Snowmaking Shift Supervisor, Sugarbush, Vt.; Head of snowmaking,
Doug Fichera received not one, but two separate nominations, one of which came from a crewmember impressed with his leadership in the 2012-13 season. Having grown up in his family’s business, Black Mountain, in Jackson, N.H., he started snowmaking at just eight years old. Today, he juggles a full-time school schedule with supervising a snowmaking crew of up to eight people at Sugarbush (plus grooming) four nights a week. Summers and vacations find him fine-tuning Black Mountain’s snowmaking infrastructure and operations. If working insane hours and wearing many hats are prerequisites for success in the resort industry—of course they are!—we’re betting Douglas has a bright future indeed.
Doug was my shift leader for the 2012-2013 snowmaking season. He demonstrates high levels of leadership and a great sense of knowledge when it comes to snowmaking. He is great at analyzing problems and coming up with the best solution to fix it. Doug is very versatile when it comes to working at a ski area. He can do anything from make quality snow, to hop in a groomer and lay some of the best corduroy in the area. I nominate Doug Fichera because he is a leader and deserves recognition.
—Tyler Bates, snowmaker, Sugarbush Resort
Tell me about the art of snowmaking: what do you love about it? What gets you out of bed in the morning (er, night)?
Snowmaking is my art form; it’s how I release my energy. It is my one true passion in life, and I enjoy it more than anything. However, it isn’t just the operation of it. It’s the process, the engineering and the constant pursuit of higher efficiency due to sky-high energy costs. An old friend of mine from a neighboring ski area used to say, “If you don’t run your snowmaking operation at 110 percent all the time, don’t run it at all.” This has been a guideline for me since I was a kid. The expenses involved coupled with the volatility and seasonal factors of the business make this vital.
What are the greatest challenges you face in your role right now and how do you address them?
The biggest challenge for me so far has been juggling school and work. I usually work around 50 hours per week during the winter months, plus attend college full time. Often, sleep gets put on the backburner. Also, my young age, coupled with my full-time student status and high ambition, make it hard to compete with those who are older, have more time and more flexibility—they are often skeptical of my ability. I address these challenges by working as hard as I possibly can and constantly push myself to the limit.
What are the critical skills a snowmaker needs these days? How have you worked to learn these skills yourself?
In today’s snowmaking operations, those who work within it need to be passionate, diligent and relentless in their efforts. It isn’t like it used to be. Energy costs are through the roof and every crystal counts. I’ve seen it time and time again—there are those who love what they do, and those who don’t. The ones that do excel, learn, and come back for more. I’ve learned these skills at my family's operation first-hand and by watching people come and go for different reasons over the years.
Do you have any advice for future 10’ers in the snowmaking and grooming field:
Work hard and be diligent. I’ve seen so many passionate people with good skill sets become frustrated with the seasonal aspect of the industry and give it up. Do what you love: it’s so important.