What does it take to be a snowpreneur?

Fancy a career in the ski industry? SnowsBest contributor Sam Pullos interviews resort managers, photographers, tour guides, app developers and snowpreneurs to give you the inside track on securing a life working with the snow you love. This is volume one.

Despite our unrelenting love for sliding around on frozen water, the majority of us only get a couple weeks of mountain time a year. The rest of the time our social media feeds are inundated by pics of places we’d rather be and skills we wish we had.

So what’s the secret? How can days spent dreaming about the snow in an air-conditioned city office be transformed into a life lived in mountain ski towns, carving snow and shredding pow until you can’t stand up?

We have caught up with friends from all walks of ski-industry life to bring you the answer. From resort managers to photographers, tour guides to app developers, one thing has become clear. There is no ‘correct’ path to the mountains.

The other standout kernel of snow industry gold that our talented and adventurous friends let us in on is that working in the snow world is less about changing your profession than it is changing your location.

The ski industry is a rapidly expanding and multifaceted landscape, which means lots of opportunity. Whilst the idea of ‘work’ often evokes a very particular picture in the ski world, the truth is that there are an ever diversifying number of professional fields in the snow. As with any unexplored terrain though, it takes creativity, passion and skill to discover them.

Vague hypothesising and motivational jargon aside, how do you actually get started? Well, we sat down with Australian Snow Travel Expo founder, action sports publisher and all-round nice guy, Phil Osborn to see how he did it.

Phil Osborn with his partner in life and Snow Travel Expo operations manager, Zorana Osborn.

Proving that you don’t have to grow up immersed in the snow world, Osborn’s journey along the road to being one of Australia’s snow industry leaders started with a passion for surfing, motocross and a degree in commerce at Deakin University. The snow wasn’t even on Osborn’s radar until mid way through university when he went skiing for the first time.

The first steps towards a future career in the snow industry embodied the ethos Osborn lives by and holds as crucial to success not just in action sports, but in life; step out of your comfort zone and take opportunities when they appear.

Whilst studying commerce at Deakin University, Osborn edited a book which gave him a foot in the door of the media/publishing world. Subsequent work in finance journalism left Phil wanting. On the other hand, he was becoming more and more immersed in the world of surfing.

A roommate and surfer began working for the media company responsible for the Rip Curl Pro and suddenly, a possible marriage of skills became apparent. One thing lead to another and Osborn found himself writing not so much about what he studied and more about one of his passions, for Tracks magazine no-less.

From there, success at Tracks, Transfer Snowboard, Chillfactor, Mountainwatch Coastal Watch and Surfing World was just a matter of time. But it started with a passion, the recognition that skill transference was possible and the confidence to dive in to a field without explicit qualification.

“We have skills and experience that we apply to our specific field of expertise and over time it is easy to view those as components of that field, rather than contributions to it” explains Osborn of his career journey from writer to sales to founder. “Viewed as the latter, you have the freedom to take those skills and apply them as you wish. Ideally, the outcome will be a closer alignment of career and passion.”

You have to be fluid. To be successful, you need to be fluid. I’m constantly reinventing myself.

Passion for surfing and motocross grew to include snowboarding whilst Osborn was completing his undergrad. A university ski trip opened the world of snow sports, he was immediately hooked. As is the case with most of us, time didn’t ease Osborn’s snow addiction. Whilst powder days and perfect corduroy are what most of us day-dream about, it was something more that kept Osborn coming back.

The excitement, mate-ship and adventure born from shared experience. These were the things he’d found in surfing and motocross but with snowsports, the opportunity to experience these things grew exponentially. 

It was out of this love for adventure, new experience, sport and shared experience that the Snow Travel Expo was born.

Osborn wanted to start something that gave others access to the worlds he had emerged himself in.

“Not everyone who goes on ski holidays has grown up in the world of action sports, has travelled outside of Australia or even been to the snow before” explains Osborn.

“So where do they start? I wanted to create a place where people had access to the best the snow world has to offer. Not just the best and most secret spots, or the cheapest (or most luxurious) vacay spots, but also the experience unique to travelling to a new country with family or a group of mates. The best experiences I have ever had on the snow are when I’m there with my family.”

So, Osborn now had a consolidated skill set, passion, experience and an idea. But, how to actualise it? Well it wasn’t easy.

“For 5 years I paid for the privilege” says Osborn. “But eventually, the Snow Expo became its own thing and it is now so exciting. We have 100 + exhibitors, and over 12 000 visitors each year and have grown to include a thriving educational speaker series, an urban rail jam, ‘real’ snow and more.”

For every success story like Osborn’s, there are hundreds that don’t make it, and there are even more false starts. Osborn knows what it takes and big part of that is taking risk. That might be where the extreme sports side comes in, eh? Well, that’s a bit of an over simplification.

To be fair, Osborn is talking about calculated risk and highlights the importance of this risk taking being coupled with both persistence, and the open mindedness and fluidity to pivot when you run in to a dead end. There is, though, another attribute that Osborn considers an essential part of success, especially in the ski industry.

“Inclusivity. Collaboration, enthusiasm and a willingness to help others in the industry, especially those starting out are imperative for me” says Osborn. These have proven invaluable on Phil’s road to success.

Honestly, I think these are more inherent parts of his nice-guy personality than conscious decisions but regardless, they have held him in good stead. If that is not how you operate naturally, it’s probably a good idea to start working on it.

“There are lots of very smart people in the industry, it is much better to work with them than try and work against them. ‘Divide and conquer’ is not the way to enter the industry” continues Osborn.

“Instead, learn from the people who have been there longer, share you knowledge and work together where you can to not only cement yourself, but strengthen the industry as a whole. Network. Collaboration and working together is the way to move forward.”

Osborn will be the first person to tell you, it’s risky to pursue your dream. That’s true not only in the ski industry. But in the end, you need to keep sight of the fact that you are following your passion, you need, as Osborne says, to “Enjoy the journey.”

Whilst Osborn and the Snow Expo is only one of the many success stories the growing ski industry has to offer, his story and approach stand as invaluable examples of what it takes.

Passion.
Persistence.
An openness to learn new things.
Move out of your comfort zone.
Actively look for areas of skill transference.
Grab every opportunity.
Work with as many people as possible. There shouldn’t need to be something in it for you.
Be Fluid – be willing to pivot.
And, in Phil’s words, ‘Indulge your Snow Passion.’

Do these things and you will be well on your way to realising your dream of carving a career in the snow.

Over the next little while, we will be bringing you the success stories of some of the people we truly admire here at SnowsBest. So many of our friends work in different snow fields (so clever) and have approached their careers in entirely different ways.

To give you all a better idea of what it takes to make it in the dreamy, expanding and ever challenging snow industry, we’re going to bring you their insights. Keep your eyes peeled for our next snowpreneur careers exposé!

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Sam Pullos is a writer, photographer, adventure traveller and Human Rights worker currently residing in New York City. He loves to ski and snowboard in far off lands and has made turns in both Japan and Iran.
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