08/2018

If Aspen had an “it” girl, it would be May Selby. She is the most familiar face any party-goer will see, and when you grab a coffee with her, it will feel as if everyone in the shop or walking past knows May. This isn’t by chance, or because she has nothing better to do than spend all of her time socializing. This is what May does for a living. As Aspen’s PR Maven, she is constantly networking, getting the scoop on what’s fresh and new in town, and figuring out the best way to tell the world about it. Over the past 18 years May has been talking about Aspen to the public in one way or another. She has held various columnist positions since 2000 with the local papers, she was the Director of Events and Social Media for Timbers Resorts for nine years, and most recently she holds the position of Director of Public Relations and Social Media at Aspen’s premier hotel, The Little Nell.

On top of her thriving career, May’s personal life is no less exciting and energetic. She is mom to young son Remy, wife to local restaurant owner Troy, a DJ for various events in town, and runs marathons in her spare time.

We recently caught up with May recently in between shindigs to find out how she does it all… and stays sane!
May Selby of Aspen, Colorado
May Selby of Aspen, Colorado

How did May Selby get started in the world of PR?

I’ve always been drawn to communications and loved connecting people. In high school, my mom would often say I "majored in friends." In college, I studied French with a minor in Art History. When I arrived in Aspen for “just one ski season” after graduating from CU Boulder, I kept honing in on a path towards Public Relations without really realizing it. I worked in event production, TV production, non-profit development, and luxury resort marketing, which eventually pointed towards public relations and social media — both areas that overlap and are effective ways of spreading news.
What did the career trajectory look like?

I envisioned one career that took a different direction with life experience. It started one summer in college when I worked for a friend of my parents’ who had set up shop with a travel agency. I planned trips centered around art history. As the wife of a doctor who traveled often, she had the opportunity to join him and while he was tied up at conferences during the day, she would visit museums and monuments and see major works of art. She then began a side business as a travel agent planning trips for people with an interest in art. From then on I had this in the back of my mind, I would do something similar. I majored in French, and when studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, I took studio art, painted en plein air, studied Paul Cezanne who was from there and took notes on all the places I traveled. I thought this would be a fulfilling and stimulating career, but didn't have a clear path how to get there.

By the time I graduated and moved to Aspen, I developed an interest in skiing and the alpine lifestyle and spent a couple of years here just enjoying myself. A friend and I then joined the Sister Cities association and participated in an exchange to Chamonix for a season. While there, we went on backcountry trips to huts (referred to as "les refuges" in French). When I returned to Aspen in the summer, I approached 10th Mountain Division Hut Association to learn more about the program and facilities here (which were far nicer and more like architectural works of art than in Europe) and began working for them in the office and supporting group trips in the field (for the senior center, grade schools, etc.), which was an incredible experience. I next entered the event world, working for Aspen Skiing Company overseeing all of the hundreds of volunteers for World Cup and 24 Hours of Aspen, then for X Games the first year it came to town. I then left to work for Aspen-based company American Adventure Productions on a TV show on the Outdoor Life Network for a year. And from there one great opportunity unfolded after another. My initial European tour guide plan changed though in the PR field I am a tour guide of a different type I'd say — helping introduce media and influencers to a road map of the Aspen lifestyle and The Little Nell.

May Selby at Art Crush
May Selby at Art Crush

What does your day-to-day look like at work?

The other day my colleague Carlton McCoy, Wine Director at The Little Nell, said something that resonates with my day to day, “Every morning, I wake up in the weeds.” I have lists going on my phone at all times with everything from big picture goals (land a cover story here) to minute details (send a photo collection to that publication and confirm that guest’s lunch plans). It’s busy, fast-paced, and each day presents a new opportunity to meet someone interesting and introduce them to fabulous happenings at The Little Nell. It’s gratifying to see when our efforts pay off in spades. A recent example is a journalist we hosted for our Wine Academy in the spring of 2017. His story on this deluxe program is featured in the current issue of Departures — American Express’ magazine for platinum cardholders — in a beautiful one-page feature - more than a year later. We’ve received numerous inquiries about the next edition and The Little Nell in general, which is a wonderful way to connect with potential guests.

How did you make the decision to make your life in Aspen?

When I was little I used to draw pictures of a place that looked a lot like the West End. I would place my friends in houses surrounding mine and include activities like biking and boating and picnicking. It's funny to think I live in a place that resembles my original vision from childhood – simple in concept, but with depth. We live in a townhouse in the east end of Aspen (what I’ve heard recently described as the “Design District,” because of the Aspen Art Museum, Boesky West Gallery and Aspen Design Room situated there) and a stone’s throw from so many little luxuries like parks, restaurants, friends’ houses, etc. But that wouldn’t be enough as that can be found in many places. I love Aspen for its sophistication, elegance, natural beauty, many visitors from the world over, and so much more.

I feel fortunate to love my jobs — pitching news about this special place through my role at The Little Nell, sharing stories about interesting people here through my weekly social column in The Aspen Times, and on the side, I DJ fairly frequently. I met my husband here, we have a young son and we love calling Aspen home. My husband owns a restaurant, 520 Grill, and our son knows more people than we do combined.

And I love having an airport so close and a culture and community that encourage traveling yet welcome you home time and again.

May Selby of Aspen, Colorado
May Selby of Aspen, Colorado

What are the best parts of living in Aspen?

This tight-knit community is like none other. The access to meeting people who are doing important work all over the world in every industry is fascinating to me and keeps me stimulated.

How do you balance all you have on your plate? Mom. Wife. “It Girl”.

According to my Fitbit results from 2017, I averaged less than 6 hours of sleep a night. That needs to change as it's crucial to get more rest to be on top of it with every task! I love being a night owl and an early bird, but it's hard to do both back to back.
Where does the energy come from?

I'm naturally wired though I do love coffee at Jour de Fete every day or every other day.
Tell me a little bit about your husband Troy and the restaurant, 520 Grill.

Troy is a talented chef who loves to cook. He works hard every day (as in seven days a week and sometimes 12 hours a day) and is impassioned about having his own business, employing a small army, keeping his wits about him at all times and can handle the rush during busy times during on- and off-season. He truly loves making people happy through a plate of food.

What do you enjoy in your down time?

I love to run — it's in my DNA. My favorite distance is the marathon — I've run 33 so far, will be 34 with this year’s Aspen Backcountry Marathon. And I have more on the books through the fall. I like to read — mostly biographies — and listen to podcasts like NPR's “How I Built This.” I love music and DJing for parties, special occasions, and at clubs here and there. I'm a Francophile and am drawn to practically anything/everything French. I love taking photos and covering the social scene here for the paper. I enjoy learning about wine and am exposed to so many regions through working at The Nell with its knowledgeable sommeliers and award winning program. I like to bike — road and mountain, not downhill — too dangerous. I love having a little kid here and bringing him up with so many colorful characters as friends and influences.

About the Author

Nicole Birkhold
Nicole Birkhold

NICOLE BIRKHOLD

With nothing but a pair of skis and a journalism degree from Michigan State University, Nicole headed west looking for mountains, snow, and someone to pay her to put words to paper. She found the writing gig in Freeskier Magazine for ten years, but needed to be closer to the mountains to she packed it up and came to Aspen where she still crafts words but with more time on the snow.

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