The inspiration for #iamladyhawk is to feature woman that I have met over the years that are crushing the outdoor and active lifestyle industry. You may not know these up and coming leaders, but believe me you will! These woman are putting their passion first, authentically, and without any apologies along the way.
It seems only fitting for the first #iamladyhawk post, that we feature Ashley Bembenek who will be competing this week in the US Freeskiing Qualifier in her hometown of Crested Butte, CO. This event will be a qualifier for the Subaru Freeride World Tour, which Ashley was the Overall Women’s Ski Champion in 2015.
What stands out to me about Ashley? She’s humble, intelligent, and when you first meet her she is most proud of being a small business owner. Ashley owns Alpine Environmental Consultants, where she runs an environmental consulting company that specializes in protecting and improving water quality.
This woman has created a life where she can combine her passion for environmental science and skiing competitively in the winter. Ashley is not following the old “playbook”, but rather has created a work life balance on her terms. Congrats Ashley, we look forward to following your career and excited to support you on the tour this season!
Name: Ashley Bembenek
Hometown: Crested Butte, Colorado
Profession: Water and soil scientist and business owner
Passions?: AB: Just one? Skiing, the outdoors, and environmental science.
You must get nervous before a competition, what do you do to relax?
AB: I surround myself with people who are calm, positive, and looking to have fun no matter the circumstances. In the start gate I take a few deep breaths, smile, think of my loved ones, and remember that competing is a privilege.
What is it like being on the podium?
AB: It’s excellent, especially when you get to spray your friends with beer!
What inspired you to start your own business?
I can’t say I was inspired, in the sun filtering through the clouds kind of way. I was burnt out and frustrated after two years of environmental consulting in the oil and gas industry. I’d had enough of the long hours and sometimes menial and unsatisfying work. I was willing to gamble on a new arrangement. My top priority was work life balance. I love science and the challenges of land management, but if I don’t have the time to be out in nature, on that land, work quickly loses its appeal. In 2010, about a year after quitting the consulting gig, I was working seasonally- science in the summer and skiing in the winter. Near the end of the season my boss suggested I write a proposal for a water quality project. A local non-profit was looking for a water quality specialist to complete a data analysis and use the information to identify priority areas for water quality improvemets. Since I’d planned to work part tie and ski bum that winter, the project was a great fit. I was nervous to get started with the proposal, but realized I had nothing to lose, and if things came together well, I’d really have the flexibility to balance work, play and life throughout the year. My proposal beat out proposals from four established firms and my business was born. I’ve stayed busy for the past five years through referrals and word-of-mouth. Although running a business can feel a bit precarious at times, I have the work life balance that I need.
Who has influenced you the most in your life?
AB: My parents. My appreciation grows for them each year. They each have serious careers and poured all of their energy and resources into raising three kids. They worked hard and didn’t allow us any shortcuts, which created confidence, independence, and a big work ethic in each of us. I don’t know where they found the motivation to make our childhoods so outstanding. But I’m enterally grateful that they did.
Best piece of advice you have received? From who?
AB: My Dad always says to “get it in writing.” He’s referring to business deals and serious stuff. But I’ve always found it to be a great way to hold myself accountable- whether it’s goals in the gym or travel planning. Putting it on paper has power, you’ve just made those dreams a little more real.
AB: “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” –Edward Abbey