Q&A with Sarah Devlin, Director of Communications

Sunday River’s new Director of Communications has more than 15 years’ experience writing, editing, and relating to the public (if you will). A native of coastal Mass and a Mainer by choice (and marriage), she’s worked extensively in the marina, boatbuilding, and ski industries. After a brief hiatus, she’s returned to Sunday River with her exceptional taste in après bourbon and zero intention of tallying on-hill days. As with glimmers of marketing brilliance and ridiculous one-liners on the third floor of South Ridge, they’ll simply be too numerous to count.

Welcome back! What did you do at Sunday River in the past?

I worked as a Communications Coordinator. I started in 2008 and worked a season, then worked freelance for Sunday River for a season, writing Sunday River This Week [the resort paper, now called Sunday River This Winter, found in various locations at the resort and in the Bethel community], and then I came back as the Coordinator for [another three years].

Where are you originally from?

I am from Peabody, Massachusetts.

How did you end up at Sunday River?

Interestingly enough, I used to work at Sugarloaf back in… let’s just say, “a long time ago.” I had multiple jobs at Sugarloaf when I was in college [at the University of Maine]. My husband and I rented a place at Sugarloaf back in ’06 and decided we wanted to spend our winters skiing. So, Peter [who now works in Human Resources] said, “I’ll get a job at Sugarloaf!” He knew Dana [Bullen, Sunday River’s General Manager], so he actually ended up working at Perfect Turn at Sunday River. I moved up here for a year with him and was bored out of my mind because I didn’t know the community and, since I worked from home, I wasn’t meeting people. I decided the following year to start working here. I saw there was a new Director of Communications—my predecessor Darcy Morse—and she was looking for a Communications Coordinator. I jumped in immediately.

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Sarah (far right) with fellow colleagues competing in Sunday River’s Locals Challenge

Tell us about your experience elsewhere.

Well, my first job in PR, I worked for a small, small PR group in Portland in, I think, ’97. All I did for them was write press releases and edit a lot of materials for a couple of years. Then I took a job as an editor for seven years for a magazine before getting back into marketing and PR.

Which magazine?

Professional Boat Builder. It’s the trade sister [publication] to WoodenBoat magazine in Brooklin, Maine. I worked there for about seven years and left that to work for an online training program called EMarineTraining—it doesn’t exist anymore. For that, I did all of the marketing and PR, as well as all of the start-up stuff and the development of the program. From there, I became a PR consultant for a group down in Rhode Island and did a lot of work for American Boat Builders and Repairers Association (ABBRA), Association of Marina Industries (AMI), International Marina & Boatyard Conference (IMBC), a little bit with Sail America, and then I came over to Sunday River.

How does it feel to be the new face of Sunday River?

[Laughs.] Like I’m in a bubble! No, I don’t know yet. No one knows what I look like yet. But I will say that I love working with media and answering questions about the resort, because I like the resort and what it has to offer. I think that it’s a really, really good ski resort. We have great snowmaking, we have great trails, it’s constantly growing, and it’s a great group of people.

One of my favorite parts of the job and one of the reasons I wanted to do it is the media interaction—answering whatever questions [people are] asking. For instance, today, I got a query about something Sunday River doesn’t offer but I knew someone local offered it. It was nice to reach out to people in the area and push the media [toward] the community while building relationships with press and media. I like that aspect of it. Building relationships with various members of the press and with the surrounding community. I think that’s a lot of fun.

Sarah (far right) skiing in weekly video shoot.
Sarah (far right) skiing in weekly video shoot.

How many ski days do you hope to rack up this season?

I don’t count! I never count. I’d like to ski every day if I can. [I only count when] I think about it in terms of how much I would paid for a season pass before I started working here, like, ‘Oh, I paid 10 dollars per day. That’s a pretty good deal!’

I think skiing 13 or 14 times will offset the cost of a New England Gold Pass.

So 13 ski days is great! Especially considering that some people hit 100. It’s totally worth the money for a pass if you think you’ll ski most weekends and holidays over the winter season. If I didn’t work here, I’d also consider a Frequent Skier Card. And, yes, I’d probably count my ski days.

SunRiv1Which is your favorite trail here?

Heh. I get in so much trouble for saying this, but when it’s open and not being used for competitions, I love Monday Mourning. I really do.

Why?

Consistent pitch and the snow is always tremendous… Having said that, I like to bring beginners over to Moonstruck. Moonstruck is great for people who are new to skiing and like to feel challenged—but it’s not really too challenging. Personally, I’m a Risky Business in the morning gal. Vortex, too—I love Vortex.

Do you ski glades?

Not really. I’m not a strong glade skier at all. My husband Peter loves to make me go into the one where you jump over the snowmaking pipe—Flying Monkey. I love Flying Monkey because for me, it’s such a challenging trail and my husband always insists I drop in there. It’s fun because I’m usually with him when I’m skiing it and he’s a fun person to ski with.

I also love dropping into the trees when I’m skiing with Caroline [Ochtera, Director of Events & Competitions]. She’s an aggressive skier and watching her tackle the trees and bumps with her ponytail flipping behind her head is just pure beauty. It’s also fun to see her take a spill because she recovers quickly, but still laughs. Another spectacular fall came from Amy [Forbes, Sunday River’s Financial Analyst]. We were out on a shoot and we made her pretend she was skiing Three Mile like it had a serious pitch so she was way over-skiing it. She spilled hard. On Three Mile. Complete yard sale. I think we have a picture of that somewhere. Who does that?

I should probably stop talking about people falling. For the record, I’ve had my fair share of good spills, but I don’t ski like these guys so my falls are sort of… sad trombone.

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Notice Nora’s reaction to Amy’s fall in top left. Priceless.

What do you love about working here?

The people. I like the team that I work with. I like the collaborative level of creativity that happens. I love the back and forth and the ridiculousness that happens, because people say and do the most ridiculous things in the [Marketing] Department. And it’s really fun to hone our message based on a random conversation that we’re having in the office or just sitting around Camp, like we are now.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge in your new role?

One of the challenges is that having worked here for so long, people have a set notion of who I am and how I work, and I have to break some of those preconceptions. Another challenge is moving here full time. I’m curious to see what it’s like here in the summer. I’ve never lived here year-round, but the spring and summer seasons are growing so fast here at Sunday River. I’m looking forward to being here for that.

When did you learn to ski?

Well, I worked at a ski resort when I was 19. I wasn’t a strong skier and I didn’t really, really learn how to ski until I came here, around 2007. My husband’s been skiing since he was 4 and he has no memories of learning or fear of the mountain, which is my biggest challenge, learning to ski as an adult: knowing what it feels like to break bones. And I’d picked up nasty habits that I had to break when I really started skiing. A good coach for me has been [Digital Marketing Manager] Shelley Bowen. And my friend Tony Cox. He was a coach at Jackson Hole for years and would follow me down the mountain, tight on my back tips, and scream at me to turn… he scared the daylights out of me, more than falling, which helped me.

The whole reason I started skiing was actually because I hated winter so much. I learned to SCUBA dive because I was afraid of water. [Laughs.] I hated winter, so I learned to ski.

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What are you most looking forward to this season?

Skiing! Sorry, that’s such an obvious answer. Well, skiing. And the video shoots. I’m looking forward to working with this team again. I missed it last year!

Anything else that we should know about you?

[Sips bourbon.] My favorite bourbon is Maker’s Mark. I’ve always been a bourbon drinker.

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