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Goddesses in our midst

Ullr redefined with creative and athletic zeal

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By Nicole Fitzgerald

What if Ullr was a girl?

What if the Norse God of snow riding donned the breasts cast, painted and displayed at the Brave Art exhibit at the Telus Conference Centre?

What if the male myth pulled off his helmet at the Stompede to reveal long blonde locks?

The “if” was ruled out last Monday night when more than a dozen of North America’s finest female riders, both athletes and artists, elevated themselves to goddess proportions at an arts extravaganza celebrating the creative side of the self with photography, art, music, dance and singing displays at the Glacier Store.

“I’m wearing my helmet because this is scarier than anything I’ve ever done on the hill,” said Lindsay Dyer, before showing her photography as well as ski art in a slide presentation for the first time.

“We might see Lindsay at the Pro Photographer Showdown next year,” said one event host after the show was lauded by an appreciative crowd.

Like the Showdown, like the mountains, the action sports industry is typically dominated by men. However, times are changing, with more women strapping on the planks and camera gear to go big.

“It’s changed so much since I started; I used to know every girl on the mountain that had twin tips,” said pro athlete Sarah Burke . “Now I see lots of young girls out there doing crazy tricks. The industry has really grown. It’s awesome.”

The Whistler-Blackcomb event rallied together invited-pro and jury-chosen amateur athletes to celebrate and showcase the male and female energies swirling in a balanced yin-and-yang competition where girls executed their prowess at an art night as well as in the Stompede and Big Mountain events. Riders competed for the crown and a $25,000 purse.

“It’s really exciting. Competitions always challenge you to make yourself better than you are, especially this one,” Dyer said, noting how the art component really pushed her comfort limits. “I feel like we are all going towards the same thing: to grow our sport and make it legit at the highest levels. It makes you proud to be a girl.”

Tuning into the feminine energy was natural for some and a pleasant surprise for others.

Pemberton’s Vanessa Stark, one of the amateur competitors who won a spot after garnering the public vote on the Ullr website, is at home both in front of elevation and an easel. The established painter is no stranger to the Farmer’s Market, ArtWalk, and MY Millennium Place art shows, greeting cards at Westbeach and the topsheets of Prior Snowboards.

“Artwork, snowboarding, it’s all about celebrating mountain lifestyle,” Stark said. “The Stompede was all rails. I hadn’t ridden them much this year, I’ve been riding so much powder.”

A challenge, but also an eighth place performance for Stark.

Some were more challenged on the mountain than off. But Burke tuned into an artistic side she didn’t even know existed.

She displayed a table-top depicting the mountains she rides in a mosaic of tiles that was set on a twisting piece of driftwood she found on one of her regular surf trips at Jordan River. This was a first for her.

“I think this was so out of all our elements,” she said of the art show. “It’s about doing something we have never had to do before.”

So who is the Ullr woman?

“She’s the whole package, talented and humble, creative and athletic,” Dyer said. “Especially in this contest, as opposed to things for guys, we get to show what we are all about, as opposed to just being athletic.”

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