There are three rules for those hoping to become part of this female wolf pack.
The first is have fun. The second is a zero tolerance for negativity. The third is the sole motivation behind professional skier Rachael Burks' decision to start the “wolf pack” — no nudity or exploitation of femininity.
Two years ago, after breaking an ankle, Burks got thinking. Since 2007, she'd reached a point in her “big mountain” skiing career where the only way to progress and keep challenging herself was being a part of the world of extreme sports films.
But what most people don't realize when they sit down to watch the latest DVD packed with big drops and a barely-there-slopes is that the athletes in the flicks often have to pay to be a part of them, Burks told The Chief. Her bill for her then-upcoming picture was $10,000 — $10,000 that she scrambled to pull together while injured and paying for her own recovery.
“I thought, 'This is crazy. I am broke, out of work and begging my sponsors for more money just so I can advance my career,'” Burks said.
On top of that, there are only one or two slots in each film for females, she added. And when they're lucky enough to fill one of those slots, their air time is often packed with smiles, snowballs, sun tanning and… don't blink, skiing.
“Five seconds and it is over,” Burks said.
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It's not just ski videos, she said, noting across the board in individual action sports, there's a lack of honest representation. There's a lack of opportunity to be showcased, a lack of storyline behind females featured and a lack of representation of the sheer number of female participants in the various disciplines, Burks said.
Thus began the female wolf pack, a website — www.femalewolfpack.com — dedicated to the free exposure of female athletes. Burks plans an official launch to the site in the new year. The preview page is stocked with 12 videos featuring women from around the world doing everything from surfing to base jumping and bouldering to skiing. Two of the videos are from Sea to Sky residents — Whistler skier Holly Walker and Squamish downhill mountain biker Miranda Miller.
The U.S. Open downhill mountain bike winner started competing at 14 in 2004. At that time, she'd be lucky if she had two or three other competitors. That's changed, Miller said. Standing at the bottom of Whistler's bike park in the summertime, she estimates approximately half of the riders are female. The sudden shift is not reflected on the big screen, she said.
“There is not too many videos coming out with women riders,” Miller said.
Like Burks, Miller said she's sick of “girl power,” high-five interludes featuring tank-top-wearing female riders.
“I would like to see more videos of just women riding,” she said.
Miller said she was stoked when Burks asked whether her video could be in female wolf pack's teaser. The clip is from a 2012 Art Barn Productions video featuring Miller riding down from Brohm Ridge.
The website is not about taking away from male athletes, Burks said. It's her “passion project” meant to inspire girls to reach their dreams.
“I have met some amazing women,” Burks said. “And I have so many more amazing women to meet.”