Photo by Jana Bounds

Fourteen years of establishing roots

Jennie Cohen went from the equine business to the Big Sky life

Jennie Cohen has been working at Big Sky Landscaping Plant Center for only three weeks, but her knowledge of plants and flowers is impressive. Her ready smile and willingness to help show that she loves what she is doing. “I love flowers, they make any area more beautiful – put a smile on people’s faces,” she said. She does not have a favorite flower or plant – she loves them all. “I don’t know that I have a favorite anything – except for ice cream – mint chocolate chip,” she said.

Cohen grew up in the rural south with heat, humidity, ticks, chiggers, snakes and cockroaches – all of which she was happy to escape. She didn’t learn to ski until she was in her early 20s, but a lifelong hobby was formed in addition to the foundation of her career. Her roots in Big Sky have grown for nearly 14 years, ever since she and her husband moved out to Montana. They both started working for Moonlight in 2007. Now, she manages the ski school at the Madison Base Area. This last winter, she helped facilitate a women’s ski program by word of mouth advertising through the resort – with all female instructors. “It’s not just about improving your skiing, it’s the social aspect, the camaraderie, and the support. It was a great program,” she said.

“Being outdoors is important for me – and teaching is a passion of mine. Teaching a lifelong sport to somebody is rewarding – introducing them to it and seeing them grow.”

Life prior to Big Sky was slated to be far different. With a degree in equine business from the University of Louisville, most of her classes were focused on the racing industry. She grew up with horses and now has an Arabian named Awesome – he came with the name – who is a former endurance horse. He would do 25 mile endurance races. “Now he’s content to just go out and walk [in the backcountry],” she said. The Big Sky life allows breathers and moments of relaxation that would have been unknown to both of them if they had remained in the competitive horse racing world. Horses are hard work, Cohen noted, they do not take holidays.

Cohen, her husband and her nine year old son enjoy the mountain life and have what she calls “the usual” hobbies of running, hiking, mountain biking and skiing. They also incorporate volunteering into their busy lives. Around four years ago, her husband reached-out to help a newly formed nonprofit called Big Sky Bravery. “They bring out active duty special operations members to decompress between deployments,” she said. The big annual fundraiser occurs in September with a speaker and a tribute dinner. Ed and Kathy Hake as well as Big Sky Resort are huge supporters of it. Last fall, local businesses were asked if they would provide support for the tribute dinner “and they were all wonderful.”

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