"When you're driving a team of horses, you don't drop the reins, walk off and let them keep going."
- Mammoth Mountain Founder, Dave McCoy
Watching Kristen Robinson in action is very much like watching a horse wrangler managing her charges. Don't laugh. I'm serious.
Consider her performance last week at the Whistler Film Festival. I'm not quite sure what her title there was - PR director, event coordinator, talent arranger, sergeant major in charge of all things media - but whatever it was, she was front-and-centre everywhere. A human perpetual motion machine. A spinning event dervish.
And it wasn't always fun. She was the hammer in the velvet glove. The tough-love mom keeping her kids in line. Yet she did it all with equal amounts of poise and grace.
Whether it was exhorting her behind-the-scenes media team to bigger and ever-better event reporting, or subtly supervising Ski Bums' enfants terribles Johnny Thrash and Troy Junger at public events, or making sure the Celebrity Ski Challenge was well attended by film stars and Whistler locals alike (and feeling good about their attendance), the ever-smiling Robinson never seemed to lose her cool.
"Just a sec," she would calmly tell a frantic VIP between the interminable calls on her cell phone. "I'll get to your problem next." And sure enough, whatever the issue they were suffering through, Robinson would somehow find a way to alleviate it.
"It's all part of the job," she told me between crises. "If you don't like dealing with people, this isn't the kind of work for you..."
It's only when you looked closely - I mean really, really closely - that you could tell the enormous toll an event like the film festival extorted from her. By the end of the weekend, she looked done-in. Dark circles wavered under her eyes; a skein of worry-wrinkles slouched across her forehead. Though a smile was still painted across her face, it looked stretched a bit. Just a touch artificial. After all, she's not a kid anymore...
"That's true," admits the fortysomething with a tired sigh. "But it's the only way I know how to manage this kind of a job. There's no halfway here. You have to be 'on' from start to finish."
And maybe - just maybe - that's the key to Kristen's long string of event-management successes. That's also why she couldn't stay in Toronto - in a prestigious job with a great future - when she found out that Whistler had landed the 2010 Games. "I knew it the moment the winning bid was announced," she says with a half-embarrassed grin. "It wasn't a rational decision. I just knew in my heart that I had to be here."