By Karen D. Lorentz
Stepping into a snowsport shop at Okemo is akin to being a kid in a candy store. There’s so much gear, clothing, and accessories in a kaleidoscope of shapes, sizes and colors — to say nothing of new stuff every year — that, for me, it’s not just astounding, it’s almost overwhelming.
It also makes me wonder who’s the cat in charge — the person who figures out how to buy what seems like a gazillion products?
In talking with Director of Retail Sean Meszkat, I realized here was a business person with a genuine interest in helping us — a person with snow and retailing in his blood.
Born in Boston, Mass., Meszkat grew up Miller Place, N.Y., and learned to ski at the age of 6. Taught by his father along with his two brothers, he recalls, “It was kind of crazy. My family never had a ski home, so we would just hit up different mountains. We started at Brodie and Pico but eventually found our home at Bromley. I think by the time we settled down at Bromley, we had skied 95 percent of the areas in Vermont, some of which are now closed.
After graduating from high school in 1995, he attended the University of Suffolk County on Long Island and then joined the United States Coast Guard. While living in Oregon for about four years, he continued his skiing at Willamette Pass, Snoqualmie, Mt. Bachelor, and Mt. Hood.
Mountain Times: How did you end up in Vermont?
Sean Meszkat: After getting out of the Coast Guard, I headed to Boston for a bit, but ended up back in southern Vermont. A girl I was seeing was living there and the rest is history.
MT: How did you get to your current job?
SM: I cut my teeth at Bromley as a ski instructor in the early to mid-90s and then started my retail career at the Startingate Ski Shop at Stratton in 2004, managed Equipe Sport at Stratton’s Village Square, and made my move to Okemo to become the retail director in 2013.
MT: What are your duties or responsibilities?
SM: I oversee all things retail for Okemo Mountain Resort, which includes making buying and management decisions for our multiple shops. In this role, I also work closely with my counterparts in Triple Peaks [Okemo’s parent company which also owns Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte] to drive the overall direction of retail partnerships. In the summer I am also directly involved in the management of the downhill mountain biking operation.
MT: What do you like about your job?
SM: Being on the cutting edge of all new things in the ski retail business. Going to industry events and seeing all the cool new trends. Also, getting to meet and work with some of the best people in the business.
MT: What are the greatest changes you’ve seen?
SM: I hate to sound like an old timer, but online sales. It has to be the single biggest change to the snowsports industry ever.
MT: Could you share a few tips for people thinking about getting new gear (skis, boards)?
SM: Try before you buy and do not buy online. Ski shop employees are there to help you make your decision, not the pages of ski magazines. Everyone is different — buy what works for you.
MT: Is there a neat or new accessory that you think people should know about?
SM: The rebirth of Snug Life accessories has really caught my eye. It is a locally based company, with some great designs and colors. And some of the new pieces are super functional.
MT: How often do you get out on the mountain?
SM: I try to get out 2-3 days a week, not only at Okemo but other resorts around Vermont and the Northeast to keep an eye on the competition.
MT: What’s your take on living in Vermont? Your community?
SM: Mountain town living full time can be difficult. It can take a long time to land a full-time gig, but once you have, you realize how much it can be worth. The lifestyle is different than down country but totally worth it.
I live in Londonderry at the base of Magic Mountain with my wife and two sons, ages 9 and 13.
When we were younger you could find my wife and I at the Red Fox or the Green Door, but as we get older, it’s more après at The Loft and dinner at Downtown Grocery.
For us living in Londonderry, it is exciting to be a part of the most recent rebirth of Magic Mountain and the Black Line Tavern and growth we have seen there.
MT: Any influences or mentors?
SM: Peter Robertson, Gary and Dede Longley got me started in the ski biz.
My dad, Bobby Campbell, and Paul Kelly got me started on skis and snowboards and taught me the ways of the bro ski!
MT: Other sports, hobbies, spare time activities?
SM: Sailing, camping, biking.
MT: Favorite book you’d recommend or music?
SM: Book: “The Hundred Day Haul” by Chris Huff.
Band: The Phish from Burlington
MT: Any words of wisdom to ponder?
SM: “The radder you are and the more you embarrass yourself the more points you are going to get.” Greg Lindsay, “G.N.A.R.” (the movie).