On a brisk, bright February morning a few weeks before the coronavirus locked down the country, Jen Rupert tightens her ski boots, cheerfully waves to the Snowmass lift operator and shares, among other things, why she’s pushing the local public school district in the Aspen Valley to take girls out of the classroom and expose them to a variety of mountain operation jobs like those that involve avalanche explosives.
“The bias starts young,” Rupert said. “We have to bring the girls to the mountains and show them all they can do here, aside from skiing.”
Rupert, 49, is petite with a wide smile and a tanned, lined face, reflecting the thousands of ski days she’s logged teaching in the high altitude, Colorado sun. For nearly a decade, Rupert managed Aspen Skiing Company’s ski and snowboard school for Aspen and Snowmass, teaching students and overseeing 1,100 instructors. She’s a founding member and trainer of the Divas, Aspen’s fiercely competitive, all-female synchronized ski team, which may be the coolest sport you have never heard of or watched. At its peak in the 90s to the early aughts, there were nearly 50 teams both male and female around the world competing, with the Divas almost always winning competition.
While still teaching skiing nearly every day for six months a year at Snowmass, Rupert is also serving her second term as Roaring Forks School Board President, the school district that includes the towns of Carbondale, Basalt and Glenwood Springs in the Aspen Valley. Rupert’s side hustles are an outdoor adventure company and an excavation business she helps runs with her husband. She is also raising her 14-year-old son. And wait, there’s more. Rupert is a nationally ranked master of Soo Bahk Do, a traditional Korean martial art.
“Everyone is an overachiever here,” Rupert said with a laugh. “Everyone serves on a board, runs another business and is involved in the community. I don’t bake cookies for the PTA, so this is how I got involved.”
Extreme overachieving is apparently the norm for those who work for the Aspen Skiing Company, a still family-owned, private ski business that has four mountains in its portfolio: Buttermilk, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain. The company prides itself on supporting its employees to become deeply embedded in the community. Corporate social responsibility has been a guiding principle of the company long before feel-good, mission statements to appeal to Millennial and Gen Y consumers became trendy.
It’s almost a mandate says Katie Ertl, the senior vice president of mountain operations. “One of the things that we are asked to do as a senior manager is to be involved in the community in some way. So, choose a board or a club that you