On November 22, 2023
Sports

U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Sophie Goldschmidt advocates for sports and women working in the ski industry

By Karen D. Lorentz

In 2021 U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the Olympic and Paralympic National Governing Body of ski and snowboard sports in the USA, appointed Sophie Goldschmidt as the organization’s President and CEO, and on Oct. 18, 2021 she officially began her tenure as the second woman to hold that position. 

As CEO she is responsible for both the business and sporting sides of the organization. She focuses on U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes, partners, members, and fans, while also developing the key strategic priorities and plans for the next stage of the organization’s growth. Goldschmidt has helped arrange a host of partnerships and sponsorships, one of which was a four-year sponsorship by Stifel, an investment banking company. 

Stifel became the title sponsor of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, which was renamed the Stifel U.S. Alpine Ski Team. The deal supports Alpine skiers from the development level to the World Cup, supporting athletes through every level of elite competition in North America—World Cup, NorAms, and national championships. 

In March 2023, the Stifel sponsorship was expanded to include the freestyle, freeski and cross-country teams, naming all ski sports under the U.S. Ski & Snowboard flag the Stifel U.S .Ski Team. 

“Partnerships of this level are crucial to the overall success of our programs and initiatives,” Goldschmidt said.

Viewing athletes as inspirational role models, Goldschmidt also has seized the opportunity to promote women in sports at events like the Women’s World Cup races at Killington.

“Hosting the Stifel Killington Cup for another year is a huge opportunity for our organization to grow the sport of Alpine skiing in front of a historically large and exuberant crowd of fans,” Goldschmidt said. “Not only do we get the chance to shine a spotlight on our talented athletes and inspire the next generation, but we are also fortunate to highlight our HERoic initiatives where we can amplify the progress and success of women in the ski industry on this large platform.”

Goldschmidt launched the HERoic Initiative, a female empowerment campaign, at Killington’s World Cup weekend in 2022. A panel of ski industry women leaders and coaches discussed the career opportunities for women in the ski industry along with the challenges they face. The HERoic campaign is about celebrating the power of women while also investing in their future success, Goldschmidt noted, adding there is so much upside and things that can be done [to encourage women].

The route to Goldschmidts’ own career in the historically male dominated ski industry began with an early interest in sports, with Goldschmidt noting she has been a “huge fan of and participant in sports.”

Born and raised in the United Kingdom, she learned to ski at age 11 or 12 in France on a school trip and has enjoyed it ever since.

She also learned to play tennis at age at 7 or 8 and fell in love with the game, noting it was an “obsession growing up.” She played in school and competitively in Europe and internationally which earned her a tennis scholarship to attend Baylor University in Texas. She played on their team for four years while earning a degree in business. 

After college Goldschmidt got “a real job” working in sports organizations where she was able to utilize her marketing education and skills. She held leadership, commercial, and/or marketing roles at the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the PGA European Tour, Adidas, and the global sports marketing & entertainment agency CSM before becoming CEO of the World Surf League (WSL).

Believing in equality across the board, Goldschmidt was concerned about the gender gap in media attention and pay levels given to women’s sports. “I’m fortunate to have worked for some progressive leaders and organizations, where elevating women’s sports has been a priority and therefore a consistent focus during my career. I’m proud of the progress made in my prior role as CEO of the World Surf League where we implemented equal prize money for the first time, and other initiatives to elevate female surfing globally,” she wrote on the commemoration of Title IX’s 50th anniversary.     

She also cited skiing/snowboarding as examples of where the playing field is more equitable, noting. “On the slopes, the women shine just as brightly as the men. And in the cases of elite athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin, Chloe Kim, and Jessie Diggins, they have dominated their sports. Along with the International Ski & Snowboard Federation, we at U.S. Ski & Snowboard have established equal pay; we sell all of our media rights as one package, and our prize money is equal. But media companies in some countries pay us less for women’s rights than for men’s. We need to continue to pressure the rest of the commercial world to invest in women like we have.”

 

 

Q&A with Sophie Goldschmidt

Mountain Times: What led to your interest in becoming the President and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard?

Sophie Goldschmidt: My passion for snow sports. I’ve been a huge admirer of the athletes and felt there was an opportunity to raise the profile of the athletes and grow the business of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

MT: What led to your interest in promoting women in sports?

SG: I’m passionate about equality and it’s important to promote that.

MT:  Have you seen changes in how media treat women’s sports?

SG: I think it is slowly improving and making progress, but we need to push for equality across the board.

MT: What is your vision for the organization?

SG: My vision is to help athletes to achieve their dreams and be the best in the world and also to drive more participating in one of our sports as well as to drive more fan engagement with our sports.

MT: How did the HERoic initiative come about? 

SG: It is something to creatively grow the awareness and grow the impact. We came up with a campaign to promote success on the women’s side. We do events nationwide and season-wise.

This year’s HERoic panel at Killington is building on what we did last year, which was the first event done. We’re delighted to come back and involve key stakeholders and talk about women in sports and about further opportunities [in the ski industry].

MT:  What is significant about Killington hosting a World Cup?

SG: It has become the most attended World Cup race weekend in the world for women. It is really special, and fans in the Northeast are amazing and the athletes to love to compete there. We’re grateful to Killington for participating. 

MT: Vermont has several colleges that offer degrees related to recreation management and working in the ski industry. Would you recommend such a tract of study for young women thinking of following a passion for snow sports and wanting to work in this field?  

SG: Yes, it’s a great career and furthering your education can open more doors. Experience is important as well internships, coaching, repping. Further education and work experience will only help women to find more work in the industry.

MT: What advice would you give to women who want to work in any field where men have traditionally dominated the workforce? 

SG: Follow your passion. I would encourage women to work hard and build relationships. Times are changing, and we have more equality, but you have to push and do a good job and the opportunities will arise. 

MT: What would you tell a young person who wants to compete at an elite level?

SG: Find a great program to be part of with coaches you respect. Be focused and show up every day; be disciplined and try your best.

MT: What’s your take on the competitive lifestyle for men and women on our US winter sports teams?

SG: It’s a very tough lifestyle, involving endless travel, working day in and day out, but it’s also an incredibly exciting career with travel to different countries, amazing experiences competing, and seeing the world.

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