessarily hit the big numbers that my audience wants to see on the social side. So it’s always a challenge for myself. Where do I draw the line on being authentic to who I really am? It’s a constant challenge. I know if I put up a bikini picture, I’ll get thousands more followers. And plenty of my peers have taken that route, because it works. I mean, I have that stuff, I could play that card, and some days I wonder why I don’t.
“Where do I draw the line on being authentic to who I really am? It’s a constant challenge. I know if I put up a bikini picture, I’ll get thousands more followers. And plenty of my peers have taken that route, because it works. I mean, I have that stuff, I could play that card, and some days I wonder why I don’t.”
When we asked for a synopsis of your presentation, you mentioned talking about the good, the bad and the ugly. But from what most people see, it’s all pretty glamorous.
It’s all relative. I never want to be a complainer; I really don’t have to try to appreciate my life very hard. There are multiple times in a week, where I’m like, “Oh my God, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.” But it all comes with tradeoffs. I haven’t unpacked a bag in maybe 10 years. The reality show [Apres Ski] was the longest I’d had a bag unpacked—it was something like two months. But then again, I left like four times during that show on different shoots, so I was still on the road every week.
To many people that sounds amazing.
It can be. But it’s things like, early in my career, I’ve been forgotten by my own team managers getting off a plane in Europe. Left alone in a foreign place, totally forgotten. Like, where am I, and who is supposed to pick me up? And I don’t even know the language and no phone number to call. But you don’t talk about that stuff of course. The injuries are ugly, or often times as a female on the product side, especially hard goods, new products are coming out, but it’s not a small enough size on the female size to get it, so we don’t get the new cool product for a couple years.
Tell us about SheJumps.org.
My best friend was the captain of her collegiate soccer team, and I was in soccer as well, just for the camaraderie of it. And we just really missed that in the ski world. We were on a road trip once to Whistler to go learn backflips in the summer. And we were like, “What if we could make a team out of this individual sport?” We ended up stopping in my hometown in Sun Valley, Idaho, at this mountain lake and we were trying to do gainers off of this cliff. It was like, “If you do it, I’ll do.” So it became sort of a “If she jumps, so will I” mentality. There are so many women doing amazing things all the time, but we don’t necessarily hear those stories. So we wanted to share those stories so that more women can be inspired and motivated, and also build a safe community where women can get outside. Often we live in these transient towns, and it’s sometimes hard to find a ski partner to meet up with to get after it, or a hiking partner. So creating these communities has been the biggest benefit. We rely on donations to create programs and partnerships and act as coaches to help women and young girls get involved in positive activities through the programs we create. These kids are so strong and the confidence they come away from even after one afternoon of learning to ski is so powerful and inspiring.
Is it important for you to give back?
Absolutely. Any of the success that I’ve had, any of my confidence, or my skill set, discipline or ability to handle problems when things don’t go right—a huge part of that is from being outside. So I want more girls to experience that. I mean you look back to elementary school, so much consisted of what you’re wearing, or what boy might like you, and how popular you are. For a girl, it’s a tough world. And luckily for me, I got to run away to the mountains where I found a place to belong, and a different way to challenge myself and learn confidence instead of the popularity games. I realized there is more to life. So to come back and directly translate that to a new generation feels really good. And every day, I think, “This can’t be happening. I’m getting to these things only rich people do. When are they going to find me out?” So while I’ve got it, I’ve got to use it for something good.
“Any of the success that I’ve had, any of my confidence, or my skill set, discipline or ability to handle problems when things don’t go right—a huge part of that is from being outside. So I want more girls to experience that.”
Who were some of the biggest female influences for you when you were growing up?
I didn’t really have them. I just remember going to Warren Miller movies when I was young, and the only women in them were the babes at the bottom sun tanning. And I remember watching the dudes, and being, “I could do that.” But the thing I was so inspired by was how a ski movie could bring a whole community together around something we could all relate to, this beautiful thing called skiing. It’s a thing whole towns are built around. I just love that community. It wasn’t like I was ever, “Oh, I want to be like her, because that didn’t really exist.” And that’s another reason I’m excited to present at MULTIPLICITY; it’s another reason to celebrate this community that shares this weird thing in common that makes no sense to the rest of the world.
“The thing I was so inspired by was how a ski movie could bring a whole community together around something we could all relate to, this beautiful thing called skiing. It’s a thing whole towns are built around.”
Any influences outside of skiing?
I guess a female role model was always Jane Goodall. She was who I wanted to be. She didn’t give a fuck. She used what she had to fight for what she believed in, and in her case she gave a gift to the world and preserves a way of life for something bigger than herself. And that’s who I wanted to be. I always thought I’d go and save the rainforest. But I learned at an early age you can’t just be a preacher or depress everyone; you have to entertain them in order to move them and be influential. I’m still looking for a way to use my artistry to inspire action, without being preachy.
Do you ever wish you weren’t in the spotlight?
I don’t really feel like I’m in the spotlight, not the real spotlight anyway. Skiing isn’t that big. Just this year, I’ve started getting people come up to me in airports saying, “Oh my god I love your show and it makes me want to go skiing.” But do I wish I just had a regular job, and I could ski for fun and wear whatever I want?
Yeah, like me.
Yeah, for sure sometimes. In Jackson, sometimes instead of camaraderie, everyone’s looking to beat me to the bottom to try to prove something. But I feel so lucky, like I wouldn’t even get to ski if it wasn’t this way. I couldn’t afford it. To live in a ski town, to have the time, to get the equipment, I couldn’t afford it. I just love it so much and I don’t take it for granted one bit.
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OK, so back to your presentation. I heard something about a poem?
Yeah, it’s in poem format right now. I’ve been listening to slam poets a lot, and I’m like, “Oh my god, I don’t know if I can do that.” I mean, this is how I first envisioned it, and it’s quite a risk, so I don’t if I can do it. I just want to do something less boring that a slideshow, where I’m all, “Here I am on this trip, and here’s me on this other trip. Here’s another photo that I took.” But I’ve fully rewritten presentations within 24-hours before the event in the past, so I’m hesitant to promise anything.
So what can you tell us?
I’m trying to be inspirational. It’s speaking to the girls with the skinned up knees, but it’s a unicorn handbook for both the girls and the boys. I think men and women these days have a hard time finding self-acceptance and figuring out who they’re supposed to be. If you’re a dude, you’re supposed to look like Kelly Slater, all slick and toned on the cover of Outside Magazine, and if you’re a girl you have to be everything—you have to be athletic and look good in yoga pants, and be a mom and be successful. And for a guy, you’re like, “Wait, am I supposed to pull out her chair?” So I kind of make fun of all that as it applies to living in our Disney Land world and then ultimately remembering how lucky we are.
“She was a whole new person, and that’s the value of skiing, it’s more than just strapping two planks to your feet.”
OK, so I’ve got to ask. What was the deal with the reality show?
I wanted to address that in the talk. Legally, I’m still not allowed to say anything negative about it. Like the fact it wasn’t what they’d said it would be, and all the shit that they filmed but never showed. I was really proud of myself. I did two TED talks while I was there in Whistler, I taught girls how to ski, I did girls days out for SheJumps, and they didn’t show any of that. They only wanted to show any sort of controversy. I’m not ashamed of it. I did it with great intentions to reach this audience that doesn’t know a thing about skiing. My intention is to get more women outside. And just recently, a woman came up to me and said, “I’m going on a ski trip because of that show.” So it totally worked. I mean, it’s not what they said it would be. I mean my African American roommate who I taught to ski, we took her to the top of the mountain and she was so scared she was crying. And we got her to the bottom and she was so happy she was calling herself Black Diamond. But of course they didn’t show any of that. She was a whole new person, and that’s the value of skiing, it’s more than just strapping two planks to your feet.
They just wanted the hot tub shots of drunken girls spilling drinks all over each other.
Well, I didn’t do any of that, so they had a hard time making that shit up. So basically what I was going to touch on in my presentation is what I learned from reality TV. And that’s absolutely nothing.
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