By Karen D. Lorentz
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Kirsten Ericksen-Read’s future was pre-ordained when she was just 6 weeks old. That’s when her parents moved to Vermont so her father, a civil engineer, could work at Killington.
“This was in 1969 when things were really moving along there. We drove to Vermont in a Caprice Classic station wagon with me lying on the front seat,” she recalled with appreciation for how times have changed. That move set her life in motion.
She was taught to ski at age 2 by her parents, Nils and Pam Ericksen at Killington. But Okemo Mountain soon became her “home away from home” when her family moved to Ludlow. Ski school lessons and skiing with family, and especially with friends during high school, led to a love of the sport.
After graduating from Black River High School in 1987, Ericksen went to University of Vermont where she received her degree in civil engineering, a field pursued because she “loved math and the ski industry, which was familiar to me.”
Mountain Times: What was your route to your current job as engineering/permits and compliance manager working in Killington Resort’s mountain operations department?
Kirsten Ericksen-Read: Directly after college I worked in daycare at Killington and skied every day I could. I also learned to snowboard that year during spring break when things slowed down.
After that I went to work for my father part-time (1994), while raising my four children and later more full-time as the kids got older (2008 to 2017). He had started Ericksen Associates Inc. in 1978, and we renamed it Alpine Engineering in 2008 when it became just the two of us. At that time we ran the company together and it is one of my greatest accomplishments. Our specialty was ski lift relocation design, which included surveying, layouts and consulting. We even did the engineering for a re-located lift to run through the rain forest in Costa Rica. This lift was installed for tours in the canopy of the rain forest and is still open today. Among other duties during those years, I performed lift inspections for an insurance company.
I found my current job by accident when looking online for a job for my son and thought it would be a perfect fit for me. It came at a very good time as my father was retirement age, and I did not necessarily want to run the business by myself or work alone as much as I was.
MT: What are your Killington Resort job duties and responsibilities?
KER: I help manage and put together required permits for projects. This includes Act 250 permitting, wetlands and storm water. Part of this responsibility also includes keeping track of conditions we are required to adhere to.
Our mapping system at the mountain is fairly extensive. The mapping is in AutoCAD and I keep it up to date when there are changes with lifts, lands or utilities. We have a GPS Rover here that is used frequently now for basic surveying and mapping. I enjoy getting outside and using that.
I also sit on the ANSI B77.1 committee for passenger ropeways and have been a voting member for approximately eight years. Last year I also became a member of the Tramway Board for the state of Vermont.
MT: What do you like about your job?
KER: I really enjoy being part of a team. And we have a really great team in mountain operations. There is not one person in our group I have not learned something from. When obstacles come our way, everyone works together to figure out a solution.
I was solitary quite a bit before. I love being around people in my immediate circle, but also love being out on the mountain and interacting with guests as well as with other departments.
A challenging but fun thing we do here at Killington is job sharing, which means we help in other departments. Usually mountain operations helps with parking. This has been a challenge for me but has also been very rewarding as again, it puts me out with the guests, answering questions and listening to concerns.
The biggest challenge I have faced has been working from home during Covid. I miss the comaradarie of my peers and my routine at Killington.
MT: Any influences or mentors?
KER: It’s fairly generic to say “my father” or “my boss.” But both of these are true.
My father always set the bar high. Both of my parents believed in me and helped me in achieving my goals. My father would be my greatest influence, mentor and teacher.
I knew Jeff Temple [director of mountain operations] from the ANSI B77.1 committee prior to my coming to Killington. I looked up to him and now I work for him. He is a mentor who pushes me to become the best I can be. He has 40 years of knowledge, just as my father did, and it is a constant learning experience listening to him.
I also feel that every single lift mechanic I have worked with over 28 years has been a mentor in a sense, helping me to understand mechanical concepts.
Similarly, everyone in my immediate team of co-workers has taught me a lot over the last few years, and I value their input and knowledge.
MT: Are there other women working in the mountain operations department?
KER: There are lots of women who work at the mountain and in my building. Several have management positions. But in the mountain operations department there are just a few of us, which makes sense. I am not sure too many women want to climb ski towers and chop ice when it is zero degrees outside! In mountain operations there is Kayla, Julie, Erin and me, but in engineering/permits/planning I am the only woman, currently.
MT: What advice would you give to women considering working in the ski industry?
KER: It is a great industry and one that expects a lot both mentally and physically. So you need to be prepared for that. There is a lot of teamwork and respect from everyone so it’s pretty easy to fit in. I guess there are jobs that are considered as “less traditional” for women, but I have worked with men my whole life and I am not really sure I notice. We are all just working together to get our jobs done. So, if you are considering it, go for it! You will be welcomed!
MT: What are the greatest changes you’ve seen in your profession/job/winter sports?
KER: I have seen a lot of changes in the last 30 years, too many to list. One that sticks out for me is the advancement of the freestyle and freeski venues. Snowboarding as well. It is incredible what the younger generation can do, that we did not have when we were younger — like the rails and the jumps. My youngest son competes in this, and it never ceases to amaze me what he and his friends are doing at any given moment!
MT: How often do you get out on the mountain?
KER: Not quite as much as I would like as it has been so busy. But I have been working on that. I also like to bike in the summer – both downhill at Killington as well as mountain biking on trails like at Pine Hill Park.
MT: How do you spend your time outside of work?
KER: Mostly with my husband and two teenage boys who are still at home. My 17-year-old is very independent and very musically inclined so I help at his school with that as much as possible. And go to many of his games. My 15-year-old attends Killington Mountain School so I enjoy seeing him compete and practice on the hill.
I also enjoy traveling with my husband, Walt, as well as boating, swimming, hiking, and playing the piano.
MT: What’s your take on living in Vermont?
KER: We love the summer events at Killington like Cooler in the Mountains. Fall is beautiful and Vermont’s a great place to live if you love outdoor activities. Surviving winter is always easier when you have outdoor activities to do! Staying inside is not an option if you want to stay healthy and upbeat.
MT: Favorite book you’d recommend?
KER: Just finished “The Outsider” by Stephen King and am now reading “Duma Key” also by King. Love both books!
MT: Any advice or words of wisdom?
KER: Go outside of your comfort zone. You will never regret it. Work hard and enjoy life. Don’t take things too seriously and always remember who is important to you – treat them right at all times.
MT: Anything else you would like to share?
KER: Thank you to all in the industry who have over the years been my friends, counsel and extended family.