2017 was quite a year for women in the ski industry. Kelly Pawlak was named first female director of the National Ski Areas Association (you can read my interview with her here), and over the summer, Meegan Moszynski was named first female executive director of the National Ski Patrol. This is huge: Although the NSP has over 30,000 members, only 25% are women. So we’re looking at a fairly substantial crack in the snow ceiling here.
But being a woman isn’t the only thing that’s interesting about Meegan: She’s also never been a member of the Patrol. Her experience working with leaders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors more than make up for it, though. She’s collaborated on clean energy initiatives in China, educational and vocational training programs for women and children in Pakistan, and rural economic development projects in Cambodia. She speaks French, Italian, and Spanish, and has lived and traveled throughout South America, Western and Eastern Europe, southern Africa and northern China. And she’s not afraid to shake things up.
I recently interviewed Meegan to find out what she sees ahead for the NSP:
Ski Diva: Let’s start with the basics. What are the responsibilities of the Executive Director?
Meegan: I’m in charge of running the national office here in Lakewood, Colorado, along with the organization’s general operations. I also work with the national board of directors on larger, more strategic questions, initiatives, ideas, projects, and so on that involve the ethos of our organization, our strategic plan, our identity and ambitions, and more. What all this means is that I’m not the big boss of all NSP ski patrollers; each patroller works for her or his own ski area, not for me. I run the membership organization of which they are a part.
Ski Diva: You’ve never been a member of the Patrol. What’s the benefit of that to the culture of the organization?
Meegan: Hopefully, my outsider perspective will be a great addition to the organization as we think about both our current structure and future. I’ve been a skier my whole life and have lived in mountain towns, so I understand the culture and the outdoor recreation industry. The benefit of not being a patroller, however, is that it allows me to think as a nonprofit leader as opposed to a member. I also did go through the OEC [Outdoor Emergency Care] course in college, so I’m familiar with our curriculum. So I’m not a total stranger to what we do.
Ski Diva: I’m sure you’ve heard this question before, but the NSP has a reputation for being an old boys’ network. What are your thoughts on being the first female Director and on getting more women involved in the Patrol?
Meegan: I get this question a lot, but I think it’s a pretty important one. I’m proud of the organization for putting their faith in my leadership capabilities and trusting that I can run this organization. I think their decision is representative of what we’re starting to see across the industry: Women are becoming more involved in skiing and in outdoor/mountain recreation, and we’re taking more leadership positions in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. The NSP’s history and legacy are very important to us, and by definition that means that our world is more strongly represented by men; however, we have serveral women in leadership positions throughout the organization, and any woman patroller I’ve met can more than hold her own. So while NSP has, in fact, been an old boys’ network, I do think the mentality is starting to expand into recognizing what we need to do to grow and remain sustainable as an organization and as an industry. And I would love to see female participation grow while I’m here, so women, please join us!
Ski Diva: So how do you plan to expand the organization?
Meegan: In the coming year I’d really like to focus on new strategies for marketing the NSP to potential members. What can we do more or better to attract people to patrolling? How can we spread the word on what it means to be a member of NSP and what can we offer a new patroller? The NSP is so much more than a ski pass; it’s the camaraderie, the passion, the friendships, and the opportunity to help other people. Of course, there’s everyone’s favorite, the 4AM wake-up calls. I think that getting out there and working with our stakeholders, joining conversations with our industry partners about the future of the ski industry and how we can all work together – these are the things that will make us even more relevant and exciting.
Ski Diva: In addition to recruitment, what do you see as the major challenges facing the NSP, and what are your goals for the organization?
Meegan: I think we have some great opportunities to really grow. I want to focus on modernizing the NSP, on collaborating with ski areas, other nonprofits, the retail and manufacturing sectors, and other key stakeholders to make sure we’re addressing our common challenges and working together on solutions that benefit all of us. Issues like climate change, the shortening of the winter season, and the consolidation that we’re seeing among ski areas are all important issues for us to address, to be aware of, and be part of. We have an opportunity here to take a stand and assume the lead in creating a sustainable future for our industry, which will allow us and future generations, to continue enjoying what we love.
Ski Diva: What most excites you about working with the National Ski Patrol?
Meegan: Everything! Seriously, it’s been such an incredible experience. The people I’ve met, the passion I see among our members, and the places I get to see are all so much fun. It’s also a lot of work, and that excites me, too, because I’m both an ideas person and a Type-A/very organized person. It’s really a perfect combo for me, and I’m so grateful to be here.
Ski Diva: I read somewhere that you’re looking at expanding the Patrol to include mountain biking. If so, why do you see it heading in this direction?
Meegan: I’m so glad you asked, because we’re no longer just about skiing, and that’s a really important thing to know about NSP these days. Our board of directors approved mountain bike patrols in the spring of 2017, which means that we’ll start rolling out the details about what it means to be an NSP bike patroller in the near future. We’ve been working with some industry partners on how we can best contribute to the growing world of mountain biking, and I’m really excited to see what that looks like for this coming summer. This idea really came about because we work so closely with ski areas, who really are our end customers, and they’re starting to look into year-round operations in reaction to changing seasons, economic needs, and so on. As they start implementing downhill bike courses, high-ropes courses, trampolines, etc., we asked ourselves how can we continue to support these areas when there’s no snow. It made total sense to implement a bike patrol program in answer to that question. Besides, many ski patrollers are bike patrollers in the summer.
Ski Diva: So even though you haven’t been a patroller, I know that you’re a skier. Can you fill me in on your ski history? When did you start, where’d you ski, and how involved have you been throughout your life?
Meegan: I started skiing at age three at Snowbird. I remember doing the Cookie Doodle Races; it was so much fun! And I promised myself that when I grew up, I’d live in a ski town. I went to Middlebury College in Vermont, where I planned to try out for the patrol – and where I took my OEC course – but due to a personal tragedy in my first weeks of college, I dropped that plan and joined the swim team instead. I wouldn’t trade that decision for anything in the world, as some of my dearest, lifelong friends were made through that team, but it did mean that my ski days during college were limited. I did a short stint in New York after college, and as soon as I could, I got out of there and headed to Jackson, Wyoming. I lived there for 8 years, where I really got to know the resort and the backcountry and made many more lifelong friends. During my time there, my parents and my brother all trickled out to Colorado and ended up in the Aspen/Snowmass area, so after grad school I moved back in with them for a year. And then Denver. So I’ve always been a skier and have lived in ski towns on and off for the past 14 years. I love it.
Ski Diva: So what skis is the Exec Director of the National Ski Patrol skiing on these days?
Meegan: Icelantics. Nomad Rockers, specifically. 183’s. Wow, these skis are amazing! I was a Volkl skier for a while, and then I switched to Icelantics to support a local company, and I’ll never go back. I love, love, love these skis! They are snappy and responsive and so fun – and isn’t that what it’s all about?