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Kern Rolls Passion Into Pastimes

By Tom Horrocks
May, 20 2021
A passionate outdoor enthusiast, Julia Kern has found a unique way to mix her degree from Dartmouth, her day job as a professional cross country skier, and all of her outdoor adventures into serving as an athlete ambassador and team member for Pastimes.

Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team member Julia Kern is always game for sharing her outdoor passions. And now she has an app for that!

Kern has found a unique way to mix her studies toward a degree from Dartmouth in economics, with a minor in human-centered design, her day job as a professional cross country skier, and all of her outdoor adventures into serving as an athlete ambassador and team member for Pastimes - an app that connects like-minded outdoor enthusiasts for activities and adventures.

“It was started by a few climbers out of Salt Lake City,” Kern said. “They would climb in the gym all the time and see people post their phone numbers on the wall.

A passionate outdoor enthusiast herself, when not skiing or roller skiing, Kern is usually mountain biking, climbing, surfing, paddling or backcountry skiing. So when she was introduced to Pastimes by Phillip Belena, a cross country ski fan who lives in New York City and a former digital consultant for a Craftsbury Outdoor Center, her initial involvement was to “do some user testing on their prototype.” But, “one thing led to another, and I was really passionate about what the app is trying to achieve and wanted to get more involved,” she said. 

During the fall 2020 semester (she graduates in June), Kern jumped into some mobile design work at the Digital Applied Learning and Innovation Lab at Dartmouth, and that led to her taking on multiple roles with Pastimes, including working throughout the past World Cup season during her downtime.

The balance (between racing, resting, and training) was actually not that foreign to me because I've done so much school in the past few years,” she said. “It is actually something that I thrive on. I like having other things going on.
 And this job is a remote job, and it's flexible on my own time.
 So it was the perfect thing for me to stay balanced this last year and have something else to occupy my mind when I wasn’t training and racing.

The biggest challenge she faced all winter was the eight-hour time difference between the Central European Time Zone and the Mountain Time Zone, where the Pastimes headquarters are located in Salt Lake City. “That's probably the biggest challenge when we're in Europe. It's really hard to connect with people with that big-time change,” she said. But that hasn’t stopped the app’s evolution. Following a winter of user feedback, Pastimes is about to release a design update that will make it even easier for outdoor enthusiasts to connect and share their passion. 

“We've seen the most users engage in biking, hiking, backcountry skiing, and climbing so far,” Kern said. “
But, we've had so many requests for different sports, and the list keeps growing.
 The app has changed so much, so quickly, because we're constantly listening and improving based on what users have to say.

“It's been cool working with a team that is so passionate about helping make the outdoors accessible to all, putting the user first, and hearing people's feedback, and acting on it,” she said. “Our goals are big. The need is there and it's just a matter of keeping it free to users and making it sustainable on the business side.
 I think it has a lot of potential.

Pastimes is available on both the App Store and Google Play. Want to know what Julia is up to? Follow her on Instagram!