South Korea is over 6,000 miles away from Colorado, but when it comes to the ski industry, it’s surprisingly close.
Nobody knows that better than Allison Kohn Marriner and her husband, Geoff “Salty” Marriner, both alumni of Colorado Mountain College Leadville’s ski area operations program.
The couple was hired to join an international team of seasoned professionals producing the XXIII Winter Olympics and the XII Paralympic Winter Games at Jeongseon Alpine Centre in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Geoff, who’s the mountain operations manager at Jeongseon, has been in South Korea full time since 2015, and Allison has shuttled back and forth between Korea and their Colorado home.
And even though the Olympics are a year away, the experience of landing in a foreign country and working towards one of the world’s biggest international sports events has been invaluable in their career and personal development.
“I’ve definitely been taken completely out of my comfort zone in all aspects of life, home and work,” Geoff wrote from Jeongseon. “So just for that this has already been a worthwhile experience.”
Since studying ski area operations at Colorado Mountain College, the Marriners have made steady progress toward their current responsibilities in South Korea. While working at Vail Resorts they gained experience with on-mountain operations and World Cup ski racing production that helped them to learn the ropes within the international ski racing community.
Both have developed solid reputations in the ski business: Allison as a Beaver Creek snowcat operator and lift maintenance assistant, and Geoff as a Vail equipment operator, as well as a Beaver Creek grooming manager and supervisor.
While Geoff works full time at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, Allison travels back and forth between Colorado and South Korea. She works part time as a snowcat operator in South Korea, and returns to operate cats at Beaver Creek and do lift maintenance during the summers.
Although Allison said she is widely accepted in the U.S. as a female snowcat operator, in South Korea, the reactions can be different.
“One day while grooming through the finish area, there was a group of Korean women,” she said. “Every time I came by I got a thumbs-up and smiles and cheers.”