Industry Profile: 907 Snowcat Owner Nate Smith
02 Aug, 2012
Years on snow: 38
Days on snow: Not enough
Currently Riding: Powlaris RMK, Rossignol, Burton
Currently I am: Wishing it was December
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Nate: An upstate New York born 38 year Alaskan resident working in the most remote areas within the State managing commercial construction and environmental remediation projects. My parents introduced me to the mountain lifestyle as a toddler skiing with me in a backpack, something that you just don’t see anymore. I began hanging on to my mom and dad’s legs soon after I could walk with a pair of plastic skis. After high school I became heavily involved in backcountry activities and more recently started snowboarding with the introduction of using snowmachines for access.
Shay: How has snowboarding/skiing changed your life?
Nate: Skiing and snowboarding has always been a part of my life so it has not changed my life but rather molded me into the person that I have become. Mother Nature has always been there allowing me to work out problems and celebrate success. No matter the mind frame that I started the day off with it always ended with a smile.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Nate: Moving to Valdez from Anchorage jumpstarted my industry involvement as a contributing team member in the future development of a 4-season recreation destination area dubbed the Chugach Recreation Mountain Center or CMRC along with lifetime local and accomplished snowboarder Ryan McCune. With handful of people pushing the resort project forward I saw an opportunity to offer a quality snowcat experience for the purposes of highlighting the project area during the winter months guiding visitors and potential investors.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Nate: My family has provided me with the work ethic necessary to be successful and my occupational experience has given me the tools to manage a business effectively providing a quality experience.
Shay: Tell us about your role as at 907 Snowcat and a description of the work you do?
Nate: As owner/operator of 907 Snowcat, LLC I manage the day to day operations from marketing, permitting, road construction, scheduling, logistics, guest relations and safety briefing to tail guiding and machine maintenance.
Shay: If you had to make up a job title that most accurately described what you REALLY do, what would it be?
Nate: Jack of all trades….master of none!!
Shay: Describe the craziest day/moment you’ve had at your job?
Nate: Building the road for access with Russ who operates the snowcat has been one of the most unnerving experiences in recent memory as it is a 15,000 pound vibrator on the side of a mountain constructing a road made of a material that has a high potential to slide taking you with it. He has pioneered snowcat roads in the Chugach for 16 years and has an uncanny talent and nerves of steel. Typically I spot from a snownmachine and am in the vicinity for safety purposes. A handful of times I hopped in during the construction activities to sit right seat. Needless to say I was not in the cat for an extended period of time. Unless you have hours of experience building road with snow and have an intimate knowledge of the equipment and feeling the snow it’s better to be a spectator.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Nate: Every day is memorable as guests ride in what countless consider the most sought after terrain and conditions on the planet. Having the opportunity to share face shots with people from around the world and feel the excitement is very rewarding. When the guests change their profile picture to one of them one the mountain and then I notice it has not changed 6 months later…..Mission Accomplished! After one of the best days of last season a well-known professional snowboarder came up to us and thanked the 907 team for providing such a relaxed atmosphere. As his schedule is stacked during the season he rarely has time to enjoy just a day of freeriding with a small group of people.
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the ski/snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Nate: The changing environment, the current state of the economy as well as the cost of goods and services are currently enormous challenges. Snow is a renewable resource and we are guaranteed to see it every winter, the question these days is when, how much and where. Of course I believe that our existence is a contributing factor on the planet and the climate however I rarely hear analyst’s note that the Earth goes through its own changes without human influence and we are more than likely experiencing a combination of them both. The economy and the cost of goods and services relatively go hand in hand. Once the economy improves people that have had to hang up their gear for a season or two will be back purchasing new trick gear, hiking, buying lift tickets and taking a vacation of a lifetime to Valdez, AK for their chance to experience the mecca of backcountry skiing and snowboarding. The industry will have to take these and numerous other market factors into consideration. Talented athletes along with their vision and determination to push the envelope on a daily basis, is driving the future of this sport. When I strap on an anti-gravity board with a jet pack and launch up Meteorite Mountain in the Chugach Range into the ionosphere and make a re-entry for the summit of Everest I’ll get back to you on the future.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Nate: Do your research, know the market and capitalize on your strengths. Be passionate and devoted to…..living the dream!!