Keep The Stoke Alive

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

The counterculture vibes of Dani Reyes-Acosta’s OUTLIER film series about women who snowboard

How you bear strength and softness in those same browned shoulders,
Grind grit in your teeth and savor wisdom;
Find a way forward, always,
With knowledge and love;
You pad through the forest,
Glide through the trees,
Push me to grow, my sister
As I sing alongside you.
Together, on this mountain,
We’ll honor our great mother,
Howl high unto the moon.
So shake off your blades
Then rattle your bones,
And I’ll show you,
We’ll show you,
Just how great we can be.

– Dani Reyes-Acosta


“Skiing is just way more efficient.”
Her lips pulled tight, her disdain apparent as I knelt to slide a crampon into my binding. The other skiers in our group had already glided across the terraced sastrugi ahead. I knew better than to chance it without crampons: I didn’t need to injure myself on this wind-scoured penultimate pitch.

I shot back: “That may be true, but you’ll never have the rooster tail I do.” I grinned widely and blew a kiss because, well, the truth hurts. I chunked up the shoulder, the wind whipping my emotions into a froth. I’ve heard many versions of this exchange from friends. Emotions range from confusion to anger. Why the attitude, especially in the backcountry?

They say the endless growth of capitalism benefits us all. People living in an uninsulated truck/yurt/garage or working three jobs to pay their rising rent might disagree. But what happens when all your options get cut short or taken away? What happens when you find yourself truly on the outside, or in-between, searching for a way forward?

Like many people in Jackson Hole, I grew up skiing, a two-planked toddler marching down the slopes. With adolescence came three unexpected developments in my life: a love of surfing, earth-shattering family strife, and punk rock as a musical preference. I mourned the loss of my father, unaware at the time that I was also losing my access to the mountains—to the snow. Only as an adult did I resume snow-sliding, and I swapped skiing for snowboarding without a backward glance. Living against the grain felt easier on one plank: I found solidarity in the counterculture narrative that snowboarding thrives on.

I got heckled by skiers on my first day at Crested Butte (too slow on the boot pack). I was mistaken for a maid in Tahoe (“I’m going to the pool—these towels aren’t for you sir”). My frustration with the social dynamics and the economic engine geared towards wealth that runs all our mountain communities has continued to build. It’s my job as a ‘creative’ to transform individual and collective experiences into something more, transmuting my perspective into art. We all do this while riding: thinking in images, we construct ideas of how we’ll draw a smooth line down a blank face. Maybe we plot out the rest of our run, maybe the rest of our season. 

Something unexpected emerged from my frustration at the status quo. By now, I’d had a taste of bucketlist lines and classic summits. My tiny act of rebellion against the dominant system, I decided, would be to tell a story. I decided to create a film, in true punk-rock tradition, that would become a tool for protest and action.

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There are more ads featuring female snowboarders these days. There are also a number of sisterhood-focused, ski-centric ‘slaydies’ films out there. These are positive steps forward for the action sports industry. But as a female snowboarder, as a Latina, and as a filmmaker, I want to see something other than more of the same surface-level stoke. How many films can you think of that feature women snowboarding? How many of those are actually made by women, let alone by women of color?

Most calls for new voices in snowsports push for more on-camera representation. Much less has been done to support women, particularly women of color, being behind the camera. In fact, in the 2023 Hollywood Diversity report, the number of women in leadership positions across the entire film industry is still shockingly low. Only 20% of directors are women. Only 3% of crew members are Latina. And in front of the camera, only 2.3% of acting roles are played by Hispanic folks.

OUTLIER is my three-part documentary film. It was born from my need to address these frustrations, and more: it explores the role of identity, community, and belonging in our survival as a species, all through the lens of women snowboarding in the backcountry. My goal with this project is to show girls–and everyone else who has ever felt caught in-between–that being an OUTLIER can be a joyous journey of self-love, connection to others, and reconnection to the Earth herself.

While many of us head for the snow to chase joy, that’s usually not our only reason. Often we’re dealing with challenging emotions and experiences; moments that make us question who we are as people. We’ve all lost too many friends to deny that repressing our human experience makes us miserable. Denial robs us of being fully alive and, ultimately, fully ourselves.

As you go into the mountains this winter to learn more about who you are, ask yourself: Am I trusting this process along the way? Embrace it all because whether you want to admit it or not: you’re an OUTLIER too.

We rode wind-lips and step-downs, built kickers, ripped pow surfers, got stuck in creeks a few times, lost a backpack, launched a few fireworks, and capped every day with sips from a Chivas Regal bottle in the parking lot at sunset. The most memorable shot we got was Parker’s 50-50 on a gigantic hanging rainbow log, with a twenty-foot drop onto the pillow face below. He laced it on his third try, blowing everyone’s mind! It’s a feature that other film crews have probably driven by for years but never actually dared to step to.   

Winter Storm Olive had provided. That zany forecaster was correct: it was one to remember. We drove home in a convoy of trucks with the sun setting over the mountains to the west, blasting a Best of Stevie Nicks playlist from the speakers. Another Jackson mission accomplished. I can’t wait to see what this year provides.

– DR

Dani’s background is in change management and brand strategy, with creative production for Nike and narrative strategy for The North Face and Vail Resorts. Dani combines media with action to foster community-building and justice.

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