On March 18, 2020

Meet Taylor Zink, terrain parks supervisor at Killington

By Karen D. Lorentz

Taylor Zink was one of the lucky kids who learned to snowboard because his mom worked at a ski area.

Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Zink grew up in Dalton in the heart of the Berkshires and graduated from Wahconah Regional High School in 2007 and Bryant University in 2011 with a degree in marketing/communications.

He was 10, when “George, a 70-year old man taught me how to use my edges with rope tow laps for a few hours before taking me up my first chairlift ride at the Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield.

“My mom worked part-time in the cafeteria which earned passes for the family. They have night riding so my brother, sister, and I would go up after school as much as we could,” Zink said of being bitten by the board bug.

As a basketball player during high school, his ride time was limited so on days when they couldn’t make it to the mountain, Zink noted, “We got our fix” on jumps and rails they built in the backyard.

After college, Zink moved to Woodstock, Vermont, and worked as a bellman/valet at the Woodstock Inn. Since his brother was in the Killington School of Resort Management program, he used his free time “to hang out with him in Killington and snowboard as much as possible.”

When his brother graduated, he convinced Taylor to move out to North Lake Tahoe. Serendipity would have it his brother’s girlfriend Kaitlyn (now his wife), joined them, and the couple decided to move back to Killington after two years.

But Taylor remained out West, working a variety of seasonal jobs — retail associate, line cook, bar back, bartender, taxi driver, lumberyard sales, boat and jet ski rentals, first mate for lake tours on an old ship, bike rentals — for six years. For four winters, he worked in the terrain parks at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. But now he’s back!

Taylor Zink answers questions about his on-mountain career path

Mountain Times: Why did you move back to Vermont?

Taylor Zinc: I decided to move back to Vermont to be closer to my family. Tahoe was a great experience, but it was tough to find stable year-round employment and affordable long-term housing. I missed out on a lot of family gatherings since everyone is located in New England. I got to a point where I needed to focus on building a career and settling down so I moved back to Massachusetts and spent a summer with my family before relocating to Killington for winter 2018/2019.

MT: How did you get to your current job?

TZ: When I moved to Killington, my goal was to secure an operations job with the resort to get a pass and snowboard on days off. Terrain park grooming always interested me, but I had no experience. I interviewed for a grooming position, with hopes of learning the basics for a season or two before moving into park building.

Dave Lacombe was willing to give me a shot as a first timer, but asked me if I would be willing to work as a snowmaker for a few months before getting behind the sticks of a cat. I started making snow in November of 2018 and immediately fell in love with (mostly) everything about it. I picked it up quickly, and as the season went on, my start date for grooming kept getting bumped back. They ended up keeping me in snowmaking through the end of peak season (Presidents’ Week) before switching me over to grooming. I spent the final three months of the season free grooming, and started to feel comfortable behind the controls.

MT: And summer?

TZ: I’d been mountain biking for over 10 years so when the bike trail crew had some  openings, I applied. The summer went really well and when a new position opened in the department for Terrain Park Supervisor, I threw my name into the hat. After a couple of interviews, I was promoted into this role, and now I oversee operations of our winter terrain parks and summer bike park.

MT: What are your job duties and responsibilities?

TZ: In the winter, I am responsible for hiring, training, and scheduling a crew of 15 day staff to build and maintain our terrain parks at Killington and Pico. I work closely with Corey Tredtin, our head park groomer/builder to design and build our parks, and then coordinate the crew each day to set-up, maintain, and close the parks.

It takes a lot of physical labor to keep our features in good shape and safe for our guests. We have a lot of fencing, flagging, and signage that goes up every morning and comes down every night, so there is constant maintenance required from my team to keep things looking sharp and flowing smoothly.

In the summer, I am responsible for similar things with the bike park, including keeping them in good shape throughout the season.

MT: What do you like best about your job? Rewards?

TZ: Being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do and getting to take in the fresh air and mountain views every day.

The rewards are seeing people out enjoying our park products and getting out to ride the features that we work so hard to build and maintain.

MT: Any challenges to the job?

TZ: No matter how much planning we put into something, there are always things that come up last minute or other issues that affect these plans. The weather is probably our biggest challenge both summer and winter. When conditions are just right, it makes all the struggle and extra work worth it.

MT: Who do you work with to create Woodward Park features?

TZ: We build all of our features in-house in our fabrication shop at Bear Mountain. Many of our features for this season are carry-overs from previous years and have been refurbished for this year.

Joe Kruglak, one of our park groomers, spent some time in the fall creating new features and repairing others. We have a lot of creative freedom, but we always take risk and safety into consideration when constructing something new.

MT: What’s your favorite feature? Toughest to make?

TZ: My favorite feature right now is our Y-Rail. It is made from 6” round stock steel and is one of our larger features.

The toughest to make are features that have lots of bends or kinks. Getting the angles to line up just right is a challenge, so they take more time than something that is straight.

MT: What’s the best part about the option to ski or snowboard in parks?

TZ: The best part about terrain parks is they give skiers and riders the freedom to express their own individual style on the mountain. There are only so many ways you can cruise down a groomed run, but as soon as you incorporate jumps and jibs into the run, the possibilities of what people can do on their equipment are endless.

MT: I heard that people are very complimentary about the parks. What influences what you build?

TZ: I have a lot of support from the Woodward team in terms of best practices and team management, but when it comes down to park builds, I take features and designs I see on Instagram or from old snowboard videos and adapt them to our mountain.

I try to pay attention to the latest park trends and what types of things are popular with the kids. My crew are all passionate skiers and snowboarders, so we bounce ideas off of each other all the time to figure out what would work best in each park given the conditions and time of year.

MT: Any experiences that were significant for you?

TZ: My time in Tahoe allowed me to explore a ton of different mountains and terrain parks over the years, and take all of that into consideration when building out our parks here at Killington. The snow conditions are a lot different out there than in Vermont, so the way we build and maintain is a little different in some aspects.

MT: What are the greatest changes you’ve seen in the ski industry?

TZ: The biggest change over the years is making parks more accessible to everyone.

Parks used to be all or nothing, with extra-large jumps and rails that had high consequences if you did not line things up properly.

Over time, there has been more attention to safety and risk/reward. Our main focus this season has been on skier and rider progression. We try to offer parks and features for every ability level to allow users to work their way up through the parks from first time on snow to the competitive/high performance level.

MT: How often do you get out on the mountain? And where do you go?

TZ: I am at the mountain working 5-6 days a week, sometimes even seven days a week during peak season. I try to get out for a few runs to check things out and see what areas and parks need improvements.

When I am able to take time off, I try to get to other mountains in the area to see how they operate and get a change of scenery. This season I have ridden at Killington/Pico (obviously), Copper Mountain in Colorado, Stowe, Mount Snow, and Jay Peak. I have a trip out to Timberline, Oregon, for some industry training at Cutter’s Camp in May.

MT: How do you like the mountain/ski town lifestyle?

TZ: I love the mountain lifestyle. It is way more relaxed than city life, and everyone who lives and hangs out up here is pretty much on the same page. We all enjoy the same activities and it makes for a really fun environment.

MT: What’s your take on winter? Vermont? The party scene? The community?

TZ: Winter has always been my favorite season because of snowboarding.

I love Vermont and its natural beauty, and the laid-back lifestyle Killington has to offer. I used to be big into the party scene and going out on weekends to mingle with the weekend warriors at the bars, but I stopped consuming alcohol in the beginning of last summer. I will still hang out at the bars from time to time for dinner or if there is a special occasion with friends, but the weekend crowds have worn me out, and I like to save my energy for other concerts and events that come around, rather than just another Friday night at the local bar.

The Killington community is filled with great people who care about the town, the mountain, and each other. It’s a great place to call home.

MT: What advice would you give someone who wanted to work in the ski industry? Or live/move here?

TZ: Work as many different jobs as you can for a couple of years to find out where your true passion is. Work hard and take pride in everything you do and someone will notice. Try to work at different mountains and get a feel for different communities and environments and choose a place that best fits your interests and lifestyle.

MT: How do you spend your time outside of work?

TZ: I spend most of my free time hanging out with my brother Tucker, sister Carly, and my girlfriend Kerry and her dog Sailor.

MT: Other sports, hobbies, spare time activities?

TZ: Aside from mountain biking and snowboarding, I play in the Killington Softball League during the summer. I enjoy playing my guitar and singing as well. I have not played any open-mic gigs in Killington, but I hope to have more time for things like that in the future.

MT:  Any favorite album you’d recommend?

TZ: Any album by Greensky Bluegrass, a five-piece string band from Michigan. Everything they put out is amazing. They put on a great live show and are extremely talented. Their songs are about their life experiences and the way they put their lyrics to the music is very relatable to encounters I’ve had in my life.

MT: Any advice or words of wisdom?

TZ: You cannot always please everyone, and you have to make sure to put yourself first. When you do things that satisfy your soul and make you happy, everything else falls into place. Hard work pays off, and although there is not a pat on the back for every minor success, people notice when it matters the most.

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