We had the good fortune of connecting with Alli Widman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alli, how do you think about risk?

Risk is imperative for progress and innovation. While it is often easier to maintain the status quo, taking risks and navigating the associated uncertainty enable change. Podcasts and case studies featuring entrepreneurs regularly demonstrate the role of risk in making great leaps. For me, calculating and preparing for risks has been key to enriching my life and advancing my career. Having a strong support network personally and professionally has also been essential to my risk-taking.

I spent more than a decade in the corporate world, from investment banking at Goldman Sachs, equity research at Citi and boutique leadership consulting advising CEOs of global corporations, yet always felt that something was missing. I first tried to launch a start up in the healthcare space during my second year at Harvard Business School, but then returned to a career in finance while trying to set up a life in New York City. I stayed on a more traditional path while starting a family, but started to feel restless. With two small boys at home, time started to feel like the most finite resource. I started to think about creating a business around the things I love most. As a lifelong athlete, marathon runner and skier, I wanted to marry my passion for athletics and travel.

When I felt the timing was better to take more risk and start Avant Ski, I gained comfort by evaluating the competitive landscape of ski travel planning resources – “analysis paralysis,” some would say. This analysis enabled me to take some comfort in transitioning my focus to launching Avant Ski in the Fall of 2018.

Start up life is rife with highs and lows. By early 2020, Avant Ski was hitting its stride, only for everything to shut down. It felt trivial to focus on skiing as Covid ravaged the world. Yet, we had to be relentless in staying relevant and building. We partnered with Goggles for Docs to help with ski goggle donations for PPE use. This provided us new momentum and we began to recognize that spending time outside was going to be one of the best things to do in the months ahead. We highlighted this to our audience and overtime, it caught on and eventually proved correct. Avant Ski was also able to add great ski industry talent and ultimately come through the pandemic stronger and super stoked for the upcoming winter season.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?

Avant Ski is a travel media company dedicated to enabling recreational skiers and snowboarders to discover new resort destinations and experience them as locals and insiders would.

A play on “après ski” the beloved post-snow pastime, the name Avant Ski is meant to encapsulate that same great experience, except before hitting the slopes.

We are a refreshing, new voice offering practical, easy to digest tips to encourage people to spend more time in the mountains. We’ve built an incredible team with more than 20 avid contributors, spanning North America and running the gambit from college interns (active alpine racers), ski patrol, ski instructors to those that have grown up in the mountains. We are on track to have more than 70 resorts across North America on our site along with regional guides for most larger U.S. cities. 

We are working to expand our partnerships with ski shops, affiliate partners and over travel-booking partners. Our mission is to become the “go to” site for recreational skiers and riders to plan their snow adventures. Overtime, we hope to expand outside of the United States and to other forms of outdoor adventure.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

I love this question because Avant Ski’s mission is to enable our users to discover new places and experience them as locals and insiders would. Think of Avant Ski as your credible friend who has been there before and can give you all the information you need to plan your perfect trip – here’s my chance!

Last winter, Avant Ski HQ relocated to Park City, UT. Park City is the gateway to amazing skiing with two ski resorts – Park City and Deer Valley, in town, and another five resorts within an hour’s drive. Try to stay near Main Street, Park City for easy access to the mountain, the shops and restaurants. There are plenty of hotels and AirBNBs within walking distance of Main Street. The bus system is easy, but we prefer to have a car to access the surrounding area and visit neighboring resorts.

On the first day, ease in with coffee and breakfast at Atticus Tea & Coffee on Main Street. This casual coffee shop is across the street from the Town Lift so you can easily make your way over to the mountain. If you are newer to skiing, follow Avant Skis intermediate itinerary (https://www.theavantski.com/park-city-intermediate-day-pc) for a full day of fun on the mountain. For the more advanced skier, follow our Expert Itinerary (https://www.theavantski.com/park-city-expert-day-pc). Have lunch at Mid-Mountain Lodge, recently renovated with tasty, healthy options such as grain and poke bowls. Ski to your heart’s content. For après, don’t miss High West, where you can indulge in brown-spirit based cocktails. Stay for dinner too, their Western Mountain cuisine is outstanding.

For the next day, plan to check out The Canyons side of Park City Mountain. On the way to the Canyons Base, stop for breakfast at Five5seeds in Snow Creek Plaza, try the pea smashed avocado toast. Then head to the Canyons and follow our intermediate (https://www.theavantski.com/park-city-intermediate-day-canyons) or expert itineraries (https://www.theavantski.com/park-city-expert-day-canyons). Cloud Dine is our favorite spot for lunch on this side, their creative salads do not disappoint. When you’re done, relax around the fire pits at the base or grab a drink at Umbrella Bar. When it’s time for dinner, head to the Blind Dog for a chill scene and delicious steaks and seafood.

Though it is easy to spend several days at Park City Mountain, afterall, it IS the largest resort in North America, to be more adventurous, take a day trip to Snowbasin. The Epic Pass is your ticket with unlimited access to Park City Mountain and either 2 or 4 days at Snowbasin. This spectacular resort is still a bit under the radar and lodging is limited, but the drive from Park City is stunning and parking is easy. The resort received a $100 million refresh ahead of the 2002 Winter Olympics and no expense has been spared. Grab a coffee in the luxurious Earl’s Lodge and jump on the Needles Gondola to head up for the day. Then follow our intermediate (https://www.theavantski.com/snowbasin-intermediate-itinerary) or expert itineraries (https://www.theavantski.com/snowbasin-expert-itinerary). Make sure to have lunch at The Overlook at Needles Lodge with excellent soups and salads or indulge in the loaded nachos, all while soaking in the views.

For a day off of the slopes, there’s plenty to explore between the shops and art galleries on Main Street in Park City. If your ski boots have been bothering you, stop into Gorsuch for some custom boot fittings and a well curated selection of gear. For a little treat, have some ice cream at the Java Cow. Spend the afternoon at the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. This venue is home to six Nordic ski jumps, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Museums. Adults can also take a bobsled ride. Evenings watching the sunset from Woodward Park City are also really fun, dress accordingly. The Tubing is the biggest and longest in Utah.

There is so much to do in and around Park City. For more, head to our Insider Guides (https://www.theavantski.com/resorts) to any of our resorts in Utah – including Park City, Deer Valley, Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude and Snowbasin.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

Cora Foxx. I met Cora just as I was transitioning away from my corporate role and spending more time on “my ski travel planning site.” Cora designed our logo and played a significant role in early our branding, much of which we still have today. Her designs made Avant Ski feel more real and gave me a needed push to launch an early prototype of the site.

Andria Huskinson. Andria was one of the first ski resort PR people to show me around the resort in Avant Ski’s early days. She has been wonderful in welcoming us into the ski scene and making connections to other industry professionals.

Website: https://www.theavantski.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theavantski/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/avantski

Twitter: https://twitter.com/getAvantSki

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theavantski/

Other: https://www.tiktok.com/@avantski

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