There’s a saying in the industry that goes like this:
“People get into the ski industry to ski more — and people get out of the ski industry to ski more.”
Before I tell you what this actually means let me first say this: this is a very raw and unfiltered look at the industry. I’m not writing this to deter you or be a Negative Nancy. I’m writing this to prepare you for what to expect. Some of you will be discouraged after reading this. But a few of you, the mighty few, will take it as a challenge and prove me wrong — you are the one who should be working in the ski industry.
So, before committing to a Sports Science, Outdoor Management degree or some other crazy-expensive class from a professor who remembers a time when a ‘fat’ ski was 75mm, read on.
Yes, I’m looking at you, dear Jerry-who-just-started-that-exact-major 👀
The reality is that you will work long, cold, hours for little pay and with a constant headache. If that sounds romantic then you have already succumbed to the unrealistic eye-candy of Candide's Instagram.
“But look at Burton!” or “the guys over at Ski Company X have it figured out” others say. Yes, they do, but they don’t know what they’re talking about because, well umm, they don’t work in the ski industry and are drinking the same Kool-Aid you are.
“Do what you love!” they say. But really, you can only eat so many PB&J’s & ramen bowls in your lifetime before you just need avocado toast (Ok, ok, even just normal toast).
How many employees do you think POWDER Magazine has? 50? 30? 20? Try 4. How about Newschoolers? Less than 10 — and they are the largest online ski platform, in the world. Rossignol — the iconic Rossignol — went out of business 5 years ago. Armada was handed off to their own manufacture because they couldn’t pay their material bills — at a $18 million loss.
Everyone I’ve ever met in the industry from CEO’s of the larger brands to managers at the smaller ones are overworked and underpaid.
You get the idea, it’s a hard place to be. The hours are long, you work all winter when everyone else is skiing, it’s hyper-competative and when you ‘make it’ you’ve successfully worked your heart out to get paid the same as a high-level janitor.
If you’re still reading this, then let me answer that question you’re now wondering: “I’ll still do anything to get into the industry, where do I start?”
There is only one thing you can do: hustle your bloody ass off.
You need to become the grittiest person you know and chase down ever possible lead. Call any person you know who’s connected to Ski Company X and ask them if they could introduce you. Walk into the office of a company with your idea under your arm — or on a USB like Traveling Circus.
Ask the company what their biggest challenge is at the moment. Then go home and solve it. Then call them back and tell them your solution. Show them you are smart and can think for yourself.
Do you know how Line’s Traveling Circus started? Will and Andy got a meeting with Jason Levinthal (the CEO of LINE Skis at the time) and they pitched them on the idea with the goofiest PowerPoint you’ve ever seen. It outlined their idea, how they would do it, the reach & following they could build for LINE and exactly how much money they wanted. So LINE gave it to them.
And they followed through. The did what they said they’d do and created an iconic, goofy, ridiculous video series that reached millions of eyeballs including yours (probably) and mine (definitely).
Here is the most important part to remember: Everyone at a ski company is really busy. Rather than asking what they need help with, tell them what you will do for them. Folks already working in the ski industry don’t have time to evaluate their workload and see what we could hand off to a complete stranger. That’s just nuts.
But if you walk in and tell them exactly what you would do, that's far easier to agree to.
Pro Tip: send them a physical card or package. People don’t get real mail anymore and a sweet handwritten (legible, mind you) note, book, poem, photo, origami or macaroni noodle artwork will get them to take notice.
Lastly, get ready for rejections. Lots of them. We’ve turned people down for a job one week and someone will write in for the exact same position the next and we’ll take them up on it.
If nothing else, show hustle. Anyone in this industry has hustled to get where they are. If they see it in someone else, they’ll want to help.
So when people joke they leave the ski industry in order to ski more, it's becasue they are tired, underpaid and busy-as-hell all winter long and don't exactly have time to enjoy the sport as much as they used to.
But, they had a hell of a time and wouldn't trade it for anything 😉
Best of luck out there. Keep hustling. If you’re serious about working the ski world, you will.
— Cyrus Schenck
To boil this all down for you millennials out there, here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to get into the ski industry.
- Decide you actually want to work in the ski world, not just because you think it’ll get you laid
- Pick 5 things from the list below that you would do. And write down examples of how you would do each of them
- Hustle - call everyone you know. Email every address you can find. Send whoever you’re trying to get in touch with a package (no-one ever sends snail mail these days). Show them you’re not like the other 1,000 people who have already called. Give them a reason to let you in the door
- Wait. Be patient
- Keep hustling
- Wait. Be patient
- Change tactics, solve a new problem, try again
~ ~ ~
Here is a list of ideas of stuff you could offer to offer to Ski Company X when you meet with them:
- Sweep the floor (if this is above you, then I’d suggest working somewhere else)
- Take out the trash (same thing here, too)
- Be a tech at demo days for a few seasons (and not get paid and probably get frostbite)
- Tune skis
- Hand deliver skis to a customer
- Box up skis
- Ship skis
- Call customers to thank them
- Offer to drop off skis at a ski test
- Offer to dive into their Google Analytics and give them some insights on where sales/referrals/traffic etc are coming from
- Pitch them on a wild idea — backed with numbers like how much impressions they’ll get, the brand position it’ll give or the new market it might open
- Design and build a new website
- Write some good blogs to help with their SEO ranking
- Offer to work up a email marketing strategy
- Write copy for their website, Instagram, Blog, or whatever fancy new platform is out there they haven’t seen
- Explain how some function of the company is lagging — and show them exactly how you’d fix it (like, could you get them more sales if they offered Bitcoin?)
- Offer to build a new program — explain the need, the results it’ll get and steps & cost it’ll take to get there
What not to offer a ski company:
- Don’t offer to be a ski tester. Do you actually think we’re searching high and low for people to ski for free?
- Don’t say “I’ll do anything!” — this just means more work for us trying to give you something useful to work on
- Don’t ask for free skis. Seriously, it’s an automatic no
- Design ski graphics — unless you’re really really really good. And if you are, then have 5-10 graphics ready to bring into the meeting. Good graphics sell skis. Just ask J Skis.
Here is an example of two kinds of meetings I’ve had over the years:
Meeting 1 (no bueno): Hello, my name is Jerry and I want to work in the ski industry. I’ll do anything. Just tell me what to do. I just want to work in the ski industry. I grew up racing/skiing/looking-at-snowflakes and just love the outdoor world. I just want to do something I love.
Meeting 2 (bueno!): Hello, my name is Jerry and I want to work in the ski industry. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m not sure what you need help with the most right now but here’s some stuff I can do for you:
Idea 1, idea 2, idea 3, idea 4, idea 5. If one of these isn’t a need, then can you tell me one thing that’s holding the company back right now? [company person answers]. Ok, great. I’ll look into it. I’ll email/call/stop-over-uninvited-to-you-house when I figure out a solution. Thank you.
For reference, I cold-called Jason Levinthal when I started RENOUN at his house in Vermont. He picked up, told me to meet him the next day. When we met up I showed him our technology and he said it was the craziest thing he ever saw, but I should try it out. 3 years later we won ISPO Gold and Jason has been the biggest help ever since. RENOUN wouldn’t be where it is today without him.