Industry Profile: Vail Communications Coordinator Sara Lococo
07 Jun, 2012
Job Title: Communications Coordinator, Vail Mountain
Employer: Vail Resorts
Years on snow: 16
Days on snow: 60
Currently Riding: 148 Smokin Vixen and 149 Never Summer Infinity
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Sara: Lover of snowboarding, the outdoors, live music, good friends and family, wine, and my pit bull pup, Lola. I was born and raised on the east coast in Massachusetts. Neither of my parents were really into skiing or snowboarding and since western mass isn’t exactly ski country I had to push to get into the sport. I started off as a skier and spent my first days ever on snow in the fifth grade at our local “mountain” (RIP Mt. Tom) but after two times on skis I traded them in for a snowboard and never looked back. For the majority of my years as a snowboarder I was lucky if I got out five times a winter. Now I look back on the past season and I’m like, really? I only got in 60 days? It’s easy to get spoiled living out west and working in the industry but I never take for granted how lucky I am to be doing something I love.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Sara: Snowboarding is my life – personally and professionally – and I wouldn’t have it any other way right now. There is nothing better than getting out on the mountain with friends and playing in the snow, especially when you get to call that work some days. I can’t even imagine where my life would be without snowboarding because it’s been such a huge part of me ever since I stumbled into the industry after college. Snowboarding has provided me with great friends who rip, amazing powder days in amazing places, a true appreciation for the outdoors and the environment, and a pretty damn awesome job.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Sara: It was the summer after I had graduated from college and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And I had no clue. By chance I happened to be browsing the website of Okemo, a mountain in Ludlow, VT where I had spent the past four years of college skiing and riding with my friends, and I noticed that they were hiring a snow reporter for the marketing and communications department. I immediately applied and after a few interviews at the resort I was hired! I moved to Vermont that fall and began working in the industry, although I had no idea at the time that it would be a stepping stone for a career. The pay was lousy, but I loved my job at Okemo. I was up and in the office every morning that winter to report on the latest snow conditions at 6 a.m. and I got to ride every day. While most of my friends were sitting inside at their real world office jobs, I was out on the slopes taking photographs, blogging about snow conditions and events, and touring media around the mountain. I remember frequently thinking about how lucky I was, almost in disbelief that this was my actual job. This experience and introduction to the industry opened my eyes to the real possibility of having a career related to snowboarding and that’s when I first came to the realization (like so many other east cost snow lovers) – I have to go out west! Through Okemo I met a lot of amazing people that opened doors into other facets of the industry, bringing me together with skier Dan Egan for more industry experience and a stint on tour with a film called, “The Edge of Never,” and then eventually bringing me out west to Vail. I am happy to say that I still have surreal moments where I can’t help but think to myself, “Is this real life?”
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Sara: I think they both go hand in hand. Education should be an experience and experience should also be an education. For me personally, education provided a great foundation to prepare me for my first work experiences after graduation and definitely helped me to get my foot in the door before I had much real world experience. But I also think my work experiences have been some of the best education. When it comes down to it, I think both education and experience are invaluable but having an education can certainly help open doors before you have any real work experience under your belt.
Shay: Tell us about your role at Vail and a description of the work you do?
Sara: As the Communications Coordinator at Vail Mountain my primary responsibilities are to help manage and respond to media requests, build and maintain relationships with key media to secure coverage of Vail, provide and coordinate interviews for the resort, oversee film and photo shoots, and host media (i.e. wine, dine and tour journalists around Vail). Of course things change on a daily basis, especially during the winter season, so you definitely have to be on your toes and ready for anything. There are so many things I love about working in this role at Vail but the best part is getting to work and collaborate with so many like-minded people and getting to take the office outside for some product testing. It’s not unlikely for the office to be pretty quiet on the morning of a powder day.
Shay: If you had to make up a job title that most accurately described what you REALLY do for Vail, what would it be?
Sara: I hate to sound boring here but I think Communications Coordinator is a pretty accurate description of what I really do at Vail. Even though things are often changing and responsibilities shift on a day-to-day basis, everything from emails to interviews to film/photo shoots and media hosting all fall under the realm of communications. The key is to anticipate, adapt and go with the flow.
Shay: Describe the craziest day/moment you’ve had at your job?
Sara: I feel like crazy days can quickly become the norm working in PR at a resort, but one recent moment that comes to mind was towards the end of the season this spring. I was meeting a journalist and skier, Chris Anthony, for lunch up on the mountain and didn’t have my gear in the office that day so I rode the chairlift up and walked over to the restaurant with the intention of just downloading once we were done with lunch. We had a fantastic meal together but as the time was passing we noticed some really dark clouds rolling in, and I joked to Chris that he was going to have to carry me down the mountain. Moments later as we were finishing up lunch the thunder and lightning began and before we knew it the entire mountain was closed due to weather which meant that my planned ride down the lift was no longer an option. Well, Chris and I got to know each other real well that afternoon as he gave me a piggy back ride on his skis all the way down the mountain – no easy feat in normal circumstances but I’m sure the slushy spring conditions didn’t help make it any easier. I had a blast on my ride down, much more fun than I’m sure Chris had carrying me, but after a few stops to rest the legs and several awkward looks from passerby’s we eventually made it safely down to the bottom. We had some good laughs and as we parted ways I graciously thanked him and said it was great to meet him. Talk about a memorable first impression.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Sara: Experiencing my first powder day ever while working at Okemo and conducting some morning product testing. I can still remember the smile plastered across my face as I got my first taste of surfing through snow. Riding around the country in style on Air Patti – an airstream from the 1970’s – while on tour with the ski documentary, “The Edge of Never.” Overseeing a photo shoot for Playboy/Burton at Vail and getting to hang with pro riders Danny Davis, John Jackson and Mark Sollors on the mountain for the day. And on top of those standout memories, can’t forget the many glorious powder days in the Back Bowls, dining with media and colleagues at fabulous restaurants that I could never afford on my own, and seeing some awesome free concerts at Vail Snow Daze and Spring Back to Vail. There have been so many good memories from working in the industry so far and I can’t wait to see what next winter brings, especially as we get ready to celebrate Vail’s 50th Anniversary. A lot of exciting stuff to come…
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Sara: I think one of the biggest challenges facing the snowboard industry right now is figuring out how to continue to grow the sport and get new people involved. Currently the number of people entering the sport is declining while the number of people leaving is increasing so it’s crucial for the industry to figure out how to continue to grow, evolve, and stay relevant. I think we need to look to the next generation, the little rippers who are the future of the sport, for growth because if the industry can’t appeal to the younger generations and newcomers, then eventually there will be no industry. Getting kids into the sport is going to be key to securing the future of the industry and while big-time events and big-name riders are awesome and create buzz, I think with kids it’s more important to emphasize the basics – that snowboarding is a fun, social experience. With that said, I also think more can be done to help strengthen and retain female participation in the sport, which has traditionally been male-dominated. Brands have come a long way since the beginning by introducing and expanding offerings with female specific gear, equipment and technology, but on the resort level I think it would be really great to see more female snowboard instructors on the mountain and more female-specific snowboard lessons, clinics and programs available for riders. I certainly don’t have all the answers but that’s my two cents for now.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Sara: Get your foot in the door, meet as many people as possible in the industry and never burn any bridges – the industry is really small and only gets smaller the longer you’re in it. Pay your dues, work hard, dream big, and most importantly – have fun!