VP OF GLOBAL STRATEGY AND INSIGHTS, BURTON SNOWBOARDS
Ali Kenney jokes that she has “a lot of commas” in her job. She watches trends in the global market, engages consumers on climate change issues, crafts Burton’s sustainability goals, audits manufacturers for sustainability, human rights, and fair labor practices, and more. Kenney is widely respected in the outdoor industry for the environmental strides Burton has made under her leadership. We caught up with her to find out how she got where she is.
WHAT’S YOUR FIRST OR MOST FAVORITE OUTDOOR MEMORY?
When I was a young kid, I was always outside playing games and sports. I grew up in the middle of nowhere on a dead-end, dirt road in Vermont. We spent every day outside. I had a foundation of wanting to be outside and a love for fresh air. Now, my wife and I bike commute every day, and we got into backpacking four years ago. Every vacation, we go backpacking. That’s how we refresh. We don’t use watches or phones. We go by sunrise and sunset.
WHAT DROVE YOU TO SEEK A CAREER IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?
When I’m snowboarding or doing something else physical, there’s no other thought in my mind. I’m focused on the moment and the terrain. Working for a company where that’s what we do, the connection to nature is one of the biggest drivers for me. I don’t want to work for a company where we make widgets. Even on the most stressful days, it’s OK because then we can all go snowboarding together. I bring my whole self to work.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PERK OF WORKING FOR BURTON?
There are so many! I love getting outside and snowboarding. If we get two feet of snow, the office shuts down. I’ve gotten to travel the world for my job and I’ve learned so much about other cultures. Burton is big enough that we have a global impact, but also small enough that if you have a big idea and if you’re passionate enough and build a solid case, we can do it. That perfectly aligns with my personality.
WHAT’S YOUR ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR WOMEN SEEKING A CAREER IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?
Find a company that mirrors your values, then get your foot in the door. I came in as a financial analyst, making less money than I was coaching hockey, and that’s OK. I worked and put my head down and built trust. A lot of young people are taught to “follow their passion,” and that’s bad advice. When you start out, you’re not going to feel like you’ve found your passion because part of that is being a contributor. You must work at it. If you work hard and you’re a critical thinker and build solutions, you’re going to work your way up in the company, and that’s how you find your passion.
WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?
I want to have given back more to the world than I’ve taken from it. With all the food and resources and all the other stuff I consume, I want to have somehow made the world better in a higher level of magnitude. To have an overall positive impact.
What’s your super power? My can-do attitude. I believe anything is possible. Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Biking to work, in any season. What’s in your thermos? Water, kombucha, or dirty chai
If you had an intro song, what would it be? “Scarlet Begonias,” by Grateful Dead Your number one outdoor hack? Bring blocks of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar while backpacking.
To find your next job, visit us at: jobs.camberoutdoors.org You can also read Ali’s extended interview here.
lack power and tens of thousands lack running water.
Before the storm, Vidal and Taraborrelli were among about a dozen guides working on Puerto Rico. Faced with a sharp dip in tourism, many guides have hung up their climbing shoes to find work elsewhere.
“For our adventure tours, our canyon tours, our caving tours,” says Rossano Boscarino, co-owner of outfitter and guide service Aventuras PR and godfather of Puerto Rico’s climbing scene, “we just don’t have the people. Tourism has been hurt really bad.”
In partnership with his wife, Edda Jimenez, the late Colorado legend Craig Luebben, and local hardman Jorge Rodriguez, Boscarino developed the majority of Puerto Rico’s sport routes. He did so despite conflicts with landowners, jungle vegetation, government bureaucrats, and Africanized bees, the latter of which once stung Rodriguez more than 500 times as he cleared vegetation from a Bayam—n cliff, nearly killing him. Over a hundred climbers reside on the island, where they enjoy the drippy limestone on gymnastic single-pitch routes or multi-pitch romps like Lizard the Wizard (5.11c) near the mountains around Cayey.
But many Puerto Rican climbers are on unsure footing. Ten years into a recession and faced with $123 billion of debt, Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy last March. That deal came with strict austerity measures, which were forecast even before the storm to send the island’s economy into a full-blown depression. Faced with a slow recovery and robbed of a profitable tourist season, many locals have exhausted their savings.
“I know three or four climbers who left because they don’t have jobs anymore,” says Rodriguez, who lost his own income when the senior partner of his financial-services business left after the storm. Rodriguez is considering a move to the mainland, but for now he’s still a fixture at Nuevo Bayam—n, a collection of about 100 short sport routes just outside San Juan.
“For me, it’s like a therapy,” he says. “When I go climbing, I just focus on climbing and forget about everything else.”
For the most part, Puerto Rico’s tourist amenities are open. Major roads are clear, and hotels and restaurants operate as before the storm. The climbing community, armed with arborist gear, has reopened crag access and approved the safety of the bolts post-storm. The routes themselves are cleaner than ever, power-washed by the storm, with excess foliage removed. Local climbers have already repopulated the cliffs, and have even established a few new routes in Ciales and Cayey.
“The climbing is ready to go,” says Boscarino. “We just need the people.”