Ali Ken­ney

VP OF GLOBAL STRAT­EGY AND IN­SIGHTS, BUR­TON SNOWBOARDS

Climbing - - TALK OF THE CRAG - BY KASSONDRA CLOOS

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.

FLASH ROUND

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.”

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