Highlighting Women in STEM - Meet Kate

Meet Kate Schifani – she's the Director of Mountain Operations at Vail Mountain and a co-lead in the Women & Allies Employee Resource Group. Kate started her career with our company 10 years ago, and before that studied English at the Air Force Academy, where she ended up enjoying the required science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM courses. While earning her degree, she took some of the hardest courses - organic chemistry, differential equations, and engineering classes - as electives. She then started her career for the Air Force as an aircraft maintenance officer, where she quickly learned how B-52 planes work and how to keep them flying. Now, Kate brings all that expertise to Vail Mountain. 

Get to know more about Kate:  

Epic Insider: How did you move from a role in active duty in the Air Force to Vail Resorts?  
Kate: After eight years on active duty, I separated, joined the Air Force Reserve, and moved to the Vail Valley to work on the race crew for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at Beaver Creek. A few years later, I got the chance to lead the Vail Mountain snowmaking team, and it felt like returning home. There’s so much math in snowmaking! I called my dad, who is a math teacher, to ask him for a better calculator than my phone, and he sent me a hot pink one! I probably am calculating something on the hot pink calculator every single day.  

Epic Insider: Aside from the hot pink calculator, what’s your favorite thing about your job?  
Kate: I enjoy leading people, creativity, critical thinking, and, of course, math and engineering. Learning new things and trying to solve problems other people may not even know exist. I love learning about our operation as deeply as I can, and then working to improve it. But I have to admit, getting to ski every day isn’t too bad either.  

Epic Insider: What’s one thing you would tell women looking to get into STEM or mountain leadership?  
Kate: Go for it! And have confidence to approach a career in STEM or in mountain leadership with curiosity and an understanding that you may never know everything, or even as much as some of the people you work with. There’s something very empowering about having the confidence to say I don’t know something, but I know I can learn and apply it. No one will ever be perfectly qualified for any role they take on but knowing you can learn it and leverage the strengths you already have will make anyone, especially women, successful in STEM and Mountain Ops.