Name: Amy Alton Age: 44
Lives in: Pittsfield, Vt.
Occupation: Founder, M.E.T. Consulting, a talent acquisition service for businesses in Vermont and nationwide.
Family: Covenant partner/husband Vaughn Micciche
Primary sports: Downhill and cross-country mountain biking
Riding with Amy Alton on the downhill trails at Killington Resort’s bike park is like going on a roller coaster ride with stand-up comedian/therapist: it’s equal parts fun, thrills and laughter. The two-hour, Friday Divas of Dirt rides boost both your riding and your approach to life.
“Your knees need to be wide, like a cowgirl,” Alton says we dismount and get ready for another ride up Snowshed lift. She then drops her butt, spreads her legs and bounces up and down swinging one arm above her in a yee-haw rodeo stance. “And I mean sluuuuuttttty cowgirl!” Alton calls out, addressing a group of women riders who range from a retired schoolteacher who recently moved to Killington to a pro
rider who came up from Pennsylvania for Alton’s July weekend downhill camp.
Alton is constantly moving, gesticulating, wisecracking and dishing out profound bits of bike wisdom that double as life lessons: “You need to just let your fear go,” “Don’t look at the obstacles, look where you want to go.” And she often finishes each piece of advice with a deep breath and a “Namaste.”
Alton, who worked for the Department of Defense for many years, is a force to contend with. Divas of Dirt rides are Friday afternoons, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., on August 9 and 23, and 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on September 6 and 20 and October 4. The rides are free with a valid park pass and discounted park passes and $29 downhill bike rentals are available.
What brought you to Killington?
As part of our “Operation Happiness,” my dude and I made a deliberate choice to make Vermont home, moving from the D.C.-Baltimore area at the end of 2015… you know, just in time for that ‘no snow’ winter.
After a quick layover with a good buddy in Ludlow, I became affiliated with Killington Bike Park in 2016 and we started looking for a place to store our fleet of bikes, off-roading and outdoor gear, numerous tools, race car parts and tires, and then maybe a 20’x20’ place to lay our heads. Thanks to Craigslist we found the only place in the area that had a garage large enough to store all we had. Little did I know that this glacial valley in the Green Mountains would be my Mecca. It’s a fantastic place called Pittsfield, it warms my soul and has high-speed fiber optic internet. Hell yes!
How did you start racing mountain bikes?
I was lured into the pain cave by my dude, Vaughn, who signed me up for a mountain bike race in 2012. It just happened to be at the UCI World Cup in Windham, N.Y. Seriously! I had just gotten my first full-suspension mountain bike in 2011 and found myself signed up for a cross country race on a World Cup course.
While pre-riding the course, on the third steep pitch—which I had no business climbing—I thought my heart was going to jump out of my skin and hit me in the face.
But at that moment I had an epiphany—it may have just been a severe lack of oxygen to my brain but I thought: if I spent eight hours on my bike training instead of sitting behind a computer screen or at meetings, I could become a pro mountain biker. At my second race ever, I qualified for nationals.
What was your best finish?
It’s hard to say what’s ‘best’. Each race and result have meaning to me. I’ve won Nationals twice and also won pro races across multiple disciplines. I guess I’d have to say my first legit Pro win which was an Eastern States Cup Enduro (a 5-stage race) in 2015 in Pennsylvania. That was by far the most impactful because it was maybe my tenth race ever. I proved to myself with that win that I was at the elite racing level; that if I focused and remained disciplined—trained properly, stayed strong, ate right, kept my bike dialed, but mainly could keep the rubber side down, I could hit the top step of a podium holding a check.
What sports did you do growing up?
I grew up in Cleveland, where there are no mountains and team sports reigned supreme. I learned how to ride a bike, like most, in a cul de sac but mainly played all those team sports like basketball, softball, etc. I also grew up riding and showing horses. I was invited as a youth rider to train quarter and paint horses at a ranch in Texas when I was sixteen and that ended up having a profound influence on me. I knew then that Cleveland was not where I was going to stay. The cool thing though is I returned to Ohio, bought and trained a horse, and sold it to buy my first car.
How did you start working for the Department of Defense?
I was working for an international development non-profit in D.C., following grad school at Duke. While managing some international project work for a USAID/Coca-Cola Initiative as well as facilitating a regional Chesapeake Bay partnership, I was recruited for a state legislative and regulatory affairs program management lead position for the Army, and based at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
What did you do at DoD?
Within DoD, I was a Department of Army Civilian, serving as one of the ten Regional Environmental and Government Affairs Coordinators across the U.S. It was a pretty impressive gig on paper and, truthfully, in reality—when the bureaucracy didn’t get in the way. I had responsibility for environmental and energy policy at Army assets across the mid-Atlantic region (Pa. to Va.) which was about 20 installations and over 300,000 acres. It took a great deal of courage but after several years I left that job to go on Operation Happiness and mountain biking played a major role transitioning me to a new home and professional life.
What made you fall in love with mountain biking?
I fell head over heels in love with the flow of being in nature focused on nothing but the terrain … no ‘to do’ lists going off in my head or other unnecessary obsessive thoughts. I love too that mountain biking is a holistic sport: you need fitness, strength, focus and mental strength, technical prowess, and so on to really excel and I dig that. Plus, it unlocked a freedom of spirit that I’d never known before. It allowed me to waltz with my monkey mind and process things I couldn’t do verbally or sitting quietly without movement. I needed flow, and mountain biking gave that to me.
What does mountain biking do for you that other sports don’t?
I played team sports growing up including college basketball and never felt like I could excel the way I was able to in an individual sport like biking. Plus, biking is a sport that I can do for the rest of my life. I mean heck, if I had an enduro e-bike? I could rock that uphill and rip down some chill flow trail even at the age of 80. Amazing!
How do the trails at Killington compare with some of the top places you’ve ridden in other states?
I find Killington offers such a variety of trails, conditions, and elevation that Killington Bike Park rivals, if not beats, most other bike parks on the East Coast. The investment that Killington/POWDR has made in building out a fantastic progressive trail system is unparalleled.
You like flowy jump trails—Killington’s got ’em. You like old school technical rocky gnarly trails—Killington’s got ’em. You want great beginner learning trails—done. You want more than just one lift—Killington has three lifts that can take you all over the mountain on varying terrain and conditions including up to the peak at K-1. So much delicious dirt to explore!
What inspired you to start the Divas of Dirt program?
Bike parks and downhill mountain biking can be really intimidating ,especially if you go with someone better than you and they convince you to go down a trail that you do not have the skillset for or even interest in doing. That scenario is rubbish and happens all too often! So, I appreciated teaming up with Killington to offer an experience that would be welcoming and let women enjoy progressive terrain at their skill level.
Biking had done so much for me personally and I’m jazzed for the opportunity to encourage and inspire rockstar women of all backgrounds. Truthfully, I was hungry to ride with other like-minded women who were passionate about the sport, speed and dressing like 17-year-old boys with full face helmets … and then hitting happy hour!
What are you most proud of about that program?
I’m stoked that the Killington Divas of Dirt rides are four years in and going strong. The bi-weekly Friday group rides are wicked fun and still gaining momentum with 20-plus riders. Right now, I’m still riding high from the first-ever Divas Gravity (Downhill) Camp in July, which was a monster success. I pulled in a dream team of Pro riders to coach (huge thanks to Ali Zimmer, Ella Skalwold, Clarissa Finks) and we had an amazing group of women (ages 19-62) from across the East Coast come to Killington to enjoy a weekend filled with fun, thrills, and honing skills.
What are the 3 best tips you find help people the most when learning to ride downhill?
Three short phrases I use and share to help in the learning process at the Divas of Dirt group rides include: 1) “Heavy feet, light hands.” Downhill or all-mountain/enduro bikes are designed for weight to be disproportionately in the pedals coupled with a softer grip. By the way, no sitting in downhill. 2) “Get low and flow”—that is, lowering one’s center of gravity and getting off the brakes—even just momentarily—helps a lot. 3) “Look up and farther ahead!” Eyes on the prize baby, look at where you want to go … and for goodness sakes, not at the tree!
What is your business now, outside of mountain biking?
I started and run a multidisciplinary consulting business called M.E.T. Consulting, LLC. (chooseMET.com) Currently, we’re specializing in subscription-based talent acquisition. We strive to be effective professional match-makers in that we help connect the best-suited candidates and clients. M.E.T. Consulting has clientele across the U.S. but I’ve enjoyed building a book of business in Vermont, partnering with top-notch clients across diverse sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, outdoor retail, etc. I truly love what I do professionally!
How do you get people to come to Vermont for a job? What’s the best selling point?
In my opinion, Vermont is an easy sell as long as there’s a compelling job opportunity here for a candidate. Quality of life tops the list. To me, there are so many key selling points that folks are looking for these days like vibrant and safe communities, fresh air, almost non-existent traffic and limited commute times, abundant outdoor adventure possibilities, access to fresh local food and neighbors (regardless of political persuasion) who will help push you out of a snowbank. I could go on and on, Vermont is a fantastic place to live and work!