From Pastime to Paycheck

Industry enthusiasts are getting a lift on a slopeside career

By Kayla Hedman '14

ski and rideIt does not come as a surprise that many students attend Champlain to be able to ski and ride throughout the winter months on Vermont's finest mountains. Professors and students alike tally up the days spent on the snow for the season, and simultaneously cheered when 2014 winter storm Vulcan hit, dumping nearly two feet of snow, in early March.

For years Champlain has partnered with some of the local mountain resorts to bring discounted season passes to students, but there are other ways that students unearth deals and find ways to spend more time on the mountain.

An astounding number of individuals in the Champlain community work and intern in the ski and ride industry. What they all have in common is a passion for skiing and riding fueled in their early years, an admiration for the culture surrounding the snowsports industry, and involvement in Champlain Ski & Ride.

Ski & Ride is the largest club at Champlain; it also has a big alumni following. This giant network of students, staff advisors, and alumni call in representatives and sponsors from a multitude of snowsports organizations to host annual rail jams, organize shuttles to the mountains, and renew season pass deals.

A number of students take their passion for the industry further by seeking out internships within it. Added perks such as season passes and swag don't hurt, not to mention relevant resume experience in the industry that can lead to jobs after graduation.

The following folks are not just skiers and riders, they're diehard industry enthusiasts.


KAISEY ARENA: THE MARKETER

Champlain Alum, Kaisey Arena

Marketing alumna Kaisey Arena '13 took an internship to a job in the industry she has been passionate about for all her life. Although she relocated to Colorado for her dream job, she hasn't looked back once.

Arena was given a great opportunity in her senior year at Sugarbush Resort, where she spent four months as a Public/Media Relations and Social Media intern. At this time she was also taking a Digital Marketing course with Professor Elaine Young and committed to researching and developing a full environmental scan of the industry, complete with a competitive analysis of local ski resorts. This project and her work to reform Sugarbush's user-generated content on social media proved beneficial to Arena's resume, landing her a job at Copper Mountain in Frisco, Colorado, after graduation.

Since starting in September, Arena has worked at the U.S. Ski Team's First Tracks event in November, where the Olympic team for alpine skiing was announced. In mid-December, she witnessed slopestyle and halfpipe snowboarding events at Copper during the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix. Arena collaborated with the United States Ski and Snowboard Association for social media coverage of the event. "It was the premiere of the slopestyle event at the Olympics this year, so it was really exciting to see the Olympic qualifiers.

"My co-workers make fun of me because I still have 'fan-girl' moments," said Arena of meeting athletes at the events. She got to meet U.S. athletes Joss Christensen, who brought home the first-ever men's Olympic slopestyle skiing gold medal, two-time Olympic medalist in snowboarding Kelly Clark, and many more professional sportsmen and -women. 

Arena reports that there are lots of benefits to working at a ski resort, other than just meeting her idols. "I get a free pass to the mountain and sessions at Woodward at Copper, our indoor training park; where I live I get to ski in and out, and we often have 9 a.m. meetings on the lift." Also, every year employees earn two passes for themselves or guests to go to any Powdr Corp. resort, which includes Copper Mountain as well as Killington, Park City, and more.

Check out the social stream Arena has implemented at Copper Mountain and Woodward at Copper below:


Champlain Alum, Doug FicheraDOUG FICHERA: THE LIFETIME SNOWMAKER

Doug Fichera '14 has a resume that boasts over 10 years of snowmaking experience. At only 21 years old, Fichera started experimenting with snowmaking at the age of 8, when his family purchased Black Mountain in New Hampshire. He was always fascinated with the way water and compressed cold air came together to create the precipitation that makes or breaks the ski and ride industry.

He grew up seeing the industry from the inside, where a bad season would affect his family's finances. "It's drastically different from someone who is a professional in the industry but has never known what it feels like to pay the bills."

He didn't want his passion for and his skills in snowmaking to go to waste, so as a first-year business student at Champlain College, Fichera applied for a job at Sugarbush Resort. Knowing about snowmaking, the lifts, and how a resort is run proved to be a huge asset to Sugarbush, and Fichera has since been promoted to shift supervisor. Of course, he is also still responsible for snowmaking operations at Black Mountain when he's home.

As a graduating senior, Fichera was faced with the challenge of balancing 8 a.m. Integrated Marketing Communication classes with late nights at Sugarbush. "I often go to bed at 1:30 a.m. just to be up for 7 a.m. and in class by 8," he said. "I'm exhausted, but it's not as bad as the end of the fall semester." The time around final exams is the same time that the mountains are preparing for the start of the season, he reports. Those snowmaking shifts run Fichera 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Later in the season he is happy to work only one snow-grooming shift and get to bed a little earlier.

"Ever since I was little I always tried to balance work and school." Fichera knew his career path wouldn't need him to put all of his efforts into academics; his work experience was just as, if not more, important. Upon graduating he hopes to work at a ski area in New England.

Fichera was one of 10 snowsports industry employees in the nation recognized as a "Young Gun" under age 30 by Ski Area Management magazine. He was not only the youngest of the honorees, but one of only two New Englanders.

"It's a kind of behind-the-scenes process, and it's what makes the ski industry go round, especially here in the East," he told T.D. Thornton of the Boston Globe this December in the article "Black Mountain, Sugarbush prodigy receiving recognition as snowmaker."

An interview with Fichera is also set to appear in Yankee Magazine, the guide to New England, this fall.


Champlain Alum, Devin CarterDEVIN CARTER: THE CREATIVE

"Surreal-that's a good word for it," Graphic Design major Devin Carter '14 said of seeing his designs laid on Rome Snowboards this season. Carter has been interning at Rome for roughly a year now, and this season he was responsible for art direction and design on three board series, and the creative direction and design of all gloves for the 2015 line.

This past winter, Carter had the chance to attend the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Snow Show in Denver, Colorado. At the expo, he networked with brand representatives and riders from all over the country, while building excitement around the products. Never having worked at a trade show, he found this experience exhausting, but invaluable.

Carter was drawn to the snowsports industry thanks to the culture surrounding the sport. "I live for adventures and never stop exploring. I do what I love to make marks, using passion as the driving force to fuel my creativity," said Carter. "Ambition and dedication to how I work is most important to who I am."

Other responsibilities at his internship include print and web projects and packaging. According to Carter, his internship not only sharpened his skills and added to his resume, but also benefited his academic experience at Champlain. Carter's next journey will be with the PR/marketing agency Team Epiphany, in Portland, Oregon, where he will be a graphic designer working for Nike's Global Brand Marketing team.

Check out Carter's digital portfolio here.


Sam ParkerSAM PARKER: THE SPONSORED ATHLETE

In the spring 2013 Champlain View, Marketing major Sam Parker '14 was featured in an article about Champlain's partnership with Subaru and Nordica for the 2013 XV Crosstrek Tour. Parker, along with Samuel McGuire '13 and Max Erickson '16, was pulled into the project for his insider knowledge of the target market-that which he and his peers were a part of.

Initiative, combined with the help of Stiller School of Business Professor Tom Myers, resulted in a unique Champlain partnership. "In the spring of 2012, I emailed the team at Nordica to see if they were interested in bringing me on for the XV Crosstrek tour," said Parker. Not only did they invite him to help plan the tour, but they also offered him a sponsorship.

An avid skier, Parker has enjoyed his time working in the industry. "These experiences have definitely benefited my studies at Champlain because they've helped me network and given me real-life experience in the ski industry," he explained. Parker is also sponsored by Black Bear Energy, Bloom Outerwear, PANDA Poles, and Bern Unlimited.

After graduating May 3, Parker will continue his skiing career and work for a boat company called Ribcraft USA out of Marblehead, Massachusetts.


Scott BarberSCOTT BARBER: THE VIDEOGRAPHER

After spending lots of time with friends at Cranmore Mountain in his hometown of North Conway, New Hampshire, growing up, Scott Barber '12 always appreciated capturing the beauty of the industry. Barber may have been one of those students who had actively watched ski and ride films on his laptop when he should have been participating in class, but because he was a skilled Filmmaking major who had had work accepted into the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival, he managed to make it work.

Barber's professional interest in film was sparked during a trip to Tanzania in 2005 where he shot a safari, armed with a JVC camcorder and a bag of beans to minimize the camera shake from the safari Jeep. A few years later he was accepted into Champlain College's Filmmaking program.

Now founder of Scott Barber Film, he shoots freelance work spanning all industries-action sports, event coverage, business advertising, and wedding photography and videography. Based out of New England, Barber has traveled to shoot projects all over the world.

The vast array of projects Barber is working on is based on his favorite action sports and telling inspiring stories. His latest work in the snowsports industry is intended to benefit the featured riders and get his own exposure. "Currently it's more for fun than money," said Barber, "but we negotiate with the mountains for free passes; we'll ride as long as we don't have to pay to work." Eventually, Barber hopes to build a following that will allow him to sell the video content to sponsors and earn royalties per view.

His ski and ride web series, the bEASTly volumes, has been featured on Snowboarder Magazine's website. Barber hopes to soon appear in Transworld and Method Magazine's web pages, too.

"The biggest thing I've kept in mind is that success doesn't come in the form of money," said Barber. The driving factor for his work is "Success is not the key to happiness; happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."

Recently, Barber has collaborated with Vita Coco Coconut Water, Life in Color, STS Travel, No Label Watches, various production companies, and more to produce short films and promotional videos.

View his website here.


Joe GaetaniJOE GAETANI: THE INDUSTRY VETERAN

"I never intended for this to be a job," said Joe Gaetani, a 2006 graduate.

"I majored in Business, expecting to get a job in marketing or advertising, while making films on the side." During his temp job in Burton's retail marketing department, another section of the department gave Gaetani video projects on the side. "Once Burton gave me projects, I knew this could actually pan out as a career," he said.

During college, Gaetani would shoot footage for fun of some of his friends who were sponsored skiers and riders. They compiled the footage at the end of the season and hosted an event to premiere their film in Alumni Auditorium. They got sponsors to collaborate on the event, and filled the auditorium. Rarely is there a successful inaugural event at Champlain, so it was a no-brainer to host similar premieres the next three years.

Upon graduation and the completion of his temp job, Gaetani continued shooting marketing footage for Burton and started planning how to open his own film production company. Former professional snowboarder Seth Neary, who also spent time studying at Champlain, took Gaetani under his wing and showed him the ins and outs of freelance work. Gaetani worked from October 2006 to June 2007 on developing his brand, to open Rightside Productions in August of that year.

"One freelance client would lead to the next," recalled Gaetani. "Working with Cabot led me to National Life Group, which led me to other big-name companies in Vermont. My company's brand kept evolving and growing with my client base."

Neary is now the creative director at Driven Studios, a multimedia creative studio that does a considerable amount of work in the ski and ride industry. Driven Studios now shares office space with Rightside Productions. "It's one big happy freelance family," said Gaetani.

In his time at Champlain, Gaetani interned with Line Skis, formerly owned and operated by Jason Levinthal in Burlington. Once the company was sold and moved to Seattle, Washington, Levinthal opened J Skis in the Queen City and hired Gaetani for all of his video needs. "Joe Gaetani has always lent me a hand while living in Vermont," wrote Levinthal on jskis.com. "While at college he was an intern at Line, helped renovate my house, and even cooked grilled cheese for my food cart. Now he's got his own video production company, Rightside Productions, which has created some of Line's best product videos over the years. I call him whenever I need an idea turned into a video."

Gaetani's footage of Line-sponsored pro skier and University of Vermont alumnus Will Wesson from the early 2000s was shared this spring on Line's website. Today, Levinthal still hires interns from Champlain, including senior Communications major Casey Joseph.

Gaetani's career has come full circle; he gets to do what he loves every day. Although he doesn't shoot much ski and ride footage anymore, he loves occasionally getting that opportunity to go back to his roots, his passion.


Pat DodgePATRICK DODGE: THE BUSINESSMAN

Before graduating, Business major Patrick Dodge '14 landed his dream job working in brand marketing at Burton. Dodge was one of more than 600 applicants for the competitive position. His hands-on experience working with action sports equipment retailer Wild Rampage and skate shop iconx this past summer in Shanghai, China, as part of the Stiller School of Business and Freeman Foundation grant program, set him apart from other applicants.

Dodge has also been a key individual in Champlain's Ski and Ride Club.


FRESH TRACKS FILM CAMP

In January and February, Sugarbush and Champlain College collaborated to present a three-Saturday film camp for teenage skiers and riders. Here, participants like Sammy Murphy took their passion for filmmaking onto the mountain.

John Egan, former Warren Miller film star and Sugarbush's Chief Recreation Officer lead campers through some of Lincoln Peak's best trails, capturing action-packed video footage of morning fresh tracks.

Kevin Murakami from Champlain College's Emergent Media Center showed the participants how to transform their mountain experience into a short film.

Participants got to present their finished short films at a reception on February 8 in the Gate House Lodge at Sugarbush.


Sammy Murphy

SAMMY MURPHY: THE FUTURE

"It's hard to believe that it has been almost two weeks since I completed fresh tracks film camp. I had a blast in this program from getting first chair to learning how to make my videos into a movie! I also had the advantage of being the only girl to show those boys who's boss.

Throughout this experience, I had the opportunity to ski with John Egan and John Atkinson, one on one, to learn the tips from the pros. John Egan showed us how to work with the videographer to get the perfect shot from the model perspective while John Atkinson showed us how to get the perfect shot form the videographers perspective.

We worked on our projects for three Saturdays starting at 7:30 in the morning and ending at 12:00 p.m.. To start our day, all 17 of us skied all over the mountain and in the trees until about 11:00. After that we booted up our computers and worked with a professor from Champlain College where he showed us how to put this jumble of footage into a smooth sequence.

Right after we presented what we have learned to the public (family, friends, and students), it took no time at all for me to whip out my laptop and start a new project and even tweak my original movie some more. I took this beyond the slopes too. I am currently in Costa Rica and working on a new movie about this adventure. This is about the flip side of skiing...surfing. I've never surfed before, but hopefully I will grab some awesome shots in the water that will really bring this movie together. Surfing isn't the half of it, this will feature some crazy stunts such as repelling into waterfalls and fast zip lines in the canopy. I really enjoyed this great camp and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in skiing or riding movies or creating their own. I will definitely do it next year in high hopes to build my knowledge and shred on!"


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