Progsession: The Swedish Snowboarders Shifting The Narrative In The North
There's a growing community of women in the North pushing snowboarding to new heights
For the past decade women’s snowboarding in Sweden has gone through something of a renaissance, with a solid crew of female riders and industry specialists emerging from a space where previously girls were conspicuously absent. At the core of this movement is Progsession, a women’s snowboard project, led by Finnish skater and snowboarder Marina Minetti under the umbrella of the Swedish Snowboard Association. The project’s stated mission is “to give women a platform that allows them to take their riding to the next level,” and this is the story of how they’ve done it.
What is Progsession?
In 2013, Europe’s original all-women’s snowboard, surf and skate camps Girlie hung up their decks for the last time, leaving coach and camp organiser Marina Minette out of a job in her adopted home of Sweden. Eager to carry on her work of furthering women’s riding, she initiated two women’s TTR World Tour events but the experience was bittersweet. Although the biggest thing in the Scandinavian women’s scene at the time, it was obvious to Marina that there was little support for female riders and events from the local association. Marina now had new purpose.
This all changed a year later when the legendary Stefan Karlson became sports manager at Swedish Snowboard Association and immediately asked Marina to help resurrect women’s snowboarding. In the first three years her budgets were minimal, but the generosity and support of the Swedish scene cemented the future of Progsession, with three years of women’s camps at Svanstein. “Svanstain was a Swedish version of Baldface,” remembers Marina fondly. “A hidden pearl with amazing tree runs and little mountain called Mt. Pullinki.”
Svanstein became the incubator for Marina’s vision of a brave new women’s scene and produced a crop of fifteen girls, who now in the late teens and early 20s form the nucleus of female snowboarding in Sweden “Above all, Progsession brought opportunity,” says Burton’s Scandinavian Territory Manager Lina Adams. “It's not just the odd event here or there; it's a journey through which riders can enter and feel supported as they grow with their riding and as individuals.” Burton has been Progsession's main supporter and enabler since 2020.
“It's not just the odd event here or there; it's a journey through which riders can enter and feel supported as they grow with their riding and as individuals.”
It's All About Creating Space
Ylfa Runarsdottir also attended the camps in Swanstein and in Marina’s mind “from day one you could see she would take over the world with her riding. She is an amazingly talented rider and role model who wants to share her energy and give back to the home scene.” Ylfa still coaches at Progsession camps when she can “I've watched Ylfa work the Progsession camps, and it's the most inspiring thing,” says Lina who together with Hasi (former Burton Europe TM) signed her to the Burton Scandinavian team in 2020. “She will not let a single participant go unseen, whether a beginner or an aspiring new star.” Ylfa exemplifies what Progsession is states Lina: “A platform for women to feel seen, heard, and supported wherever they want to take their riding.”
Ylfa believes Progsession is about creating a space where girls meet, ride and progress, outside of a contest environment. “I think it has been especially successful for the younger girls that might have been the only girl riding in their hometown,” she states. “Together they get the courage to try new things and push each other to be as good as they possibly can in a very natural and healthy way.”
Making connections and relationships has also been key in Progsession’s success says Ylfa: “Some of the girls are now really close friends and travel, compete, film and create their own paths within snowboarding together. The girls have created so much space for other girls around their local hills and wherever they go after by spreading their hype. That feels like a huge success to me.” This holistic approach is also key to Marina’s work: “Building close relations and seeing the diverse talents of individuals helps us to build a more equal snowboarding. Our mission is to accompany the girls on their journey and help them find their purpose, whether that is a rider, filmer, team manager and more.
''The girls have created so much space for other girls around their local hills and wherever they go after by spreading their hype. That feels like a huge success to me.”
''The Swedish and Nordic scenes are so much bigger and tighter now and the community has become something really special.”
Progsession runs various events over Sweden’s long winter season, focusing on different age groups and disciplines, that range from film and photo camps for more experienced girls, to rail and park jams and bag training sessions. The latest camp was in Funäsdalen in late March, where over 40 girls were in attendance. “The part which stands out the most for me is that these girls between eleven and thirteen were jumping the biggest kickers in the park,” recounts Marina. “Doing massive 3s, methods and other smaller tricks with all different grabs, good execution and huge style!”
The standard of riding has come a long way since the first camps when Marina says they had to have smaller jumps for the riders and she puts much of the success down to her team of coaches. “These are riders that I have experienced being amazing with the girls and at the same time are really appreciated riders in the Swedish and Nordic scenes, the scene is so much bigger and tighter now and the community has become something really special.”
As well as the camps, and in association with Burton, Progsession also created a digital initiative, “Burton Press Play”, initially to overcome the isolation of COVID lockdowns and in Lina’s words “provide a dedicated platform that allows them to take their riding to the next level while building skills and community.” It was a two-month program of biweekly challenges over two season that encouraged riders to film and upload their responses to win prizes and further the women’s riding community. “Putting themselves out there was so healthy for the scene,” Lina continues. “So many initiatives and crews were born after these two winters and the feedback we got was super positive, with even the guys showing some FOMO.”
Marina, Lina and Ylfa are all excited and optimistic for both the future of Progsession and in turn the health and wealth of the women’s snowboard scene in Sweden. “I want to see not only more women to be at the top levels of riding,” says Ylfa, “but I would also love to see more women photographers, filmers, women making decisions in the industry, hosting events and creating platforms in the community.” Lina agrees with her wholeheartedly, adding, “as snowboarding's percentage share is rising compared to skiing, I hope our work will solidify a consistently strong representation of female-identifying riders from top to bottom, on the local hills to the prime resorts to the contest scene and FILMING.” She admits there are still hurdles to overcome, like the fall-off of female riders at a professional level, but as she tells girls at Progsessions, “snowboarding is something they can carry with them throughout life; if they like drawing as a kid, perhaps they will be a designer at a Snowboard company. Or if math or writing is a strength, they can work in Finance or Communications, etc. We need more women on boards and in boardrooms (and all levels of roles). At Burton, we do this well, but many brands could take note.”
The next Progsession camp will be held at the beginning of May. Watch this space for more info or follow them on Instagram to keep updated.
Text By Danny Burrows