Featured Outlaw: Lynsey Dyer
By Megan Paulson
Growing up in Ketchum, Idaho, Lynsey Dyer has never been “just a girl.” And to anyone who told her she couldn’t do something, you can bet she proved them wrong.
As a downhill ski racer on the Sun Valley Ski Team, Dyer won a Junior Olympic gold medal at age 16. She credits the experience as pivotal to her personal growth, but also glimpsed a darker side of the ski-racing culture. “While it taught me discipline, life skills, and a solid platform for skiing at a young age, I couldn’t resonate with the bullying and head games [in ski racing],” said Dyer, now 32.
It wasn’t long before a passion for deep snow and the desire for freedom lured her outside ski-area boundaries. “I would totally ditch ski races to go ski powder,” she said. “It never failed: If it was race day, it was going to be a powder day. When I was in Jackson, Wyoming, my cousin A.J. Cargill would kidnap me from the race and we’d go jump off things in the backcountry.”
Dyer says these out-of-bounds experiences were the first times she felt free, finally able to make her own choices and not fall into the trap of expectation.
Dyer found other expression in photography and art. After studying graphic design and photography at Bozeman’s Montana State University, Dyer used her experience to create graphics for skis, posters, T-shirts and even jacket linings for Eddie Bauer, Rossignol and Quicksilver.
An accomplished surfer as well, Dyer modeled and hosted broadcasts for ESPN and Outside TV. But even as an athletic and attractive 5-foot-6-inch blond, she wanted her life to represent something greater.
“Back in the day I thought I wanted to be a Roxy surf athlete, but then I found out that the people they used weren’t real surfers,” she said. “It really crushed my concept of what was being portrayed.”
Statistically, Dyer notes that females are underrepresented in the action sports industry. She identifies an overall trend in the women she meets: internal reflection – conscious or unconscious. “Unfortunately, the messages we get from the media and fashion industries reiterate we are only as valuable as we look, so it’s limiting from the beginning.”
In 2007, Dyer co-founded SheJumps.org, creating a movement with business partners Vanessa Pierce and Claire Smallwood to help females reach their potential by challenging themselves in the outdoors.
“Lynsey has always been the dreamer in the group,” said Smallwood, co-founder and Executive Director of SheJumps. “[She] is the one who is fascinated in the idea of keeping things magical and special, [and] – combined with Vanessa’s and my penchant for impactful results – the blend of dreams and hard work really comes together.”
SheJumps spearheads programsand activities dedicated to female outdoor enthusiasts; youth initiatives aimed at helping young girls build life skills; outdoor education programs teaching technical savvy; and a dedicated social networking site where women from around the world can share stories, plan adventures, and give back to communities through grassroots efforts.
“A lot of girls question themselves, and feel like they have to please everyone,” Dyer said. “Society doesn’t judge in the mountains; everyone is encouraged to push their comfort zone, and it’s OK to fail and ask questions.”
In 2013, Dyer conceptualized Pretty Faces, a ski film celebrating the women who thrive on snow. “I wanted to give young girls something positive to look up to,” Dyer said. “I wanted to give them [ski films like] The Blizzard of Aahhh’s … or High Life, but done in a way that also shows the elegance, grace, community and style that is unique to women in the mountains.”
Those mountains are a metaphor for life unbridled, says Dyer, who feels strongly about living a life of proof and challenging her own insecurities. By encouraging the women she meets to believe in themselves and showing them how to succeed in the mountains, Dyer feels confident they will apply that experience to other parts of their lives.
“It may sound funny, but I encourage all girls to be ninjas, because you have to play the game in order to change the game,” she said. “I tell them to ‘ninja your dreams into reality.’”
Dyer’s SheJumps movement illustrates her passion to make changes on a grander scale: preserving the sport of skiing, while galvanizing women to further progress and integrate as industry leaders. The strong women she emulates keep those priorities in the forefront of her mind.
“I want to be the Barbara Walters of action sports,” Dyer said. “Be able to ask the right questions, provide good opportunities to share, and be thoughtful in everything I do.”
Jane Goodall has long been Dyer’s most inspirational role model, she says, pointing to the British anthropologist’s 55-year chimpanzee study in Tanzania. “Jane was famous for what she was doing, not what she looked like. She was passionate about what she did, didn’t ask for favors, and didn’t let anything stop her.”
Beyond her work with women through SheJumps, Dyer feels personal responsibility for preserving the environment, calling global warming and receding glaciers urgent concerns for the ski industry.
“As skiers, we are the first species to go,” Dyer said. “What else can I teach my kids someday to replace skiing? Nothing.
“In skiing there’s a true community – being able to rip down a powder field with friends and share in that magical experience. It’s that experience that I desire to share – and I know it will ultimately lead to inspiration and elicit change for the better.”
This story was first published in the summer 2015 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.