Industry Profile: Sierra-at-Tahoe Communications and PR Manager Steven Hemphill
19 Jun, 2012
Job Title: Communication and PR Manager
Employer: Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort
Years on snow: 19 yrs.
Days on snow: 70+ days a season.
Currently Riding: Two planks
Currently I am: Traveling… In Colorado for some family fun, then off to South America for a little beach time, then back home to Tahoe.
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Steven: I was born and raised in Colorado and have always been surrounded by the outdoors and the mountains. I went to college in Iowa for one year until I realized it wasn’t for me and moved back to Colorado where I attended The University of Colorado. While in school I worked at a local ski/snowboard shop for four years and was also an intern at TransWorld Business. After graduating with a degree in communication, I moved to Vail where I spent a season eating ramen, living in a basement and doing the ski-bum thing. When I realized it was time to grow-up so I applied for a job with Freeskier Magazine. It was through luck and some very good references that I was fortunate enough to be hired as an Associate Editor. After a season at Freeskier, I moved to Tahoe where I currently work as the Communication and PR manager for Sierra-at Tahoe Resort.
Shay: How has snowboarding/skiing changed your life?
Steven: Skiing and snowboarding to me hasn’t so much “changed” my life as much as it has shaped it. Since my first year at CU I immersed myself in the ski/snowboarding culture and knew I always wanted to be surrounded by snow, mountains and good people. I’ve made amazing friends in the industry and am lucky enough to live in a great community where people are as crazy about the snow as I am.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Steven: Two people really helped get my foot in the door and that is Mike Lewis and Sally Francklyn. A good friend of mine, Sally, was interning at Skiing Magazine and told me about this guy Mike Lewis who worked in the same office for TransWorld Business. I asked Sally for his information and emailed him like a hundred times (literally) about an internship possibility. Mike had never had an intern but after my consistent emails and enough persuasion I was lucky enough to be his first one. Since that day I’ve always looked up to Mike. He continues to do big things at TransWorld Business and is someone that I have an immense amount of respect for.
Not only did Sally give me Mike’s information she helped get my foot in the door at Freeskier and has been a tremendous resource for me while at Sierra. It’s always nice to bounce ideas off someone with as much knowledge and intelligence as her. Sally has worked at Momentum PR, Skiing Magazine and Denny Inc.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Steven: Experience is everything. Although education is extremely important, if I hadn’t interned, worked in my local ski shop and networked I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Also, I’m always learning. I have a long, long ways to go but I believe if you surround yourself with the right people, have the right attitude and work hard you can always be gaining experience.
Shay: Tell us about your role as at Sierra-at-Tahoe and a description of the work you do?
Steven: My job is to let everyone know what an awesome place Sierra-at-Tahoe is, which can be pretty extensive. Being the communication manager I deal with all things public relations. I also arrange photo shoots, help with events and even dabble in video production.
Plus, I’m lucky enough work with an amazing team at Sierra. There is a fun atmosphere in the marketing office and it makes coming to work each day extremely enjoyable.
Shay: If you had to make up a job title that most accurately described what you REALLY do, what would it be?
Steven: Spokesperson and Ambassador of all things fun and radical at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort.
Shay: Describe the craziest day/moment you’ve had at your job?
Steven: One thing I love about my job is that it is never the same, which makes it extremely interesting. I can’t pin point one moment or day but I’m always on my toes and have to be ready to react to the unexpected. You’d be amazed how many “ski and snowboard journalist” don’t know how to ski or snowboard.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Steven: This season was pretty special. I was lucky enough to work with Burton Snowboards and Star Wars to launch the first of its kind in the world, Burton Star Wars Experience. The program gives three to six year-old kids the opportunity to learn how to snowboard in an environment that is out of this world (cheesy, I know, but true!). It was an honor to collaborate with such iconic brands that are known around the globe and one I will not forget any time soon.
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard/ski industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Steven: Retention. I think it’s key that we get our friends and the next generation of skiers and snowboarders up to the mountains and keep them coming back. Although the destination visitors and guests will continue to come, that demographic continues to shrink.
As an industry I think it’s key we start to focus on the minority groups that may not be your stereotypical skier. I believe the industry can do a better job targeting this “untapped” market. At Sierra we do our best to reach out to everyone from families to the first time skier/snowboarder no matter where they are from.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Steven: Get an internship, network, have fun and work even harder.