An Open Letter to Ski Magazine: Women in the Ski Industry Deserve Better

November 28 2017 BY Keely


Dear Ski Magazine-

“Did you take your top off in Iceland too?”

This quote was shared with me by a teenage girl who attended my Backcountry Ski and Sail Camp in Iceland this past spring. She was asked this question by a few teasing teenage boys in her high school class. The question above is referring to your November article Boss Lady: The Future (of Skiing) is Female by Crystal Sagan, featuring five women, including myself, who are re-energizing the ski industry.

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Sixteen year old Kuka leaps over runoff in Iceland on her way to our objective.

I am incredibly honored and humbled to be considered one of the five professional women who are positively charging forward in their companies and the ski industry. That being said, when I opened your magazine and saw that the photograph chosen to represent us was of three women with their tops off, disappointment overcame me. This photograph influences two unfortunate outcomes: first, it sexualizes women’s bodies in conjunction with an article about teenage girls and second, it tells us once again that value and attention is placed more on our bodies than our brains, skills, and accomplishments. I challenge you to find a man or woman who saw this photo of topless women on a mountain and instantly thought,

“Wow, she must be really good at her job”.

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A sexualized photo in relation to an article about teenage girls negates and blurs the article’s message of empowerment, a message we work so hard to develop at Keely’s Ski Camp for Girls. I feel that photographs of women with their tops off, in the right context, can be considered both beautiful and strong; however, this picture is being used to draw attention to the female body not the female brain and is wildly inappropriate for the context of the article.

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The girls celebrating after a seven hour day in the Icelandic backcountry. They did such a good job!

Our all-female staff at Keely’s Camp is proud to educate, mentor, and empower girls to scale and ski thousands of feet in the Icelandic backcountry, to help navigate through whiteout conditions, and to lead skin tracks up steep faces with effortless kick turns while encouraging the team. The photograph of topless women trivializes and diminishes the teenage girls’ accomplishments and detracts from the content of the article’s intended message – empowerment.

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Thirteen year old Franci ripping her skins on top of our line during the Montana Backcountry Camp.

If this was a story about men re-energizing the ski industry, an opening photograph of three men with their tops off would never run. Most likely you would see an action shot of him skiing or a picture of him in the field doing his job. I applaud Ski Magazine for using powerful images within the article of all five of us proudly operating our businesses, with our tops on. Be that as it may, the unfortunate choice to include the topless photo in this article reduces our accomplishments to only,

“Did you take your top off in Iceland too?”.

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The girls skinning away from the boat in Iceland.

This message is harmful because it misrepresents us as professional women in the ski industry and negatively affects the future generations of girls in skiing. Women who are the CEO’s of ski brands, leading heli-ski companies, throwing commanding 360’s as mothers, fully certified mountain guides managing backcountry huts, and guiding teenage girls up mountains deserve better representation. I’m hopeful that this letter will open up a thoughtful conversation and impact your future decision-making about how your photographs influence your content.  


Keely Kelleher
Director & Founder
Keely’s Ski Camp for Girls

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