By Hannah Truby
This story originally featured in the Mountain Gazette Sunday email — our weekly newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter here
“I'm a very goal oriented person,” Elyse Saugstad tells me over the phone. “And I didn’t think that would translate necessarily to this but, funny enough, becoming a mom gave me a new goal: ‘Watch out, ski industry; I can keep this rolling – regardless of being a mom!”
Served with spoofs and hilarities, if HERE, HOLD MY KID had a thesis statement, this might be it.
“Our goal from the get go was never to make a ski porn movie,” Saugstad told me. “It was a movie with a story; a comedy, but there's so much more to it.”As professional free skiers, former Freeride World Tour competitors, and long-time friends, Elyse and Jackie have spent a lot of time together over the years, the majority of which had been spent working and skiing – for work, not play. And as the two became first-time moms, time for play became scarcer still.
Recounting the film’s conception, Saugstad said, “[My kid] was probably about three months old at this point. Jackie was still pregnant. And I was talking to a sponsor that she and I shared. Then this idea just dawned on me: Oh, my gosh. Jackie, and I have to do something about being new moms, and how fun would it be to be competitive moms taking the piss out of each other, you know? Moms that are just constantly trying to one up each other.”
And thus is the origin story of HERE, HOLD MY KID.
The film follows Paaso and Saugstad as they travel to three legendary ski destinations, and compete for a contract-winning ski segment – with their two-year-olds and hubbies in tow. Relaxing vacay? Not quite.
To help bring their vision to life, Paaso and Saugstad chose writer/director duo Adam Gendle and John Verity, in part due to their distinctly-British humor (think The Office), as seen in their 2014 mockumentary, Ski Good, Money Will Come, that they knew would help bring their vision to life.
Between the four, coming up with various antics and escapades (sabotage, baby boop, awkward husband small talk) was easy money.
“Brainstorming all that, that was the fun part,” Saugstad said. “This movie would not be this movie without them.”
In addition to the film’s many hijinks and absurdities, Saugstad and Paaso play exaggerated, caricature versions of their real-life selves, which highlight the absolutely insane pressures and expectations put on both moms and professional athletes.
I asked the two if they’d always planned on having kids, or if there was ever a point where they worried that choosing motherhood might mean leaving certain parts of themselves – career, skiing, passions – behind.
Paaso answered first. “I didn't know if it was possible to do both, and it is…but it is a lot harder. You still have to make sacrifices. But you end up wanting to make them, which is interesting because it's terrifying and really rewarding and amazing.”
“When I started my career, I was petrified of having kids,” added Saugstad. “In your 20s, you're very focused on your job. 15 years ago, when athletes had a kid, a lot of times they’d also decide that that was the end of their ski career. This was a big reason why I waited.”
If not an end to career, new mothers often face penalties after returning to the sport, as Serena Williams’ case in 2019. That same year, American track star Allyson Felix said she knew pregnancy was “the kiss of death” in the sport industry: after having her first child, Nike cut Felix’s pay by more than half, despite her being one of the brand’s most widely marketed athletes at the time.
“It’s all a perception game,” Saugstad explains. “People see your value decrease when you become a mom, like there's no way you could be important or valuable as an athlete now – we're marketing tools.”
While the industry may shuffle a bit behind, the world is changing, and both women feel hopeful.
“It’s a new thing, in the sports world,” Saugstad continues. “And that is the understanding that women can actually continue on as a mom. Jackie and I hope that the movie catches fire a little bit, and has a ripple effect down the road, and then we'll see what comes of that”.
Between wrapping up the film, doing press tours, and resuming work at the S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics, the pair are enjoying a small and well-earned break.
“The last few weeks have been the first time we’ve been able to kind of take a breath, and just work without somebody crawling up your leg,” laughs Paaso. “Producing a movie, it’s so much more than just showing up and being an athlete and skiing. Elyse and I have been full-on trying to make it happen while being moms, and I can't believe we did it.”