By Karen D. Lorentz
Alison “Ali” Bombardier brings a new face and tremendous experience to Okemo’s competitions program this winter as the competitions center manager.
She was born and grew up in Canberra Australia, “a short 1.5 hour commute to the Snowy Mountains, where I was lucky enough to spend lots of time exploring and skiing,” she told the Mountain Times.
After finishing her science degree at the University of Canberra in 1995, she took a “year off” to teach skiing and to travel in Colorado. “I never really got back to the real world of science,” but she did follow her passion for coaching and sports management with a masters of sports coaching from the University of Queensland in 2016.
Asked about that switch from science to sports, she explained, “I cross-country skied with my family and at age 10 had the opportunity to try Alpine, and never looked back. I skied, raced, and snowboarded out of a small resort called Guthega, which is now part of Perisher, where I still work during your summers. I ski raced through high school and began instructing while at university, transitioned to coaching and event work, mixing it up through the years.”
Bombardier counts herself “lucky to be able to ski for a living, having started as a ski instructor and moved on to coaching.” During this time she learned “some great skills, including just what some good hard work is. I also learned some of the best days are working as a team to get a big project done.”
She has also worked at Winter Park and Copper (Colorado) and Mammoth Mountain (California), as well as for the Australian Paralympic and Olympic teams and the International Paralympic Committee, coaching athletes of all ages and abilities and staging events at all levels.
Mountain Times: Why did you come to Vermont?
Ali Bombardier: I am always looking for a new adventure. Looking to come to Vermont and a place like Okemo that has a rich heritage in ski racing seemed like a good fit for my summer job!
MT: So for our summer you will return to work at Perisher?
AB: Yes, my plans are to return to Perisher for the 2021 season. Plans are a little up in the air as it is pretty strict to get back into the country, and there’s a two-week hotel quarantine.
MT: Tell us about your current job.
AB: I am manager of the Okemo Competitions Center. I have a very similar role at Perisher, overseeing the race and events department and the competitions teams. It is a diverse portfolio and no two days are the same.
Our teams train and compete in Alpine, snowboard and freestyle skiing disciplines. We have a great team of committed, talented coaches looking to provide the best training environment and opportunities for our athletes, and my role is to support them and work with the event crew to stage events — again across disciplines.
MT: How has the competitions program been affected by this unusual Covid pandemic?
AB: Professionally, we have had to adapt the way we offer our programs, from simple things like adjusting the daily training schedules of groups to ensure we have staggered starts to limiting group sizes to keep our cohorts small and ensuring standard Covid-safe practices are in place, like mask wearing and physical distancing.
Luckily, being an individual, non-contact, outdoor sport, we are able to continue with only small adjustments, and this gives athletes a chance to get outside and work on their skiing and riding. Competitions have just started up again, and this season is more limited, but we are looking to offer some competitive experience for all levels and disciplines.
MT: How has it been for you coming to Vermont?
AB: Personally, it is strange moving to a new town and not being able to really explore. Meeting people virtually and via emails doesn’t allow for the same connections of meeting over a coffee or around a conference table. But the community here has been very welcoming and getting out on the hill has given me more chances to make those more personal connections.
MT: What do you like about your job?
AB: Every day is different. I have been fortunate to be able to take my skiing to a high level and share some amazing experiences with lots of people. Traveling the world, coaching and running events make for amazing opportunities – all because I like to slide down a frozen hill.
MT: Any experiences in the ski industry that were significant for you?
AB: There are too many to mention them all.
There have been some amazing powder days and some great days out skiing in the rain.
Being race director for the Paralympics in Korea was a stressful and exhausting couple of weeks, but something I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I have been to some amazing places and worked with some amazing people. The sport and the mountains tend to bring out the best in people and it’s amazing—and an honor—to be able to be part of a team putting on an event to allow athletes (of all ages, abilities and disciplines) to perform to their highest level.