Meet Katie Ertl: near lifetime local, former TV and movie personality, and passionate skier. Her life may be as good as your vacation (as proclaimed on a local bumper sticker), but, as managing director of the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen Snowmass, Ertl is focused on making sure the opposite is true, too.

“It isn’t just a ski or snowboard lesson,” says Ertl, who is in her 12th season in the position and 30th year with Aspen Skiing Company. “We’re helping to create and facilitate experiences with our guests. Our goal is to help them get better at skiing or riding, but also help them feel like part of a community.”

Ertl is as enthusiastic about her job as she is about the local lifestyle, which has kept her from leaving for the past 45 years. But it wasn’t always that way. Growing up bashing gates with Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, she once told her twin sister, Megan Harvey, to shoot her if she ever became a ski instructor.

Four years later, she started teaching to put herself through college — and the rest is very interesting history. Ertl’s on-mountain prowess earned her gigs giving video ski tips on the TV show “Chevy Ski World” and ripping Aspen Mountain as the stunt double for Bryce Kellogg in the iconic ski flick Aspen Extreme. Her racing background served her well, too — she and partner Kate McBride placed fourth overall in the 1993 24 Hours of Aspen ski race (among 11 men’s teams and two women’s teams).

Aspen Extreme movie poster
Aspen Extreme movie poster

Meanwhile, it didn’t take her long to figure out that she really did love teaching, so much so that she became a ski race coach in the Southern Hemisphere while continuing to teach skiing during Aspen’s winters. She became a PSIA trainer and examiner and was selected to the PSIA’s National Education Team for eight years, then became the first woman hired as teams manager for the group. At home, Ertl managed Aspen Highlands’ ski and snowboard school for six years before being promoted to her current position overseeing the entire Aspen Snowmass program.

One of the highest-ranked women in Aspen Skiing Company, Ertl knows she’s shattered a few glass ceilings in her career, and she wants to be a mentor for other women striving for the very male-dominated higher echelons of the industry. But, she says, “I feel like I was able to get here because I didn’t blow that conversation out of proportion. It’s an interesting balance, getting a job with your competencies and your skills, but knowing that you’re doing something that would be great for women that are following you.”

At the heart of all, though, is the deep and meaningful passion for skiing that Ertl developed living in Aspen Snowmass.

“I don’t know if there are words to describe how much I love to ski,” she says. “There’s such a freedom available when you get out there. You’re sliding down a mountain on skis, you’re in control, the wind’s blowing past you, and there’s different turns every time — it’s insane what an awesome experience skiing is. And we have this opportunity for lifelong learning that skiing offers. Every day I go out, I have something I can work on: It can be a pole plant, or linking 20 bump turns together instead of just 10. And I love sharing it, I love the smiles on people’s faces, the feeling they get when they’re excited about it. And I’ve made a life of it! That’s how much I love skiing.”

About the Author

Catherine Lutz is a freelance writer and editor who is lucky enough to have Aspen Snowmass and its amazing lifestyle offerings as her usual subject matter. Even better, she gets to enjoy the unparalleled skiing, recreation, and culture of the area, as well as raise two children here.