Howard Head Sports Medicine produces ‘Sisters of Skimo’ documentary

Film to premiere at 10 Mile Music Hall in Frisco Nov. 6

Howard Head Sports Medicine has partnered with Sierra Anderson to tell the story of the Summit County locals who represented the United States at March's International Ski Mountaineering Federation World Cup in Switzerland.
Courtesy Ben Gadberry

FRISCO — Howard Head Sports Medicine has come together with local Team USA ski mountaineer Sierra Anderson to produce the 20-minute documentary “Sisters of Skimo.”

The film chronicles the story of Summit County locals Anderson, Jaime Brede, Kate Zander and Grace Staberg as the ski mountaineers strove last year to fulfill their dreams of representing the country at March’s International Ski Mountaineering Federation World Championships in Switzerland.

The film’s director Ben Gadberry of Vail said though Howard Head Sports Medicine has partnered with sporting entities such as USA Climbing in the past for short films, Sister of Skimo is a much more ambitious and locally-focused project.

“Often in ski films today we only see the glory of things,” Gadberry said. “Think of Warren Miller, even (Teton Gravity Research) — seeing the perfect powder shots, seeing athletes at their peak. But you’re not seeing the struggle, the insecurity, the hard work, the reality it takes to be a professional skier in skimo racing. Our film is really about that journey of struggle and triumph.”

The film will make its world premiere on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 10 Mile Music Hall in Frisco. The event — free for the public to attend thanks to sponsors Vail Health Dynafit, Hagan Skis, Cripple Creek Backcountry and the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association — will also include food, beer and sponsor raffle prizes. The music hall is a 150-seat venue that can fit up to 200 people.

After the film is screened, the event will also feature a question & answer session with Anderson and a few cast members. Interested attendees are encouraged to RSVP at:

Gadberry, a marketing professional for Vail Health, jumped on board the project at the recommendation of Howard Head Performance Manager Chris Knerl. Leading up to last winter, Knerl had been training with Anderson in advance of her hopes to qualify and compete at the world championships, and Anderson had expressed interest in sharing her story.

“‘This is an athlete,’” Gadberry remembers Knerl telling him, “‘who is an example of a burgeoning sport in Summit County. We should tell a story about it.’”

That story is told throughout the documentary, which takes viewers from the snow and slopes of Summit County, such as at the world championships qualifier at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, to Alaska, Italy, China and, of course, Switzerland. Along the way, the documentary details just how athletes like Anderson — the main character in the ensemble film — make their dreams a reality, from training, logistic, family life and financial standpoints. Along the journey of the film, Anderson discovers that skimo isn’t just about reaching the top of the podium — it’s a way of life, a means by which she can build family with her fellow women, her “sisters of skimo.”

Reflecting on the film, Gadberry said what made the filmmaking process unique for him, an avid backcountry skier in the Gore Range, was the reality that “Sisters of Skimo” is a ski film about women for women. Gadberry said it’s rare, even today, for women to feature prominently in ski films, much less star in them. With that, he hopes it will be a film that shines a light on just how special these ski sisters, mothers and daughters are, zeroing in on their lives off the slopes.

Sierra Anderson (center) ascends by boot-pack during a ski mountaineering competition at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in December.
Ben Gadberry / Special to The Daily

“Women aren’t just small men competing in sports,” Gadberry said. “They are unique individuals with their own passions, goals and challenges. This is a profound exploration of women’s unique stories in competitive skimo racing.”

“This is also a unique American take,” the director added, “an American ski film about skimo, specifically. Before film production began a year ago, if you would have asked me, ‘what is ski mountaineering,’ it’s us going up, skinning 14ers, 12ers in the Gore Range, backcountry skiing. I had no concept of who those folks were in their spandex skinning up A-Basin. So the film is also a wonderful introduction into the broader skimo racing and introducing Americans — both men and women — into this sub-genre of skiing.”

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