A Unique Winter with Amie Engerbretson
Speaking to us from her home in Lake Tahoe, a variety of brimmed western hats adorn the wall behind her, Amie Engergbretson’s cheerful smile and positive energy is contagious--even through a computer screen. A natural-born conversationalist, Amie isn’t like most professional skiers. Amie’s interests extend far beyond the confines of skiing. Amie hosted the Long Underwear Podcast, where her interviews with folks in the ski industry were allowed to touch upon anything but skiing. Engerbretson introduced the world to her creative acumen through the production role she took on in the making of her autobiographical film, Snow Pony, which she released last year with Teton Gravity Research. Now, she’s expanding upon that creative energy even further, and, of course, heli-skiing in Alaska, snowmobiling in the Wyoming backcountry, and filming at her home mountain of Squaw Valley, CA along the way.
A standout skier who can rip with the best of the boys, Amie initially made a name for herself as a recurring star in Warren Miller Entertainment’s annual ski films. Engerbretson has begun to explore the intersection of her old western roots and her passion for skiing through the creative medium of autobiographical filmmaking. She has also taken on the role of helping the designers at Spyder recreate the women’s freeski line to make apparel that better caters to women’s demands in terms of fit and functionality from the gear they trust to keep them warm and dry on the gnarliest of backcountry missions. Neither filmmaker, nor garment designer are in her job description, but it’s clear that Amie has never quite seen the confines of the job description as sufficient to stop her from challenging what it means to be a “pro skier”.
After the making of Snow Pony, in which Amie showcases how her childhood dream of becoming a rodeo queen took an unconventional turn, when the “horse” she fights to tame is, in fact, a 165 horsepower snowmobile. Snow Pony certainly has no shortage of face shots and steep backcountry lines, which put Engerbretson’s top-tier skiing front and center, she was captivated by the storytelling creativity the film allowed her. Now, she’s begun a new venture that combines her hidden passion for swing dancing with skiing to create a more “abstract-style art film” with support from Sweetgrass Productions. Unsure of what that would look like? Amie prompts us to consider the metaphor of the coordinated side to side of line dancing, and combine that with the precise side to side turns one makes while skiing the perfectly straight Terminal Cancer Couloir located in Eastern Nevada.
Upon further inquiry, Amie reveals that swing dancing is one of her greatest passions outside of skiing. “I used to teach swing dancing all over”, admits Engerbretson, continuing, “I taught seminars on swing dancing aerials in Las Vegas.” She and her father were even kicked out of the Jackson Hole’s legendary Cowboy Bar for doing inverts which violated the bar’s “no boots above the brim” policy… twice. “I think it contributes so much to who I am as a skier”, she says, reminiscing.
In addition to the making of her new film, which has yet to be named, or set a release date, Amie delved even deeper into her film project interests. She and her boyfriend, professional skier Todd Ligare, are brainstorming about new ways to present short film projects in ski towns across the country through a “ski town bar film tour”, as Amie preliminarily describes it. “Especially with athletes who will have one to two years of projects to present, it would be an athlete-run premiere”, with the presentation driven by multiple athletes across sponsors; allowing for athletes to engage in Q&A with the attendees in a more casual way.
Skiing, of course, remains an integral part of Amie’s moviemaking ventures. The conversation shifts from Amie’s undercover swing dancing life to her experience recently heli-skiing in Alaska, following a crash that shook the heli-skiing community. She spoke with fellow Spyder athlete Connery Lundin following her trip, in which they vented about the nerves involved with being in Alaska recently. “It’s pretty different than the way we sell it to people”, says Engerbretson, who shares how being plucked from the top of a line on an area “smaller than the size of my desk right now” can significantly complicate heli-skiing trips; especially when filming with an entire crew. “There really is heli-skiing for everyone”, Amie continues, “but, ultimately, what we’re doing as athletes are pushing [the boundaries].”
On the topic of skiing the backcountry, we felt compelled to get Amie’s thoughts about the forthcoming Spyder Freeski line, which drops this fall, given the integral role she played in helping to design the women’s Solitaire kit. “It’s perfect”, Amie exclaims, “the fit is flawless, the new “colorways speak to who will want to purchase the kit. It showcases a different side of Spyder and who can be a Spyder skier.” “It’s no longer appropriate to make women’s product that’s not on the same level as men’s product. Making sure it’s functional and appropriate for the ways that women do want their gear to function differently without sacrificing overall utility” is something that Amie highlights as quintessential to how she feels the line stands out.
The breadth of Amie’s interests certainly extend beyond the worlds of professional skiing, western dancing, and filmmaking. Amie remains a pioneering figure in her pursuit of the intersection of these diverse passions from the perspectives of producer, creative director, and subject. Amie’s unique perspective, outgoing personality, and fearlessness in pursuit of her passions are inspiring to say the least. As one of a handful of ladies who have helped lead the charge for gender parity in a sport that has been traditionally saturated by men, her willingness to redefine what it means to be a professional skier leaves us on the edge of our seats—eagerly awaiting what’s next.