One year ago, I made the bold leap from the comfort, stability (and stress) of the technology consulting world for a new challenge. I began my role as Executive Director (ED) of the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) nonprofit. I now have my first year under my belt and it has been such an amazing experience. I took on this challenge for not only a life change but also for the chance to make a difference in a sport that I love. I started backcountry skiing when we moved to Utah in 2002 and quickly developed a passion for avalanche knowledge and education. Upon becoming friends with Paul Diegel (the departing ED), I developed a huge respect for what the UAC does and I hoped to be a part of the organization at some point in my life. I think that deep down, I have always wanted a career that would help people and be something that I was passionate about at the same time.
What has it been like to be the ED? For starters, I have never worked with such a passionate group of people. The entire staff is whole-heartedly dedicated to the mission of the UAC and is committed to our success. This is such a change from the corporate world where so many people are just ‘filling a seat’.
I have learned so much over the past year. One of the great things about a small nonprofit is that every day is different. You can be writing a grant, talking with a donor, fixing a trailer, and giving an avalanche awareness presentation all in the same day. Payroll, insurance, employment law, hiring, teaching, grant writing, project management and the list goes on. These are just a few things that fill my days.
I have also had the privilege to meet many, many amazing people that share our passion and support our cause. These people range from donors, to educators, to the staff of other avy centers.
I have also learned new skills, like riding a snowmobile in the mountains. Turns out this is MUCH harder than I had imagined.
One of the big questions I get is, what are you going to do in the summer. It is often hard for people to believe, but the ski season is actually not our busiest time of year. Summer consists of special projects (this year we are rebuilding our website and building 5 online learning modules) as well as planning our fundraising events, the Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop, and getting all of our winter classes scheduled. Fall is event season. We have several fundraisers ranging from as small as 50 people to as large as 1,000 people, we have educational tables are numerous events (ski sales, outdoor events, etc), and we have our large 900+ person Utah Snow and Avalanche educational workshop, The list goes on.
What a year it has been! As we ramp up for the upcoming season, I am excited to be able to take what I learned in my first year, help keep people safe in the backcountry, and continue to grow our fantastic organization.