Ingrid Backstrom has been one of the most successful and identifiable female skiers of the last fifteen years. As an athlete for The North Face, she has appeared in prime time commercials aired during major sporting events such as March Madness. The former Freeskiing World Tour champion has starred in over a dozen core ski films by Matchstick Productions, Sherpas Cinema and Warren Miller Entertainment. Last winter, she added another feather to her cap by winning the audience-judged portion of X Games Real Women contest, a multi-sport video contest that also featured athletes such as snowboarder Hana Beaman, skateboarder Leticia Bufoni and surfer Coco Ho.
Backstrom accomplished all of this as a Squaw Valley, California local, where she moved shortly after graduating Washington’s Whitman College in 2000. This season, the Seattle native is returning to Washington. She recently signed on as a coach and ski ambassador at Crystal Mountain, where she grew up skiing, and plans to continue her pro career out of Leavenworth, just down the road from Stevens Pass. I caught up with Ingrid to talk about her new gig and learn what the future holds.—D.T.
Tell me a little bit about your new role at Crystal Mountain.
It's a pretty sweet deal for me. I get to help coach the freeride team, basically. And I get to work with them to develop the program. They already had a sweet program going, but they just reached out to me because I'm nearby this winter, to see if I wanted to help out and bring whatever experience I have into that. I'll probably work there for six weekends throughout the beginning of the season—so December and January, and do some early season camps and some training with the coaches, and then at least three weekends during the regular eight-week freeride program season.
We'll do all sorts of things: a lot of safety. I think that's a really cool thing, obviously. Everyone wants to get better, and get rad and stuff, but we'll work on decision-making and safety and tactics for competing, as well as just having a good time and being safe in the mountains.
Is coaching something that you've always wanted to do?
I've been coaching Chris Davenport's camp for like eight seasons now, and I've done lots of women's clinics. I've been doing more of that stuff every year, and really enjoying it. So this was a perfect opportunity to coach. It helps me so much. I always learn a ton when I coach. It's just really cool when you see other people that are into skiing as much as you are. It's awesome to be out with a group of people that are stoked to learn.
What ages are in the Crystal Mountain freeride program?
It's for 9-17 year olds.
Is this your first time working with kids as a coach?
I've coached kids before, but more as parts of other camps. And I've shown up and done a day with the freeride team here and there. But yeah, this will be the first full kids coaching experience.
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Is that something you're pretty excited about?
Yeah, for sure. At Dav's camp, whenever you get the group with the kids, it's always really, really fun, just because they're so pumped.
So where's your home base going to be this winter?
I'll be based out of Leavenworth, [Washington], but hopefully skiing Stevens and Crystal quite a bit. Really, I always end up just traveling up and down the West Coast anyway, so hopefully [I'll get down to] Tahoe, and hopefully I'll get up to B.C. a bunch as well.
Do you still have your place in Squaw?
No, I'm not renting a place in Squaw anymore. But, I mean, my brother lives there, and I have probably 30 places I can stay.
So the release that Crystal sent out was really clear that you're not retiring. What are your plans for the rest of the season, besides the coaching?
Volkl is going to do a really cool touring series, so hopefully I'll have a couple of trips with them, and probably some North Face stuff in the works, and I hope to work with Lynsey Dyer and some other women and do some stuff with them—go on some ski trips with some girls, would be awesome. That's all just tentative right now.
Are you still doing any filming stuff, Sherpas or Matchstick Productions?
I don't have any plans to. Obviously if the opportunity arose I'd love to.
Ingrid Backstrom’s X Games Real Women segment won the viewers’ choice category.
Last season ended in surgery for you. What did you do and how is the recovery going?
I tore my patellar tendon. But the recovery's gone really well. I got to ski for 17 straight days in Chile and it felt really good. I'm just building up strength and I can do pretty much everything 100 percent. You know, I'm still getting strong and stuff. I'm going to take it easy, obviously, at the beginning of the season, but hoping for a full recovery.
What did you think of the ESPN Real Women contest? How did you like that format, and is that something you'd be looking forward to doing again?
I really like it. I thought it was super cool to get to see all the women from the different sports. It was incredible what all the women can do, so I thought that was really cool to bring that to a larger audience. It was kind of funny to have different sports pitted against each other, because it's really hard to judge. But in general, the more you can show women ripping and doing rad stuff, I think that's awesome.
The online voting thing is tough. I just don't… I appreciate it so much, the overwhelming show of support, and that's incredible. But rallying votes online is not my favorite thing to do.