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John Rice, Sierra-at-Tahoe General Manager, 2001 SAMMY Winner

Where you were in your career when you won a SAMMY, and big moments since?
I was working for Booth Creek Ski Holdings in two capacities: as corporate director of human resources and general manager of Sierra-at-Tahoe. I was fortunate to hire Laura Moriarty to run HR, but continued on as an advisor, which allowed me to travel the country and spend time with the resort management teams, while still enjoying my role at home.

Best Day/Worst Day/Most Memorable in the business?
I have many “best days,” usually when I get news about the growth and promotion of one of our past employees who have moved upward and onward in their career.

By far my best single day was celebrating three Olympic Gold Medal winners in a full-on Americana-style parade and party at Sierra, complete with the high school band and retro fire truck. Everyone in the South Tahoe community who had some affiliation with our Golden Girls (Jamie, Maddie, and Hannah) was there, sharing stories and cheering on our local champions.

Who was/is a memorable mentor?
John Wooden, the famed UCLA basketball coach. He taught me the path to competitive greatness starts with building blocks of principles and values. His definition of success helped me be a better leader, coach, team player, and father: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best of becoming the best that you are capable of becoming.” Success is not always winning—the victory lies in giving your best effort, focusing on continuous improvement, and being at your best when your best is needed.

I’m also a huge fan of the teachings of Steven Covey, who taught me the importance of trust, and how to lead with timeless principles to help others find their voice. He taught me to how to focus on a higher purpose and see my role as more of a vocation (teacher) than an occupation (leader), striving to enable others to find success in their careers and lives through caring leadership.

David Rowan was a mentor, as well. The guy wasn’t afraid to write about real issues.

The most memorable mentors for me were my mother and father, who taught me to work hard, keep the faith, love, and laugh a lot.

Did you ever almost leave the industry, and why? Why did you stay?
There are a few times I almost left, through the years I have faced different job offers that were compelling and could have changed my life (action sports retail, music, and leadership consulting, to name a few). The path I chose has allowed me to live, work, and raise a family in a beautiful community, stay close to my hobbies and passions in the world of outdoor recreation, and fulfill my purpose of teaching others. I have been able to travel to some amazing places and meet so many awesome people. I have no regrets!

If you could see yourself working outside of the ski business, what would you be doing?
As a consultant, I have been involved in the court/legal process as well as leadership and public speaking. I still dabble in music, but my repertoire is void of hip hop and house, so that limits my audience reach. My best times outside work were coaching my kids’ sports teams, where I learned the lessons on the field are the same on the snow and in the office. If I were to do something different it would have to include teaching or coaching in an outdoor recreational environment.

When was the last time you actually purchased a lift ticket?
Wow, I can’t remember…I am going to guess it was back in the mid-to-late 70s in Tahoe when I was going to college. My roommates at Chico State were all skiers and we had a few road trips back in the day.

Guilty pleasure?
I love a nice red paired with a dark chocolate whatever…

Where do you keep your SAMMY award?
My SAMMY sits in my office windowsill, and when the sun is just right a have a desk full of rainbow prisms, and it reminds me that we are supposed to play after every storm!

Thoughts on the future?
We need to not JUST advertise to Millennials and Gen X—we need to talk to everyone.

That being said, youth rules. Old tried and true practices are out the window. All these years of experience, and I have to run it through the kids. We can’t get too sedentary or caught in our old thinking. Resorts are pushing the same policies and thoughts, and it’s not working. Look at your own staff. Start understanding there. We must continue to evolve.

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