By Karen D. Lorentz
As a goal-and-results-oriented major event professional with 30 years’ experience, Katrina Ammer specializes in event oversight for major mountain events, including mountain biking and skiing competitions. She consults for, advises, or leads various large-scale international sports events on venue and event operations, business and community engagement, and strategy.
So it’s little wonder then that she’s been described as an “unsung hero” who keeps World Cup preparations at Killington “on track.” She’s a behind-the-scenes coordinator who has played a key role in the highly successful hosting of the Audi FIS World Cup Women’s Giant Slalom and Slalom races at Killington.
Born in Dillon, Colorado, Ammer grew up in the Dillon, Vail, and Boulder areas. Her mom and dad used to manage the lodge at A-Basin and taught her to ski at 18 months old, “first in our driveway and later at A-Basin,” she told the Mountain Times.
Her parents divorced when she was 4 years old, and her dad moved to Vail to teach skiing.
“My dad, who is now 91, is from Germany and he used to race there when he was young,” Ammer said, which led to the question, did she race?
“Yes, when very young,” but in her self-effacing manner adds, “but never anything serious. I competed in moguls in my 20s on the fun freestyle pro tour. I even competed on Outer Limits once,” she said referring to Killington’s notorious mogul run at Bear Mountain. “I was never very good. I still ski as much as possible. I love a good stormy powder day!”
Having graduated from high school in 1983, she majored in Central and Eastern European studies at the University of Colorado. It was while in college that Ammer began working at the Snug Ski Shop in Vail, which led to her working in events management.
“Because the shop sold mountain bikes, which was a new sport then, they started organizing the Mountain Challenge town races in 1984 to promote mountain biking. It became a big series and still runs today under different management,” she said.
Ammer also volunteered for the Vail Valley Foundation (VVF), which hosts large-scale events in the Vail Valley, working with them as they created World Cup Mountain Bike races and eventually the 1994 World Mountain Bike Championships.
That led to Ammer being hired in 1994 to work on the 1999 Alpine World Ski Championships.
“In those five years we organized multiple World Cup ski races and the mountain bike races. I worked for the VVF full time until 2007 when I moved to Vancouver to work on the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” she said.
She also spent two years in Sochi, Russia, focusing on sport and venue management for the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic games and helped organize: the Vail Beaver Creek 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships; the 2016 PyeongChang Alpine and Snowboard Freestyle Olympic test events; and the Åre 2019 Alpine World Ski Championships.
She also works for ESPN annually on US Open Tennis.
This is Ammer’s fifth year traveling — from her home base in Colorado — to Killington as a managing consultant for Killington parent company Powdr for the World Cup.
Q&A with Katrina Ammer
Mountain Times: What are your responsibilities working for the Killington World Cup events?
Katrina Ammer: I am responsible for making sure that everyone on our team [of workers] has the key information they need to successfully implement their responsibilities for the World Cup. My role is to help keep the planning on track, support the team, and do whatever it takes to get things done. There is such a fantastic team here!
MT: How much preparation work is involved and how far in advance do you visit Killington?
KA: We start working on the event in April and May once the World Cup season is over. It takes a lot of planning for everything to fall in place.
Before Covid-19 we used to travel to Killington once per month starting in May or June. This year it was all remote work prior to our arrival in Killington a month ago. When I say “we” there is a smaller core group of experienced contractors and non-Killington staff who also start working on the event in the spring.
MT: With whom do you work in preparation for the Killington event?
KA: I would say that we work with most of the key department leaders in Killington. They and their teams do a great job planning, coordinating, and implementing the many moving parts. The Killington team are pros at organizing events, and we know the intricacies of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup so we all work together as a team.
I’ve found that the municipality and all other stakeholders are great to work with. There is a singular focus in this entire community and state to succeed. It’s a great feeling to have that kind of support for this event.
MT: How do you handle the pressure and deadlines in coordinating so many aspects of an event like this?
KA: Sometimes I handle it better than other times. I learned a lot about the pressure and deadlines when I first got into this business. I try as much as I can to be ahead and on top of things, but that does not always happen, and there are always last-minute things that happen in events.
You must be organized, patient, flexible, laugh a lot, smile a lot, know the right people, and be ready to work some long hours.
Of course, I work on events that are weather-dependent so that always adds to the stress, but there truly is nothing you can do about it.
MT: What is the greatest challenge for a ski resort in pulling off a successful event?
KA: The weather.
MT: When the racers arrive, what are your duties and goals in regards to hosting them?
KA: The participating teams are our No. 1 client group, so our goal is to make sure that the only thing the racers need to focus on is their race. There is an experienced group of volunteers and staff taking great care of the teams.
MT: What is your take on past events at Killington?
KA: They have all been wonderful. We learned so much from the first year and each year we try to improve upon the previous year. The spectators in Killington are simply the best.
MT: How does the Killington World Cup compare to others?
KA: I’ve worked at Alpine Ski World Cup races in five different countries. The Killington event attracts the most spectators. The proximity of the finish stadium to other operational spaces makes it convenient for teams and crews.
MT: Has the Covid pandemic changed anything for this year in regard to your work?
KA: Yes, we did most of our pre-event work remotely, and we will be following, state, federal, and International Ski Federation (FIS) Covid-19 protocols during the event. The health and safety of all participants, as well as the general public in Vermont, are the top priority of the local organizing committee. We spent a lot of time planning the processes to implement these protocols for all our client groups, which include teams, media, broadcast, spectators, workforce, officials, sponsors and partners.
MT: What do you enjoy the most working for events?
KA: It’s always the people, the team. There is no better feeling than being part of a team working towards the same goal.