Hat and apparel brand Ski Town All-Stars is a company that represents the very best parts of our community.
INTERVIEW • PADDY O’CONNELL | PHOTOS • courtesy of SKI TOWN ALL-STARS
We love our ski bum counterculture hero. A dedication to snow is admired, but what is revered is the ski bum’s ability to make life in the mountains work when it’s seemingly impossible. Housing shortages abound and career paths are as scarce as 50-cent wage increases. But ski bums will do anything to make the dream a reality. Chris Bivona is one such ski bum.
Bivona moved to Vail in the early 2010s. He worked as many jobs as he could in order to ski and make ends meet, but living a ski bum lifestyle on his own terms was still the end goal. He discovered that the ski community at large was in need of a grassroots hat and accessories brand that put fun first and foremost. Suddenly, Bivona had the keys to realizing his ski bum dream. In September of 2017, Bivona founded Ski Town All-Stars (STAS). The humble start to STAS reflected the ski bum ideals of the community it wished to serve. And today, STAS has exploded into the must-have lids of mountain town locals, industry veterans and professional skiers throughout the country. We sat down with Bivona for a look behind the brand, and how they execute their Work, Ski, Party lifestyle.
What and who is STAS?
STAS is a lifestyle brand for everyone out there chasing the ski town dream. STAS is you and I. STAS is that group of four that is at the front of the line every morning to get on the first gondola. STAS is that dude in New York City who only gets to ski one week a year. STAS is that chick who flies to a different resort town every other weekend chasing pow. Wearing the STAS logo means you appreciate that gorgeous white fluff and can’t wait for your next opportunity to slide on it.
Explain your motto “Work, Ski, Party.”
It’s an ode to the hustle of living in a ski town, where the cost of living is nearly as high as the benefits of living here. When I first moved [to Vail], I was a ski instructor, bartender, lacrosse coach, ski rep and “underground gardener.” Working two of those jobs in one day was a light day, but I hustled that hard because I could ski six days a week and I could party until the bars closed four nights a week. The other three nights I was behind the bar working. Work, Ski, Party is both a literal translation of what it means to be a local and a tip of our hat to everyone out there living the hustle.
What need were you filling when you created STAS?
There was a lack of an authentic brand designed and assembled in a ski town. I wanted to create a global brand, owned and operated by someone getting at least 100 days a year on snow and never missing a pow day. I wanted to create a culture around our brand, which is what we’re doing through our Instagram (@skitownallstars), predominantly.
What are STAS’s powder day office hours?
If there’s significant snowfall, we won’t be open. Period. If it snows, we’re skiing. We are chasing the ultimate work/life balance. We’ll send it to the moon in celebration, making sure all the homies are getting their “bar-is-closing” Smirnoff Ices before heading to bed.
Y’all are very dedicated to Ice-ing friends and colleagues. How did that start?
I’ve always loved the idea of getting ridiculous with different ways I can make my friends chug an Ice, so when we started gaining a following, I decided to bring it back. We love seeing our friends and followers constantly questing after the ultimate Ice-ing.
What does “living the dream” mean to you and why is it at the center of the STAS identity?
The cliché “my life is your vacation” rings true, but we also work our asses off to be able to live that dream. To me, “living the dream” is skiing for those powder days. It’s going to Utah to camp in the desert every shoulder season. This lifestyle is the center of our identity because we work to live, we don’t live to work. There’s no point in having the mountains in your backyard if you’re not enjoying them daily.
STAS has collaborated with brands like MSP, Red Bull, the U.S. Ski Team and GoPro, and partnered with pros like Chris Davenport and Mikaela Shiffrin. Why?
Having the ski community support is instrumental in the growth and stoke of the company. I was a ski rep for a while, and a ski tester as well. Through my industry connections, I was fortunate to connect with some pretty cool people early on. This led to big wins with people like Chris Davenport and Red Bull. Soon after that, our idols became our friends.
What are the ingredients in a successful business? How do you make sure STAS is living that?
I’d have to check with my accountant on whether we’re a “successful” business or not. I just try and take care of the brand and my employees. I keep our content authentic, I make sure my guys and gals aren’t struggling to pay their bills and I keep the same hustle I had when I was working five jobs at once.
How does philanthropy play into STAS’ identity?
We stand firmly behind giving back to the community that has blessed us. That’s why we invented the Ski Town Project. We’ve partnered with groups like the Lindsey Vonn Foundation and High Fives Foundation, as well as organizations like the U.S. Ski Team for its “Slamifest Destiny” Slalom Team. We’ve created hats to help raise money. We’ve tried to stoke people out by commemorating some of our friends who have tragically passed. Sam Coffey, Paul Cuthbertson and Bindu Pomeroy will have their legacies cemented in history on the hundreds of hats we’ve made to honor them, with the proceeds going to their scholarship funds.
When people think of STAS, what do you want them to think?
Hopefully, our message strikes home. We’ve received an overwhelming amount of support from some of our local companies as well as a sea of people online who encourage us to keep pushing. I’d like people to think of us as soldiers for the ski town cause. No bullshit, authentic, genuine ski bums who are out here working, skiing and, of course, partying.