SIA is proud to recognize the 2016 Women to Watch, outstanding leaders working for brands, reps, retailers, resorts and non-profits. All of the women were honored at the 2016 SIA Snow Show for their passion, commitment and leadership in the snow sports community.
Kathy McGuire: Executive Vice President, Operations, K2 Sports
Years with current job: 24
Number of years in snow sports industry: 28
Average days on-snow: Never enough
How did you get your start in this industry? In 1988, I moved to Burlington, Vt., with my boy – friend at the time from New York City. Dynastar had just acquired Lange. I got a job as the import manager based on my experience in logistics in NYC. It was a very fun role. I started skiing in high school and skied through college. I loved it, so I was thrilled to be in the industry. My boyfriend became my husband, we had our first child in 1992, and decided to move to Seattle. I applied for a job with K2 in November. I’ve been there almost 24 years now. Eventually I took on global operations.
What is your favorite part of your job? What I have found is that in our industry every year and every day is different. We’ve been involved in acquisitions and brand expansions, new owners, and more. There’s constant change. I like being part of the solution to effect change in a very positive way.
What are 3 things people don’t know about you? 1. I lived in France for a year back in 1978. I went to school there. Travel has become my passion, and the group of people I lived there with have become my lifelong friends. 2. I was a (Grateful) Dead Head. I used to go to a lot of concerts back in the day. 3. I am a good cook. I can make anything from anything. I am really good at looking at ingredients I have and making a good meal. If you have olive oil, mustard and garlic, you can pretty much make anything. I use a lot of fresh and organic ingredients.
What advice would you give to young women getting their start in the snow sports industry? Have a basic understanding of financial statements. I think in today’s business world, it’s really important for women to understand the impact of finance on a company. As you grow in your career, it will be a critical skill. You need to understand the basics of a financial statement. All of your actions and your decisions impact the bottom line. This is not a hobby or a sport – even though that’s the fun part of what we do. This is a business.
Anything else you want to add? It’s important to talk to people – get up from your desk and have a conversation in person; pick up the phone and call someone instead of emailing; and make sure to have fun.
Julia Blumenfeld: Marketing/Communications Manager, HEAD/Tyrolia
Years with current job: 2.5 years in my current position; 5 years with HEAD/Tyrolia
Number of years in snow sports industry: 5 years with HEAD/Tyrolia Average days on-snow: 30-35
What is your favorite part of your job? Although HEAD is a large global ski manufacturer, we have a tight-knit team here in Boulder. I enjoy seeing the direct impact of my work within the company; this gives me a prideful sense of ownership. Additionally, the success of HEAD/Tyrolia here in the U.S. over the past several years is something I’m proud to be a part of.
What are 5 things people may not know about you? 1. I am a 10th Mountain Division descendant. In 1941, my grandfather Arnold Kirbach enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman in the 10th Mountain Division teaching skiing and rock climbing at Camp Hale in Colorado. After he and my grandmother married, they moved to Mendon, Vt., where they raised a family and he continued to ski into his late 80s, teaching skiing at Pico Mountain. In 2003, he was inducted into the Vermont Ski Hall of Fame. 2. I am a weekly volunteer at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Every Wednesday evening, I exercise and socialize shelter dogs. 3. Before I was transferred to Boulder with HEAD/Tyrolia, I raced competitively in J80, J35 and Classic Yacht sailing regattas throughout the spring, summer and fall on Long Island Sound. 4. I love road cycling and for the past three consecutive years have completed the challenging 120-mile Triple Bypass Ride from Evergreen to Avon. 5. I’ll be changing my last name soon. I met my future husband at work – proof that snow sports truly brings people together. Thanks to the support of our supervisors and colleagues over the years, Andrew Couperthwait, HEAD/Tyrolia’s U.S. alpine product manager, and I are getting married this June in Connecticut. We’re looking forward to the celebration!
Advice for young women getting their start in the industry? When looking at the ski industry, it’s hard not to notice the disproportionate ratio of women to men, but don’t let the boys’ club intimidate you! Women have taken on a more influential role in the industry every year. Hard work, passion, a positive attitude and a willingness to learn will help you increase your confidence and succeed. The OIWC is also an excellent organization to join so you can network with other women in the outdoor, snow sports, run and bike industries.
Kirsten Lynch: Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Vail Resorts
Years with current job: 4.5
Number of years in snow sports industry: 4.5
Average days on-snow: 25
Favorite place to ski, and why? I ski at all of our resorts, but my current favorite is Beaver Creek. I love the aspen trees, the intimacy of the resort, the variety of terrain, the village and the service we provide our guests, including the warm chocolate chip cookies served at the end of each ski day. It’s an incredible experience.
How did you get your start in this industry? I grew up in downtown Chicago and started my passion for skiing at age 6. … Five years ago, I was CMO for a division of PepsiCo in Chicago when my husband and I decided to quit our jobs and move to Colorado with our 1-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. So I landed in Colorado based on my passion and then was fortunate a few months later to join Vail Resorts. It still feels like a dream come true.
What are 3 things people don’t know about you? 1. I learned to ski when I was 6-years-old at a small ski area in Wisconsin wearing blue jeans and pink powder cuffs. 2. When I turned 16-years-old and got my very first car, my car license plates were personalized with “SNO SKI 1.” 3. I started my marketing career with Ford Motor Company in Detroit and had the amazing experience of learning to take apart a car engine and put it back together again!
What is the industry’s most pressing challenge, in your opinion, and why? The industry needs to find ways to make skiing and riding accessible to more people, in particular women and families. We have created new programs to help with this. In Colorado and Utah we launched Epic SchoolKids program that gives free skiing/riding, free lesson and free rental to all kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. Our intention is to build the next generation of skiers and riders by making it affordable and accessible. We have also created programs for women because we know that the majority of people on the mountain on any given day are men. After talking with women guests extensively we have created a program to try to help address their challenges with getting back on the mountain: time, skill and camaraderie. Specifically, our Women’s Ultimate 4 program, offered through our Ski & Snowboard Schools, is designed for women with a maximum of four women per group and led by a woman coach; participants have access to state-of-the-art women’s-specific equipment; and the program is offered at a time of day that’s most convenient for our women guests.
Kim Walker: President & Co-Founder, outdoor DIVAS
Years with current job: 3
Number of years in snow sports industry: 13
Average days on-snow: 20 (hoping that will increase now that we opened a store in Vail)
Favorite place to ski, and why? Vail. I can almost always find hidden powder stashes, and amazing lines with no one else on them.
How did you get your start? I moved to Vail to be a ski bum for one year and I got stuck. After 10 years of skiing on men’s equipment that was never really doing me justice, my partner (Michael Callas) and I devised a plan to have a curated selection of product for women available in one place and outdoor DIVAS was born. That was my entrance to the snow sports industry as a retailer.
What is your favorite part of your job? I love knowing that we make a difference in women’s performance and comfort when they are skiing—the best part is when they call from the chairlift to say they love their boots. Yes, that actually happens frequently! I love seeing all the DIVAS we have employed over the years happily moving up the ranks in the outdoor and snow sports industries.
What are 5 things people don’t know about you? 1. I went to Vail for spring break in 1988, and that’s when I decided I would live there. 2. I worked in the furniture and design industry for years. 3. I still have a pair of 198 Kästle Speed Machine skis sitting in my warehouse from the 1990s that I tell myself someday I will take out and ski again. 4. I got bitten by a dog at the bottom of the Minturn Mile the first time I skied it. 5. I dropped a chair on my foot this summer, two days before bringing my son to Sarah Schlepper’s ski camp in Hintertux. I couldn’t get my foot in a ski boot, so no skiing for me (but on the bright side I was able to get my foot in a hiking sandal, and spent five days hiking around the Glacier in sandals!).
What advice would you give to young women getting their start in snow sports industry? Yes, it’s a dude fest out there, but this industry is embracing women’s voices and contributions — and this is a growing trend. Always be proactive, always listen before you speak, but always make sure you express your opinions.
Congratulations to all the 2016 OIWC-SIA Women to Watch: