Rachael Burks: Behind the Scenes of Pretty Faces

In the fall of 2014, female skiers and snowboarders throughout the country and world flocked to theaters to be part of history, as the first ever all-female crowd-funded ski movie was unveiled to sold out shows.  We caught up with one of the stars and funny ladies of “Pretty Faces, A Skier Girls Story”.  Rachael Burks is no stranger to female empowerment and has for some time been the leader of the pack – the female wolf pack that is.  Her dynamic personality, strong drive, and silly antics made her fun to watch on screen, but her skill on a pair of skis demands respect! We asked Rachael what is was like behind the scenes of Pretty Faces, riding in Alaska, and where her passion for skiing evolved from.

an image of Rachel Burks hucking cliffs at Retallack Lodge, BC, snow bunny, snowbunnymag, Photo by Freya Fennwood

Photo credit: Freya Fennwood

SBM: How long have you been skiing?

Rachael: The first time I ever skied I was a wee little girl- when we lived in Michigan, so I was about 4 years old;  however, it wasn’t until my family moved to Utah and my Dad started taking us skiing on the weekends that I really learned how to turn.

SBM: Where did you learn to ski and what do you consider your “home mountain”?

Rachael: I learned at Alta, Utah on the rope-tow. I never really took a lesson.  My mom and dad were super patient with me and would tie a rope around my waste and let me pizza-pie down the mountain as my little legs would shake, (this was before the edgy-wedgy).  I learned how to ski at Alta but I skied Snowbird and Solitude quite  a bit as well.  As a kid I would ski on the weekends with my parents; but, there were some Fridays that I would get to go to Solitude with a bus-load of kids.  That was my first taste of freedom on skis for sure. We would have lessons for about an hour and then they’d let us free-ski.  I LOVED IT!  I explored Solitude like you wouldn’t believe.  We were crazy little kids romping around exploring rocks, jumps, moguls, and a few mini-cliffs.  Also, let it be said that skiing under the lift was a big deal back then.

an image of Rachel Burks hucking cliffs at Snowbird, Utah Snow Bunny, snowbunnymag, photo by Adam Clark

Photo credit: Adam Clark

SBM: You recently became part of history through skiing in the first all-female ski movie “Pretty Faces”.  How did the opportunity to be included in the movie come about?

Rachael: I have been lucky enough to be an advocate for women’s exposure since I learned that you have to pay to be in the movies. I created www.femalewolfpack.com that was designed to be a platform for women’s visibility in action sports.  Being a part of Pretty Faces was a very important thing to me. I believed in the project from the beginning because it was something that needed to happen but I was not the only one!  Luckily a whole slew of women jumped on board!  It was great.  Lyns (Lyndsey Dyer) and I would always talk about how we were going to make something happen with great footage would hit the editing floor. Elyse (Elyse Saugstad) and I would chat every year about what the plan was going to be for the season.  We always chatted about what the best way to film our seasons, as she and I both lacked a “big-picture-budget”.  We had to brainstorm and get creative.  Before long we were talking about just buying a camera, traveling around and making our own film or edit, and getting other bad-ass women on film too.  People have been brain-storming and sharing ideas forever.

SBM: What did being part of this movie mean to you?

Rachael: It meant the world to me. Our mission was to inspire the next generation. I believe that we accomplished that. Seeing shows sell out across the world has been incredible.   I don’t think any of us anticipated how thirsty the world is for women being bad-asses. It’s insane.

an mage of skier Rachel Burks, skiing in Northern Chugach, Alaska, during the filming of Pretty Faces, snowbunnymag, Snow Bunny, Photo by Robin O'Neill

Photo credit: Robin O’neill

SBM: During the filming of Pretty Faces you took a scary ride on some sluff that seemed to have shaken you up.   It took some time to get back on the mountain after that.  What were the emotions, fears, or other thoughts that went through your head during that time?

Rachael: Funny thing about that is that AT THE TIME, I wasn’t as scared. It’s after the adrenaline wears off that things become scarier.  I knew it wasn’t an avalanche and that it was just heavy sluff, so that was good. It was then I knew that I was okay, only a little twinge in the ankle. It was then I was worried that I’d never find my skis again and was already working out the logistics of trying to get another pair up to AK.  After that, more than anything else I felt remorse.  I was skiing with Ingrid Backstrom so I was embarrassed.  I felt so bad that I had held up the day – the expensive day!  I felt terrible that because of my fall we didn’t have any more time to get a shot.  I felt like the weakest link. The pressure of the day, the time, money, the guides time, heli-pilot, filmers, sponsors, more money,  all were wasted because I had failed on that line. It was a super strange feeling. I shouldn’t have felt that way because I was new to the whole process, but I did.  Anyway, that’s the honest truth.

SBM: What helped you get back on the mountain?

Rachael: Talking to my brother.  Without a doubt he turned my season around.  I had called him after all that had happened and he said a lot of helpful things, but the one thing that will stick with me forever was this, “Rachel, you’re doing things that people only dream of. You are living that!  You need to be safe first, but more than anything you need to have fun.  It’s 20 times better to show up and fail than it is to have never showed up at all.” I have the wisest brother ever!

an image of Rachel Burks on location with GoPro in the Northern Chugach, snowbunnymag, snow bunny

Photo credit: Rachel Burks

SBM: After the fall you came back to ski your “dream line”.  What was it like to ski that line and why was it so perfect?

Rachael:  Funny thing is that my “dream line” didn’t even make the movie.  That “selfie” was shot on top of a different line but, it was the best feeling EVER!! The line that ended up in the movie was scary! It was a long, but damn it was awesome at the bottom.  We shot that in the 11th hour too, I think that’s why it was so powerful.  I had been filming for Pretty Faces for two years. Arguably even before that and trying to stay positive in the midst of things going wrong A LOT, and I don’t mean falling.  I mean everything else that you don’t want to talk about, yet you just keep showing up, you don’t have any pennies left to spend and it’s the end of the season – the end of pretty much your last day filming for a project that you’ve given everything to and you make it down your line.  I don’t care if the angle on the shot makes it look pretty easy.   That was my line, my moment, my encore, and it will be with me forever.

I remember what it felt like, I remember what I had to mentally go through before dropping in, It was a laugh cry and a lot of emotion coming out at the end of that run.

SBM: For those who have not had the experience of skiing or boarding in Alaska, what is it about it that is so magical and makes it so sought after?

Rachael: It’s that much bigger, that much scarier, and therefore that much cooler.  It’s massive!  It’s so incredible it makes you want to poo your pants most of the time.  It’s a humbling place for the best skiers and snowboarders in the world.

SBM: What was the most rewarding part of being part of the Pretty Faces project?

Rachael: Without a doubt watching the movies sell out, meeting the next generation of rippers, watching the response from the audience and being a part of something so much bigger than anything I’ve been a part of thus far.  I gave it my all, and watched it quench a thirst for inspiration – even if you don’t ski you can identify with the inspirational aspect of the movie and everyone needs to be inspired from time to time.

SBM: How did the project change or affect you personally?

Rachael: I definitely learned a lot. I felt like I gained more knowledge working on Pretty Faces than I did getting my undergraduate? It was very anthropological.

SBM: What was your favorite moment of filming the movie?

Rachel: I liked the high fives, giving and receiving them, and getting to work with as many incredible people as I did is pretty priceless.

an image of Rachel Burks professional skier in Revelstock, BC, skiing, snowbunnymag, snow bunny, Photo by Bruno Long

Photo credit: Bruno Long

SBM: My eight-year-old daughter attended the Pretty Faces premiere with me.  She loved watching you ski, and goof off on film and said you were her “favorite skier”.  As a role model to the next generation of little skiers what advice would you share?

Rachael: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Always be true to yourself, not to what you think others will like, not what you think others will perceive, and not emulating the way anyone else has ever done it in the past. Do it your own way!   Don’t follow the paradigm, don’t fit in the mold, and don’t let existing restrictions confine you from your own right to creativity.  Believe in yourself and all the little special things that make you tick when no one else is watching.  Also, don’t let anyone get you down –  ignore (or at least try to ignore) negativity. Stay positive and remember that if you are indeed skiing you do not have the right to complain about anything, you’re living a dream. Embrace it!  It’s like the dreams where you realize you can fly and then you wake up wishing your dream was longer.  Don’t cut your dream short with any negativity, taste the flight and go with it!

Also: remember that it’s better to let it out and deal with the shame, rather than hold it in and deal with the pain (Girls fart too) !

SBM: What is the biggest challenge to women in outdoor sports?

Rachael: Themselves.

SBM: What does that mean and how do women in general fix that?

Rachael:   Generally, in my experience women incapacitate themselves in two ways. First they are full of excuses.  There is always a reason “not to”, very few women just “do”.

Second, I think that women often lack confidence.  You must believe in yourself to make things happen in life!  I think it starts with things as little as “I don’t think I can fix this because I’m afraid that I’ll break it even more if I try to mess around with it” and then gets to even bigger things like: “I know that the guys can do that, but I don’t know if the girls can actually do that”. We will never know until we try.  In our case with Pretty Faces: we each invested (financially) in ourselves. We used our OWN MONEY to attempt to get us a part of the film. You have to believe in yourself to financially invest in yourself.  You can’t be afraid to fail.

SBM: You have a magnetic and fun loving personality – what fuels your obvious passion for life?

Rachael:  Knowing what not being happy feels like makes you love every moment you’re out of indifference. The grass is green where you stand! Appreciate it -roll around in it!

SBM:  What is normal life for Rachel Burks like?

Rachael:  I drink a lot of coffee. I’m pretty hyper-active but know how to really enjoy a day on the couch too.  I also work a lot, serving tables. I’ve been doing that as long as I can remember and am one of the few that really enjoys it.  I love food. I love making people happy and bringing them food makes them happy.  I don’t really like sitting down all that much so serving tables allowed me to never have to sit down.  I guess that’s a normal day.

SBM: What do you do in the off-season?

Rachael:  Work and then anything outside when I’m not working.

SBM: What’s your favorite song on your iPod right now?

Rachael:  Ooooooooooohhhhh interesting question! Truthfully my iPhone has only played the “tunes” of listening to audio-books lately.  If you haven’t tried it, but have a lot of time in the car, or time to listen to headphones in transit, on an airplane, or any other time that it would be normal to listen to music: You have to try listening to books –  it’s my new obsession.

SBM: Who inspires you most?

Rachael:  MY FATHER, MY BROTHER, MY MOM . . .  FOR SO MANY REASONS.

You can follow Rachel Burks on Instagram @Rachelburks

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About Misty Broesicke

Our Chief Executive Bunny, Misty Broesicke grew up in Orange County, California and made her way to Idaho at 27 years old.  At twenty-nine she learned to snowboard and it quickly developed into a love and passion.  
With a background in rock climbing Misty has combined her passion for both sports as she develops her skills in backcountry snowboarding and mountaineering.   

She has three children,  two “fur” babies and resides with them, and her boyfriend in Boise, Idaho. She is passionate about raising her family to love and take care of the amazing planet we live on while at the same time enjoying the beauty of it by getting outside as often as possible.  

Misty started Snow Bunny Magazine as way to further her own love of outdoor lifestyle sports, while at the same time building up other women and youth through them. 

She is surrounded by an amazing team of women, and that she believes is her greatest strength.