Joy resistance small

Joy As Resistance

Ski Bliss is a Weapon Against the Status Quo


BY:
Bella Butler

This story was first published in Issue #27, buy your copy: HERE.

Composed in a perfect frame on screen, professional athlete and artist Brooklyn Bell traverses on skis just below a classic Alaskan ridgeline, slough falling away from beneath her and cascading down the thousands of feet she’s preparing to descend. As she skis her line, the camera view transitions between GoPro shots of her skis cutting through untouched powder and a wide view that places her in the vast physical context of the Chugach Mountains.

She gets to the bottom of the run and fist bumps pro skier Michelle Parker, who she’s skiing with in this segment of NEXUS, a 2022 all women’s ski film. Snow is caked onto the dreads pulled out from either side of Bell’s helmet, and her smile is full and radiant. It’s a stunning capture of a perfect line in one of the most quintessential venues for big mountain ski films, but there’s more to it than that.

Bell is a Black woman. Backdropped by an industry that has historically excluded women, especially women of color, her face stands out in this space. And even more so, her smile stands out.

“So many stories about marginalized groups center [around] the difficulties you face as a member of one of them,” said Shannon Corsi, director and executive producer for NEXUS. “It’s important to share those stories and those narratives, but there’s so rarely a chance for joy to shine through these stories.”

Joy 1 01

Photos: Katie Lozancich, Skier: Michelle Parker (left), Portrait of Brooklyn Bell (right)

In the midst of a social justice movement where such stories of marginalized people’s adversity are the main catalyst for engagement, NEXUS shows that resistance to the status quo doesn’t need to look like a tense fist thrust into the air. It can look like taking up space that’s never been accessible to you. It can look like shredding a big Alaskan line and putting that triumphant run on screens around the world for everyone to see.

“Honestly, I think that me experiencing joy here is the biggest form of resistance,” Bell tells Parker in a subsequent shot, the expanse of the Chugach wild framing their moment of reflection. “It’s kind of like a big old F you, quite frankly. Just like, resistance against the same old same old.”

Here’s what that “same old same old” looks like: the National Ski Area Association reported that 88.7% of visitors to U.S. ski resorts during the 2021-22 season were white and 63% were male. But you don’t really need a bona fide survey to tell you this.

Ski films put this disparity on display year after year, often using a token woman or person of color to satisfy the meager standard the industry has set for inclusivity.

During an interview for NEXUS, Parker, a heavily accoladed freeskier and perhaps one of the most recognizable women in the sport, talked about how throughout her career she heard over and over again “one woman is enough.”


“It’s kind of like a big old “f” you, quite frankly. Just like, resistance against the same old same old.”


Brooklyn Bell
Joy 2 01

Photo (left): Katie Lozancich, Krystin Norman and Sasha Dingle / Photo (right): Shannon Corsi, Skier: Sasha Dingle

The concept for NEXUS, a narrative-driven all women’s ski film, was inspired by frustration over how women were being represented in ski films, Corsi said.

“I really started consuming ski media as an adult and was surprised at the representation women had,” Corsi said. “Most ski segments had one girl (if that), and the narrative tended to be ‘I’m a woman in the mountains,’ which I personally felt was a disservice.”

And thus the tagline for NEXUS was born: “one’s not enough,” as was the intention to tell a more encompassing story than women simply existing in an outdoor space. Because just like it’s not enough to have one woman, it’s not enough to just show women and people of color merely existing. The sublimity of skiing is in the experience, like that which Bell showcased in her glorious line in the Chugach—floating on snow, joy as her buoyancy.

________________

Poet Toi Delicotte is often credited for writing the phrase “joy is an act of resistance” in her 2009 poem “The Telly Cycle.” Those six words have since infiltrated social justice movements, especially revolutionizing Black feminism.

“Finally we were given permission not to just be mules for the work of racial justice — carrying a kicking and screaming country into a better future,” writes author Austin Channing Brown.“…We aren’t just pursuing racial justice when we are organizing or voting or protesting or speechmaking or volunteering or working… we are also pursuing justice when we indulge in joy.”

Such is true in the ski industry. In recent years, much labor has gone into making skiing and other snow sports more inclusive. Resorts and ski communities have launched Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committees. Nonprofits are offering scholarships to women and women of color for avalanche education and ski instructor trainings. Influencers are using social media and other online spaces to talk about the issue. But the labor has largely been a burden carried by those who’ve been excluded as they try and fight their way in. The onus for change
remains on the oppressed. Where’s the relief in that? Joy is resistance, but it also sustains resistance.

Sasha Dingle, another NEXUS athlete, gave a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement, expressing gratitude for the shift in the ski industry she herself has noticed as a woman of color. But her story hasn’t always been afforded the same visibility as it has in recent years.

“I think for me, joy… provides resilience, and that’s what allowed me to keep going through the hard parts,” she said. “I think it really just amplifies all those other efforts of fighting against or pushing for change. When it’s infused with joy, it makes it that much more resilient and able to be sustainable for a long period of time.”

Dingle and her cousin, Krystin Norman, tell the story of their mothers, who together fell in love with skiing after escaping to the U.S. from Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Dingle and Norman inherited from their mothers not only a love for skiing, but the idea that skiing could be an outlet for joy and peace.

Joy 3 01

Photo (left): Shannon Corsi, Michelle Parker and Brooklyn Bell / Photo (middle): Katie Lozancich, Chugach Powder Guides Helicopter, Alaska / Photo (right): Shannon Corsi, Skier: Krystin Norman

Shannoncorsi nexusstillasset 7399 copy

Photo: Shannon Corsi, Skier: Michelle Parker

“For [my mom], her time on snow is really peaceful,” Norman said, explaining how skiing was an escape from war for her mother. “It’s sort of this peace that she has prioritized in her life as a way to kind of get away from a history of war that their country has suffered from for so long.”

Similar to the discussion Bell and Parker shared on screen, it was important for Dingle and Norman not only to be simply represented in the film, but to tell the story of their passionate relationship with skiing.

“I think for both of us, it felt important to show how normal it is for us to be skiers as Asian women and as BIPOC women,” Dingle said. “We kind of wanted to normalize that because then that allows it to feel like, Yes, there are so many barriers and things to overcome. But we also wanted to kind of pull the curtain back and show what makes this possible. And really what made it possible was just really loving this so much that it was going to be the center of our moms’ lives … and then the center of our lives.”

As an expression of life and vibrancy, Dingle added that showcasing marginalized people’s joy also effectively dignifies them.

“I think sharing how much we love to ski on our best day out and how it feels to be in flow, that is something that connects people and we can relate to that all as skiers,” she said. “I think joy humanizes us in the face of a much more narrow narrative of stereotyping us.”

Norman and Dingle’s segment was shot in Washington at Crystal Mountain, Snoqualmie Pass and on Mount Rainier. Despite what they described as poor conditions, their riding is playful. They follow each other off jumps and trace powder eights down chutes, sharing smiles and pole taps at the end of each run.

“I’m always reminding myself that skiing is fun,” Norman said. “It is something that we do because it’s fun.”

Such a simple mantra has the power to drive a wedge in “the same old same old,” and Corsi gave it a robust presence in NEXUS.

“It’s easy to get caught up in frustration with the ski industry or focus on barriers, but the most powerful form of resisting the status quo is to experience joy anyways,” Corsi said. “There’s a reason we’re all here, and it’s in pursuit of happiness despite … it all."


SHARE THIS STORY

   
MORE FROM BOMB SNOW
Soul of snowboarding blotto
The Soul of Snowboarding
Rafa alvarez cover artist
Rafa Alvarez
Reid griffin todd snowboard 1323 761 95
The Most Fun
Bounty of beard ski 1439 711 95
Bounty of Beards