You may already feel like you know Halley O’Brien. You may have seen her on SKI Magazine’s Snow Report, or as a Lifestyle Reporter on The Weather Channel.
She’s fun, friendly, sorta silly and passionate about sharing her stoke for winter sports. You know you’d like her in person, just by watching her online.
Today, learn a bit more about Halley and how some good (nay, fantastic) luck got her from there to here.
BSM: You’re an adventurer, a writer, a traveller, a storyteller, a producer and an on-air sensation within the snowsports industry. Which of these roles is your favorite or best describes the “real” Halley O’Brien?
HO’B: I’m a first-born, fast-talking girl from New Jersey. My dad’s side of the family is 100% Irish while my mom’s side is all Italian. That’s a fiery combo! I grew up in a family full of personality in a part of the country where life moves fast, so I think my need to communicate (with my hands) and be a bit of a cut-up is in my DNA.
Honestly, I just love to make feel-good videos that make people laugh. It’s my way of relating to people from all over the place, especially when it has to do with snow sports.
I think you have to wear a lot of hats. Every person and brand should treat themselves like a media company and I believe all of those descriptive roles tend to work together in order to create content people enjoy.
BSM: Video is your primary medium, story telling is your art. How did you get started?
HO’B: During my senior year at Montclair State University, I went to an on-campus edition of The Price Is Right.
There I sat, in a room surrounded by hundreds of my excited, hopeful peers, all of us waiting to hear our name followed by the quintessential “COME ON DOWN!”
Let me make something clear – I don’t win raffles. In fact, the only time I’ve ever had my number called is at the deli counter. And even that’s a stretch.
But suddenly, much to my surprise, I heard those magic words. “Halley O’Brien, COME ON DOWN. You’re the next contestant on The Price Is Right!” (And shockingly, they pronounced my name correctly. It rhymes with Valley. A sign of good things to come for sure.)
I took the stage. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. I got a perfect $1.00 spin on the wheel. I made a conservative bid on the Showcase.
And I won.
They had to tell me because I had no idea. I must’ve passed out on my feet. My grand prize consisted of a brand new Macbook Pro, two state-of-the-art cameras and some funny money in the form of Amex Gift Cards.
I’ve always had a passion for snowboarding, and now I had the tools to do something with it. This would be my first foray into video production, so I watched YouTube tutorials to learn how to use editing software and found that I had settled into something good. I loved being able to create stories, entertain and connect to people through video.
BSM: You’ve taken this love of video and used it to promote snowsports. Why?
HO’B: It’s the best industry in the world (outside of maybe the bourbon or bacon industries). My first time snowboarding was magical. I was one of the lucky ones – everything about it clicked almost instantly. Sure, there were a few growing pains (specifically in the tailbone region) but overall, I just loved it. It became all I could read about, think about and dream about.
My passion for snow sports ignited fast while I was in college and I remember having an epiphany: I’m a communications major and about to graduate. I need to find a job that allows me to talk about something I actually like talking about – something I’m innately interested in and care about. If I do that, then the 40+ hours a week I spend working won’t feel like “work.” That, and the thought of only snowboarding on weekends and holidays terrified me.
After college, I lived in Vermont for a year as Snow Reporter for Mount Snow, which was one of the coolest jobs someone interested in skiing and snowboarding can have. It is hard work, but it allows you to be so creative and lets you connect with an audience that shares your passion.
After one season, I moved back to New Jersey and became the Public Relations Manager at Mountain Creek. Two years later, I founded Halley O’Brien Productions, packed up the Prius, and chased my manifest destiny to Boulder, Colorado where I currently live.
BSM: What makes your reporting different?
HO’B: There are a lot of snow reports out there. They touch upon surface conditions and base depths, trail counts and open acreage.
All of that information can be interesting to the hardcore skier and rider, but to the casual winter enthusiast, it may not resonate. Despite all of this frozen precipitation, the way we talk about winter can be rather… dry.
I think that’s how SKI Magazine’s The Snow Report came to be. The Snow Report blends stoke and sarcasm – it informs, entertains, and inspires more than just the hardcore to get outside and have fun.
BSM: One of your gigs is Lifestyle Correspondent for the Weather Channel. If you had to pick your favorite segment or assignment for TWC, what would it be?
HO’B: I’ve gotten to travel to some really cool places and attempt a lot of really fun and exciting activities for TWC, but I think my favorite segment is Good Winter / Bad Winter.
My parents and I were watching the news one night and they told me it was going to be a bad winter. In this case, bad meant a strong, cold, snowy winter. It made me laugh because I would consider that to be a great winter! I ran with the idea and showed the juxtaposition of what constitutes a good winter to people in New York City versus those in Vail, Colorado. It still makes me laugh and is applicable every season.
BSM: Some of your other clients include Whistler Blackcomb and the Boston Red Sox. Snowboarding and baseball: can you make a connection?
HO’B: Like snow sports, baseball has its set of core, passionate, knows-every-batting-average-ever fans. However, both sports are always looking for ways appeal to broader audiences. The Red Sox wanted to create TV and web content that would speak to women, casual fans, and younger viewers to help grow interest in baseball. They looked at what the ski industry was doing from a content and marketing standpoint and approached me. So I went to Boston and as it happens, the Red Sox won the World Series that season.
BSM: You’ve got some fun stats on your website, sharing that you’ve told 79,384 stories, traveled 104,045 miles and enjoyed 308 karaoke nights.
Do you have a favorite story? A favorite destination? How about a song?
HO’B: I think my favorite story of the last few months has to be the April Fools Day prank we put together for The Snow Report show. We produced a fake news story introducing the new Avalanche Cat program at Copper Mountain, which would roll out winter 2017 in an effort to be allergy-sensitive. Copper Mountain’s ski patrol played along and it was fantastic. We didn’t tell anyone it was a joke, so naturally, the comments were riddled with people calling us out while others believed it and were excited to pet the cats this winter.
Favorite trip? I’m an easy sell. I go where the food is. Our honeymoon was great for that. (I just got married this past June). We went to Italy and France – my first time to Europe. So much history, beautiful scenery, the best company (hi Joe J!) and the food. Oh my goodness. For those of you booking a trip to Italy in the near future… You should reconsider. They ran out of pizza. I ate it all.
But if we are talking winter, my favorite trip is Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia. The mountain is unparalleled, the people are incredibly nice and welcoming, and poutine is readily available.
Go-to song? Queen’s Somebody to Love.
BSM: Finally, your best advice for families just getting started in skiing or snowboarding?
HO’B: Take a lesson from an accredited ski or snowboard instructor. You wouldn’t let your friends give you a tattoo or cut your hair… why would you let them teach you how to ski?
The BSM Adds…
Thanks Halley! It’s such a pleasure getting to know you better. You may never win a raffle, but I’d say the Red Sox are darn lucky you came to Boston when you did.
Enjoy the winter!
More “Getting to Know” Posts:
- Ten Minutes with Ted Ligety, October 16, 2013.
- Ten Minutes with Jamie Anderson, November 8, 2013.
- Happy Mother’s Day! An Interview with Northstar GM (and BSM) Beth Howard, May 8, 2016.
- Every Day is a Powder Day for Open Snow’s Joel Gratz, August 24, 2015.
- Meet Heather Burke: (Brave) Ski Mom and Luxury Ski Writer, August 19, 2014.
- For Women Who Ski: An Interview with TheSkiDiva.com’s Wendy Clinch, September 14, 2015.
- Happy Mother’s Day: Shannon Bahrke Talks About Her Ski Mom, May 10, 2012.
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