Halley O’Brien will tell you that anyone who watches her produce the Snow Report might think she’s a little kooky, because she’s talking to the camera like she expects it to talk back. Some viewers probably do talk back, overcome by the sensation that they’re hanging at aprés with a ski buddy—a sarcastic and hilarious ski buddy who may or may not have a solid buzz going.
“Those are actual beers you see on the show,” she says. “They’re being consumed. I have bullet points of what I’ll hit upon and always make sure to get to them, but otherwise we keep it loose.”
For those who haven’t seen it, the Snow Report, presented by Boulder-based SKI Magazine, is a weekly winter YouTube video show featuring O’Brien’s desk-side rundown of major weather events (i.e: big dumps) at ski resorts across the globe, beer-fueled gear reviews, and tidbits of ski industry-related news ranging from adorable puppy sightings to shot-ski fails, all relayed with witty, deadpan commentary by the beanie-wearing host, plus occasional footage of said host whooping through powder on her snowboard. Increasingly popular, the show has received five Emmy nominations, and in August, O’Brien finally clinched victory.
“It’s so amazing,” O’Brien says of the Emmy. “I’m so appreciative of the outpouring of support from resorts, the ski industry, viewers of the show…It’s so humbling. It makes me so warm and fuzzy. It’s honestly a dream come true.”
The dream began simultaneously with O’Brien’s love for snowboarding. Growing up in New Jersey, O’Brien had never been to the slopes until she attended Montclair State University and made a trip to nearby Mountain Creek Resort.
“I didn’t grow up in a skiing or snowboarding family,” she says. “One day, I wanted to know why you guys get so excited about cold weather. I did all the things that you preach not to do when you try to get newcomers into the sport. I learned on hand-me-down gear that was too big for me, didn’t wear the right clothes. But I was hooked. I was all in. It completely transformed my path.”
O’Brien bought not one but two season passes, arranged an internship at Mountain Creek her senior year, and started contemplating how she could land a job in the ski industry. Before graduating college, she won an on-campus version of The Price is Right and scored a new MacBook Pro and some camera gear. She learned video editing via YouTube. The building blocks of her path began to materialize.
After a season of early morning wake-ups as a snow reporter at Vermont’s Mount Snow (during which she masterminded the area’s 60-second Mount Snow Minute video clips) and a couple of seasons in public relations at Mountain Creek, she headed West, following advice that Boulder would be a viable, year-round base within easy access to amazing turns at numerous resorts. After landing video contracts with Vail Resorts and the Weather Channel, she pitched the Snow Report concept to SKI.
“I’d been tooling around with this idea to create a late night-style show for skiing and snowboarding that talks about it, but not too much in a core way,” she says. “We take winter seriously, but not ourselves too seriously. I put a pilot show together. They loved it. We hit the ground running.”
Season five launches on October 29. But first, O’Brien and her husband are carving fresh tracks. They’re welcoming a son (due at the end of September) and purchasing a ski resort—Mountain Creek, the very place where O’Brien first strapped into a board. The couple may have relocated to New Jersey, but O’Brien is adamant that she’ll still spend plenty of days in Colorado and continue the Snow Report for a long time to come.
“If it were up to me, I’d become the Betty White of snows sports,” she says. “I’d be Betty White, drinking a fine bourbon, potentially knitting my own beanie. That would be amazing.”