Tamara Bryant has come a long way from her hometown of sunny Los Angeles in terms of both geography and her chosen sport: cross-country skiing.
Bryant, 56, serves as youth chair for the Madison Nordic Ski Club, or “MadNorSki,” where she oversees youth programming and coaches. Bryant organized youth programming during an especially busy year for Nordic skiing, caused in part by a COVID-19 pandemic-driven interest in finding ways to get outside. Bryant said interest in the sport increased so much this year the organization needed 36 coaches, double the usual number.
For Bryant, cross-country skiing is a family affair, with two of her three children — Nina Chosy, 17, and Cullen Chosy, 22 — and her husband, John Chosy, 55, heavily involved in the sport. Her oldest daughter, Madeline, 24, was involved in downhill skiing.
Both Nina and Cullen are skilled Nordic skiers, both having won state championships.
Bryant wasn’t the first in her family to take up cross-country skiing. It wasn’t until Cullen and Nina decided to pursue cross-country skiing with MadNorSki that Bryant got the Nordic skiing bug. After a couple years of her children’s involvement in the sport, Bryant started helping out as team manager and improving her own skiing, as well.
“You never know where your children are going to lead you, and I think it’s been fun now that both Cullen and Nina pursued Nordic skiing, and it’s really opened up a great activity for our family, so I think we’ll always be skiing,” Bryant said.
Besides skiing, Bryant, who comes from a teaching background, has kept busy home-schooling all three of her children, a schooling option she said paired well with the heavy traveling required for her family’s skiing schedule. Bryant’s home-schooling culminated in Madeline and Cullen attending Stanford University for graduate and undergraduate programs, while Nina will attend Bates College in the fall.
How did you get involved in Nordic skiing?
When (Cullen) would go on these races, we’d go to these beautiful trails up north, and I thought, “Well, I’m not going to just sit on the sidelines,” so my husband bought skis, I bought skis, so we just started doing it as a family. (My children) were getting a lot of instruction, so when we would be skiing, they would be giving me tips. Through MadNorSki I took a number of lessons, because MadNorSki members can take adult lessons for free, so I signed up for a couple of those, and just started skiing.
I started out classic skiing, and then a couple of years ago I thought, you know, I’m going to start skate skiing as well. So I bought a pair of skate skis and just kept working at it and just have really enjoyed the activity. We’ve all really taken to it. My husband, he does the Birkie now, and he’s like a marathon runner from the past, so this is right up his alley as well.
What do you enjoy most about the sport?
I think the connection to the outdoors. It gets me outside in the winter. To be outdoors in the fresh air in the sunlight, or even at practice in the evening, it’s really revitalizing.
I feel like it’s kind of like hiking in the woods, but it’s on skis. I’m a runner in the offseason, so I like running and I feel like it’s even better than running because it’s a little bit gentler on your joints.
How would you describe the cross-country ski scene in Madison?
With MadNorSki, there’s this nice community, it’s very supportive. For example, MadNorSki had to revamp a lot of its programs this year (due to) COVID. They decided to do mentorship, so they lined up all these new skiers with club members, and they either met virtually on Zoom and talked about skiing and showed videos. Some people even videotaped themselves and sent it to their mentor and then they gave them tips. Other mentor/mentee partners met in person and then had lessons, but it was just a way to make it safer during COVID, not to have a big group.
On our website we have trail conditions, so it definitely feels like a community. When we hosted the state sprints in mid-March, people who aren’t even connected to the team came out and volunteered for that.
How were snow conditions this winter?
It was great. What’s nice is that we started making snow at Elver (Park), so we were able to get on snow by mid-December. Once we started getting all the natural snow, boy, our groomer was super busy all season. It was on the Sunday of our state sprints in mid-March, that was the 100th day that we’d been skiing consistently on snow, so the snow loop extended our season, but we had definitely 12 weeks of consistent, natural snow, which is really unusual.
There were parts of Elver some our kids had never skied before, and it was so well-groomed. It was a fortunate year to have such great snow, because one of our concerns was if we don’t have natural snow, if we’re just on the snow loop with all these people that want to be out skiing, it’s going to be so crowded. And yet we had all the natural snow, we had great grooming at Elver, and we had great grooming at Odana and at McCarthy Park and Blue Mounds, so it spread everyone out. I think it was really a gift.
How has COVID-19 impacted Nordic skiing?
We really had to shut down all of our programs over the summer because everyone was trying to figure out what the situation was, but in the fall we kind of thought, let’s see what happens if we do a roller ski program. The youth committee started working with the city of Madison and the public health department to start brainstorming this plan: small pods (of skiers), everyone’s going to wear masks. We said we’ll have 10 (people) max: two coaches to the group and maybe eight skiers.
We bought 30 pairs of roller skis because we had this huge interest — we had all these kids with no cross-country (running), or their swimming was canceled, or they didn’t feel comfortable doing swimming. We saw that level in the fall, and so we bought all the roller skis and started our fall roller ski program and then again in winter our numbers went up 50%. I think over the winter we had 180 skiers in our youth programs, which is a lot. We hired a head coach, it was a team effort.
Did you see a surge in the popularity of the sport this year?
Yes, it was so amazing to see the natural snow and everyone out enjoying it. I would pull up to the Elver parking lot, and it was packed. Like on a weekend, it was crazy busy. The line for rentals would be wrapped around the building. People were just hungry for how to get equipment and to get out there skiing.
You notice that there’s probably more people out there, but you never felt like it was too many once you get out on the trail.
What advice do you have for people who want to try cross-country skiing?
I think just start on flat ground. Start slow, and that’s how you get fast. Do it with friends, get your buddies together and ski together. It’s more fun when you have other people to do it with.
Where’s your favorite place to ski?
I would have to say Elver — it’s where our team practices. You go up the hill and you get on top of this ridge, and there’s kind of a loop at the top, and there’s a point where you can ski to where when you look back, you can see the (state) Capitol at night when it’s lit up. The pod that I was coaching, we’d always go up there and stop and see if we could see the Capitol, and usually it was lit up, and it was just beautiful. There was this one night we took a picture and there was a full moon. It’s very magical.
Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces
Make no mistake about it: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left painful scars. But this year’s Top Workplaces project shows that many employees across the Madison region remain resiliently upbeat and are clinging to their workplace cultures, even from a distance.
Celebrate the best of Madison’s local employers and hear top executives explain how they create and maintain their cultures of growth.
This year’s winners run the gamut from dentistry to financial institutions and engineering to software developers and many more.
Survey feedback from employees is the sole basis for determining Top Workplaces. And that feedback serves as the ultimate test of how employers are responding in the age of COVID.
This year’s top-ranked large organization, with about 590 Madison-area employees, UW Credit Union has made diversity a priority during the past few years.
Exact Sciences, which rose from a small operation to a growing force in cancer diagnostics, thrives on a workplace culture fueled by innovation, teamwork and a common enemy.
Teamwork, problem-solving and helping agents find success — however they measure it — drive the workplace culture at First Weber Realtors.
Everyone wants their pre-pandemic lives back, but the crisis revealed the value of Summit Credit Union’s strong culture.
The ability of Kwik Trip employees to manage change was important to the convenience store chain’s success during the past year, as it expanded, rolled out new product offerings and dealt with COVID-19.
Here are the other top-ranked large firms in Top Workplaces 2021, rounding out a diverse mix of some of the area’s bigger employers and featuring a range of benefits that employees are able to tap into.
The Madison-based firm, which develops mass notification software to alert employees at schools, government office and businesses to emergency situations, strives to understand what drives high job satisfaction among its employees.
WPPI Energy president and CEO Mike Peters says communication is vital to the success of the Sun Prairie-based, member-owned operation that serves 51 local electric utilities with wholesale electric power supply, utility technologies and services.
Employees at Madison-based Ascendium Education Group have adopted the values and mission of the organization and appreciate the training that keeps them on the cutting edge.
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation values humility and customer service in a culture that has buy-in from CEO Steve Jacobson to the newe…
The disruption and chaos inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic tested the stability of First Choice Dental’s workplace culture.
The Top Workplaces winners among midsize companies reflect innovative styles to building corporate cultures that their employees embrace. Here’s a look at the other winners in the mid-size category:
When the pandemic arrived, Horizon Develop Build Manage president and CEO Dan Fitzgerald was certain of one thing: His employee culture, built purposefully and over time, would carry the company through all of the disruption.
When Jack Koziol started InfoSec Institute in Madison in 2004, he felt that workplace culture was nothing more than a corporate buzzword. Seventeen years later, he knows better.
In the past chaos-packed year, revenues dipped for the downtown advertising, design and digital agency — a result of the economic mess created by the pandemic — and the agency had its first layoffs in 20 years, while its staff was scattered to complete work remotely.
Being successful in providing customers with information technology solutions and services starts with a family-centered culture based on fun, gratitude and expertise at AE Business Solutions.
The Sun Prairie-based company, which specializes in servicing and supplying components for heavy-duty, off-highway equipment through 10 service centers in the U.S. and Canada, strives for transparency.
Although winners in the small-company category reflect a variety of missions, they share a common characteristic: They have built strong workplaces that provide stand-out benefits and flexibility. Here are the other winners in the small-company category:
Among this year’s Top Workplaces, employees singled out several companies for their extraordinary efforts in important phases of workplace life, ranging from leadership to transparency.
Businesses that suddenly found themselves in the midst of a pandemic that shattered conventional ways of working quickly discovered that a strong workplace culture was vital to surviving and thriving during the crisis.
We have no idea what the extent of these changes will be or whether this whole notion of “normal” will ever find itself back into our lives.
Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, spoke about what makes CUNA’s culture special.
Kathy Marsh, co-founder and vice chair of Musicnotes, shares her thoughts on the workplace culture at the Madison-based digital sheet music retailer.
Larry Barton, chief executive officer of Strang, talks about creating a strong culture at the Madison-based firm.
To become a Top Workplace, organizations instill in their team members a variety of values and approaches that keep their businesses thriving in the marketplace, their employees engaged and their communities strong.