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Mountain Spy :: May 2018

Written by Dave Meeker

For this issue’s Mountain Spy, we asked a guest-service savvy resort staffer—Kimberly Meeker, the regular Spy’s better half—to mine through the last decade of calls and choose a few she thinks represent the best of the best. There are some curveballs, and some straight-up, typical guest inquiries included here, and all were handled really well by the resort staffer answering the phone.

We’ll return to the standard format for the July issue, so be ready: Mountain Spy may be giving you a call.

November 2008

THE QUESTION: I’M A LEGALLY BLIND SKIER AND RECENTLY GOT A SEEING-EYE MINIATURE HORSE. I WANTED TO MAKE SURE YOUR RESORT DIDN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT.

Mountain 1, CA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose guest services.
Answering phone: Megan. Sweet sounding.
SAM: Stated question
Staff: Oh, okay, that’s a good question. Let me see, I’m going to direct you over to Jane and she’ll be able to help you with that question. Hold on one second. Transferred to Jane. Super kind and patient.
SAM: Stated question
Staff: Um well, sure, we’ll make whatever accommodations you need. How would that work exactly, though, as I’m a little unfamiliar?
SAM: Well, very similar to a guide dog. He would walk with me to the ticket booth and lodge, wherever I went basically. And then my friend would stay with him while I went skiing.
Staff: Well, we would make any accommodations necessary and I’m assuming because it’s a seeing-eye animal then it’s exempt from any health codes. If you could just let me know when you’re coming we would be able to have everything in order so it wouldn’t be a surprise for our employees and a hassle to you. How big is he exactly?
SAM: Um, he’s about 30 inches high. So about the same size as a golden retriever.
Staff: Ohh, okay then.
SAM: Oh yeah, he’s not like a large pony or anything. He’s more like a dog.
Staff: All right. Well, um, is he housetrained? I guess that would be our biggest concern. It might be a problem if he decided to go in the lodge.
SAM: Ha ha, of course, that would turn some heads. He is housetrained though, yes. So he won’t go unless he tells me he needs to and with my friend there I’ll have more help.
Staff: Perfect, and of course we’re happy to have you come and ski with us, so why don’t I give you my direct line and cell phone number to call when you come. If you think of it, give me a call a day or two ahead, but if not, that’s fine and you can call me on your way. This way, I can make sure everything is in order for you.
SAM: Perfect, thanks so much. I really appreciate your help.
Staff: No problem, we look forward to seeing you this winter.

Rating: 9.5
Comment: Great attitude, super welcoming and made me feel comfortable. Big points for Jane.
Identity revealed: Sugar Bowl


January 2010

THE QUESTION: I’M PLANNING A FAMILY VACATION AND HAVE A 14-MONTH-OLD. WHAT KIND OF BABYSITTING SERVICES DO YOU PROVIDE?

MOUNTAIN 2, CO

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Automated machine. Hold time: 4 minutes. Music: Arabian Nights
Answering phone: Young female, very sweet sounding. “Hello, this is Amber, what’s your name please?”
SAM: Kate.
Staff: Hello. Kate, how are you today?
SAM: Good, thanks. How are you?
Staff: I’m greeeat, thanks for asking! Now, how can I help you today?
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um well, we do, in each of the villages there is a daycare center. They’re open all day for as long as the lifts are open. Let me get that information for you. Are you all coming out to area X or Y?
SAM: Y.
Staff: Okay, great, where are you staying in Y since there are actually two daycare centers?
SAM: I’m not sure yet. I needed to make this preliminary call to make sure babysitting was available.
Staff: Oh, of course, definitely need to make sure there’s care for the 14-month-old! Well, Y has A and B centers and it depends on where you’re staying and where you’d like to ski to determine which one is easier. Would you like the phone numbers of both of those?
SAM: That would be great, thanks. (Given contact info for both centers.)
Staff: Do you want to book anything today with me then?
SAM: Um, probably not yet, I just needed to make sure babysitting was available and then we’ll decide. Do you offer any babysitting at night?
Staff: Umm, let me look on our website and see what their hours are. Umm, it looks like those centers are only open until 4:30. But Kate, can I put you hold for just one second and I can double-check that for you?
SAM: Sure, thanks. (Hold time: 2 minutes.)
Staff: Soooo sorry that took so long! I talked with one of my supervisors and he said that the concierge wherever you’re staying would probably be able to help you more. Special Services does have night babysitting available, it’s just that neither of us can find that number at the moment. I even tried Googling it and I couldn’t find it. Ha, go figure. However, the concierge, though, wherever you plan to stay, will definitely be able to get in contact with Special Services. So you may just want to double-check that as you make your booking.
SAM: Great, thanks.
Staff: Oh, you’re very welcome, thanks for calling!

Rating: 9.5
Comment: Stellar facts and presentation. But because Mountain Spy is a tough grader, minus .5 for the lack of number.
Identity Revealed: Vail


May 2016

THE QUESTION: MY FIANCÉ AND I ARE NATURISTS. WOULD YOU BE OK HOSTING A SMALL, PRIVATE NUDIST WEDDING CEREMONY?

MOUNTAIN 3, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose weddings and sales.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Umm, that’s fun! Let’s see...
SAM: Yeah, and we understand it could make some guests uncomfortable, so we’re happy to be somewhere secluded on the mountain. We just love the mountains and would love to have our ceremony somewhere like your resort.
Staff: OK, yeah sure. So you know we don’t really do weddings here all the time. It kind of depends when you want to get married. Like, we can accommodate smaller weddings that aren’t in the summer or winter. So, like, most people want to get married in June, July, and August, but that’s tough for us because the areas we have that can host a typical wedding are areas that we use for our summer activities. In the, um, the fall and spring, like, how many people?
SAM: Small, maybe 20 people.
Staff: OK, so pretty small. And do you have a date yet?
SAM: We don’t. And we’re flexible. We’re really just trying to gauge venues right now. So if your schedule works better for fall and spring we would be totally open to that.
Staff: I’m just trying to think where we could do that. Because, like, I think it’s great, I just know a lot of guests who come here might not, because you know, some people have their old-fashioned ways. And it would just be the ceremony?
SAM: Yup.
Staff: OK, I’m just trying to figure out where we could host 20 people.
SAM: Sure, thanks. And if it’s something you can’t host, no worries.
Staff: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s pretty unlikely, but I’m just trying to think of the spot. We have a huge mountain, OK, and a lot of beautiful spots, so I’m sure we can find a place, but the problem is what if it rains? You know, like, we don’t have an actual wedding facility. So then there’s the X down the road from us who could probably do it, but it could be an expensive spot for just 20 people.
SAM: OK. No problem.
Staff: You know what, one place I would maybe check is the Y Inn.
SAM: OK.
Staff: Which is beautiful and private! And people do get married there. And there’s a really nice place I went to a wedding in Y town. Are you from Vermont?
SAM: Um, not really.
Staff: OK, sure. What’s your name?
SAM: Kate. And I can check on the inn you mentioned. That sounds nice. Especially if you don’t think the resort would be the best option.
Staff: I think it would be tough because I can’t really think of where to do it unless you want to put up a tent so we can guarantee enough privacy for people who might not appreciate what’s going on.
SAM: Of course. It’s not a big deal if you can’t do it so I appreciate your honesty.
Staff: Yeah, it just might be tough. But the other place I’m thinking of is the X Inn, which is a beautiful, secluded spot. They have a little pond, and a barn, and I believe they let people camp and have some hotel rooms. And I can’t imagine they would have a problem with this at all. But just, for us, I think it would be tough. I just always get back to “what if it rains?”
SAM: Sure, of course.
Staff: But now that I’m thinking about it, why does it matter if it rains? Not like your clothes are going to get wet! Ha ha ha.
SAM: Ha ha ha, exactly.
Staff: Right?!
SAM: Well, no worries. Let me check out the other two places you mentioned.
Staff: Yeah, they are both beautiful and have great websites, too. And you know, I can check with the resort again, but I would say probably not going to happen. And the nudist part is just a small part of it. It’s hard for us to do weddings, anyways.
SAM: No problem! I’ll call the other places. Thanks again.

Rating: 10
Comment: Personable, patient, and found other options. Nicely done, Smuggler’s Notch!

 

March 2014

QUESTION: DO YOU OFFER VALET PARKING AT YOUR RESORT?

MOUNTAIN 4, QC

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Do we offer valet parking? Um, no we don’t, but if that’s something you prefer we can arrange it for you.
SAM: Wow, thank you. I would hate to cause any extra work though. I’m just asking because some areas have valet and some have premium parking or at least a drop-off area for gear.
Staff: Yes, we do have the drop-off zone, but after that each person has to park their own car.
SAM: Right, everyone parks themselves. But if I wanted to have valet parking and would pay for it, of course, you said that special arrangement could be made?
Staff: Sure. Sure. Of course.
SAM: OK. Thank you. Then what I’ll do is give a call back the day before I come.
Staff: When are you planning to do that?
SAM: Most likely this weekend.
Staff: OK, good. I will be here. So ask for Pierre, Peter, at customer service and I will arrange that for you.
SAM: Fantastic, thank you so much!
Staff: No problem.

Rating: 10
Comment: Customer service at its finest!
Identify revealed: Le Massif


July 2010

THE QUESTION: CAN I CAMP AT YOUR RESORT THIS SUMMER?

MOUNTAIN 5, UT

First Contact: Young male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Umm, you know, I actually don’t know about that. Let me connect you over to mountain operations.
Transferred...
Answering phone: Female, nice, but really tired sounding.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, you know, I don’t know the answer to that. I think the answer is no, but let me find out. Can I call you back in a few minutes?
SAM: Sure thing. Two minutes later... she calls back.
Staff: It’s not in our use permit actually, and since we’re in a watershed for the whole valley we can’t let you camp on our mountain. There are some other really amazing sites, though, right down the road. There’s X and Y camping, and a lot of friends I have go there pretty frequently.
SAM: Okay. So even though you’re on Forest Service land I can’t camp because you’re part of the watershed?
Staff: Yeah, I mean, that’s technically the answer. It’s hard, we don’t really get this question very often. I can dig a little deeper for you if you want, but the problem is that because we’re a watershed and all of that snow and runoff is used for drinking water in the valley, where would you go to the bathroom while camping? (Touché.)
SAM: Great point, I totally agree. Well, maybe I’ll just check out those other campsites then. Thanks for calling me back!
Staff: Anytime, thanks for calling. Sorry I couldn’t be any more helpful.
Wait for it... she calls back 20 minutes later!
Staff: Hey, this is XX again from XX. I did some more investigating since the answer I gave you was still a little vague. And actually, yes, you can camp on our property! There are no rules against it! With it being a watershed you have to be at least 200 feet away from any water source. That’s the exact rule with any activity like camping in a watershed.
SAM: Awesome! Should I let someone know when I come up to camp?
Staff: I don’t think it matters. I’m standing next to the director of guest activities so let me ask them, hold on...Nope, you don’t need to tell anyone.
SAM: Sounds great, thank you so much for calling me back again. I look forward to camping up there!
Staff: Sounds good, we still have a bunch of snow so maybe give it a month or two. Have fun!

Rating: 10
Comment: Customer service that voluntarily calls you back, twice... that’s definitely a 10.
Identity Revealed: Snowbird


March 2017

THE QUESTION: I’M A DECENT SKIER, BUT I’VE NEVER SKIED POWDER BEFORE AND IT LOOKS AWESOME, BUT I HEAR IT’S DIFFERENT. WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

MOUNTAIN 6, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose operator.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: I can send you over to the ski school to see if they can help you out, if you like.
SAM: Sounds good. (transferred)
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: OK, um, can you hang on just one second?
SAM: Sure. (holding)
Answering phone (almost 3 minutes later): Male.
SAM: Stated question. (ugh)
Staff: Oh, um, well. First of all we have quite a number of trails that are groomed, as well, so you won’t have to be in all powder. As far as powder technique goes, outside of thinking of your skis as porpoises going up and down out of the water—and I know this is going sound like a sales pitch—really your best bet is to jump in an all-mountain clinic, or take a powder-specific private lesson. It’s much more involved than just a phone conversation. But, if you understand that the best advice I can give you is think about keeping your skis up towards the surface so there’s less resistance, and there are definitely physiological ways in which you’ll do that. And also start thinking about the base of your skis and not the edges. When you’re driving your car down the road and you see a pothole, you know where your tires are and you avoid the pothole with your tires, and you’re thinking about where your tires are going. When you’re skiing on packed terrain, you’re thinking about where your edges are going. In powder, you need to think more about where your base is.
SAM: Oh. That makes sense.
Staff: Yeah. So, depending on the width of your skis, it’s an area one to three inches in from where your edges are. If you try to tip them up on their edge like a racer would, or when you’re carving down groomers, your skis are gonna sink because you tipped them up on their edge and they’re not going to support you in the snow the way a snowshoe does, for instance. That being said, having just spoken with you on the phone and not seen how you ski or the skis that you’re on, or your body mechanics or anything like that, I can give you information that’s maybe one step better than what you’d read in a magazine about how to ski powder (heyooo!).
SAM: Great stuff. I’ve spoken to friends who say it’s awesome.
Staff: It is. It’s what most people who ski live for. There are excellent instructors at any mountain you go to who could help you with this. (He went on to provide some additional advice about types of exercises I could do to prepare for powder skiing, and some tips for the types of clinics to take. As well as tips for exact types of skis to try, which they offer as demos at this resort.)
SAM: Well, thanks so much for all the info. I really appreciate it.
Staff: Yeah, you’re welcome. Be sure to stop by if you come up, even if you don’t plan on taking a lesson.
SAM: For sure. Thanks again.

Rating: 9.5
Comment: I’m glad I took notes! Covered the gamut, from technique to equipment to lesson options. Minus a half point for the five minutes it took to finally connect with someone. But it was worth it.
Identity revealed: Jay Peak


January 2015

THE QUESTION: I'M PLANNING A VISIT TO YOUR MOUNTAIN AND NEED TO RENT MY GEAR, BUT HAVE A PHOBIA OF CROWDED SPACES. I'M NERVOUS ABOUT GOING THROUGH YOUR RENTAL SHOP. ANY TIPS FOR MAKING IT GO SMOOTHLY?

MOUNTAIN 7, CA

First Contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Sure! We have our call center who can make you an advanced reservation. As well, we do actually have a rental shop here in town that will deliver to you. It’s not actually affiliated with the mountain, but it is a service that exists if that is something you think will be easier for you. It’s called XYZ Rentals. Their website is www.xyzrentals.com.
SAM: Awesome, thanks! And so they just deliver to the house that I’d be staying at?
Staff: Yup! Also, if you are interested at all in staying with us here at the mountain, I can certainly transfer you over to the call center, and they can give you more of a rundown of what sort of help they can provide when it comes to renting equipment.
SAM: Thank you, but I’m not sure exactly which day I’m coming yet, unfortunately. But if I did want to do that, do they make the reservation ahead of time and I just pick it up or how does it work?
Staff: I believe that’s how it is, but they can give you a better run-down of what the options are, which is why I figured I can at least send you over there, kind of for a fact finding mission, if you’d like.
SAM: No worries. Maybe I’ll just call back when I know I’m coming or when I know what day I’m coming, and then talk to the call center and at the same time I can look up that rental company.
Staff: Perfect. Sure, yeah, and to call the call center directly it’s just 1-800-resortname, so that’s nice and easy to remember.
SAM: Awesome, thanks!

RATING: 10
Comment: detailed information, multiple options, lots of enthusiasm = top notch customer service.
Identity revealed: Mammoth.


November 2016

THE QUESTION: I’D LIKE TO BRING MY FAMILY THERE, BUT WE’VE NEVER BEEN TO A SKI AREA BEFORE, AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. WHAT’S THE PROCESS WHEN WE GET THERE?

MOUNTAIN 8, ID

Answering Phone: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Are you coming from out of state?
SAM: We’re going to be in the area, and this seems like a cool thing to do.
Staff: It’s definitely a cool thing to do. So, I’m in the lodging department, so I may not be intimately familiar with the full scope of the process, but I have done plenty of skiing, so I think I can help. Are you staying locally?
SAM: Yes, we are.
Staff: OK, great. So, starting with the basics of just getting here, you have a couple of options. If you’ve never been to a ski area and you’re not super up for driving in the snow, you have the option of taking a free bus that runs every 30 minutes from the base of the mountain. So you’d park down there and hop on the bus and it brings you up to the village area. It stops running at around 5:30, and since the ski day ends around 4, you have about an hour to get back down on the bus after you’re done skiing. If not, you’re welcome to drive up the mountain. It is mountain driving and it’s a windy road, and particularly during the winter you could be driving in snow. There is parking up here, one lot is a paid parking lot, which is closer to the village, the other is free and it’s a five or six minute walk to the village. But if you choose to take the bus, it drops you right off at the entrance to the village area. Once you get there, we have options for renting your gear—I assume that’s an important factor? (Without asking, he explains pricing by age range, what’s included in the rental package, and recommends renting helmets, using himself as an example of an experienced person who wears a helmet all the time.) Having never done it before, if you’re interested in doing lessons, this is a little out of my range, but I’d recommend doing that (goes on to explain the lesson options, times, what they include, what the lesson would cover, and pricing). Let’s see, for other info you’d like to know...there’s plenty of places here for food (explains dining options), so you’ll be able to eat well during your ski day.
SAM: Awesome.
Staff: Any other particular questions I can help with?
SAM: Is it pretty self-explanatory for where we need to go when we get up there?
Staff: Definitely, there’s lots of signage pointing you in the right direction. By the way, are you familiar with all the clothing attire you need for when you’re here, like snow pants, parkas, and all that?
SAM: I think we have some, but I need to check.
Staff: You’ll definitely want to have as much waterproof gear as you can, especially pants, because when first starting out you spend a fair amount of time on the snow (laughs). Having the wrong gear can be a detractor for people’s first experience, so you’d be miles ahead if you’re prepared with proper clothing.
SAM: That’s great to know. What’s your name again?
Staff: My name’s Jeff.
SAM: This has been very helpful, Jeff. Thank you.
Staff: Well, we look forward to having you up here! Trying a new sport is always fun. (Jeff then went on to describe the learning hill, and then gave a simple explanation of how trail ratings work.)

Score: 10+
Comment: I didn’t have to pry one piece of information from Jeff; he volunteered every bit that I needed. If our scoring went to 11, he’d get it. Thanks, Jeff.
Identity Revealed: Schweitzer Mountain Resort


September 2015

THE QUESTION: I MISSED THE EARLY SEASON PASS DEADLINE. I’VE BEEN A LOYAL PASSHOLDER FOR YEARS AND WAS HOPING YOU COULD STILL HONOR THE DISCOUNTED RATE?

MOUNTAIN 9, CA

First contact: Male.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Actually, the price hasn’t changed since the spring! What has changed is the extra benefits we offered as an incentive to buy early, where now those ticket benefits have gone away since that spring deadline, but that’s it!
SAM: Oh, OK. So that $XX price is still valid?
Staff: Right, for the X pass, that’s correct!
SAM: Cool. And is there a deadline on that price?
Staff: Ahhh, yes, it will go up. Traditionally around Labor Day, or right after, but we’re never given a firm date of when they may go up. So it’s always best to renew as early as possible.
SAM: Oh, OK. Well, I’m glad I called to check. Those incentives are nice, but it’s not the end of the world.
Staff: Correct. You still get those benefits that give you a 15 percent discount on those extra tickets, it’s just not as good as that same offer was back in the spring.
SAM: Gotcha. Was the original benefit that those tickets were free?
Staff: Well, it was just a much higher discount, at almost 40 percent off each ticket.
SAM: No worries. Well, thanks for your help. I’ll make sure I hurry up and buy the pass. Great to hear the price is the same.
Staff: Exactly! And you can do that all online, and you’ll be all set. You’ll see links to the season pass page where you can purchase it.

Rating: 9
Comment: Short and sweet. A good attitude and some extra details can go a long way. And good to know I still get some of the early-deadline benefits.
Identity revealed: Northstar California


May 2014

QUESTION: I’M PLANNING TO COME UP FOR A SPRING SKIING WEEKEND AND FIGURED TICKET PRICES WOULD BE LOWER. ARE THEY?

MOUNTAIN 10, CA

First contact: Automated machine. Chose season pass office.
Answering phone: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: They're not, but our season pass prices are really low and they're good for the rest of this season and all of next season. It’s a great deal!
SAM: But I know the snow is melting so fast there and coverage is limited... you’re not offering anything for single day tickets?
Staff: We do actually have full coverage, um, sooo, yeah, we are open top to bottom. And it's supposed to snow, well it's spitting out a little now and we're supposed to get dumped on tomorrow. So... therefore, I can't say anything for our ticket prices. You can get discounted tickets elsewhere if you buy them off our mountain, but if you buy them here they're going to be full price.
SAM: OK, so they're going to be full price until closing?
Staff: I mean I can't 100 percent say that, but typically they are.
SAM: Hmm, well maybe I'll look around for some deals.
Staff: Well actually we sell our discounted tickets at REI and Costco sells them and we’re on Liftopia.com so there are a few places to get discounted lift tickets. And then we also have a late season voucher out there. If you're coming from like the Bay or Sacramento area there are different shops that carry a $62 voucher that you can get and they pay for a discounted ticket up here. So that's another way to get a cheaper ticket.
SAM: OK, cool. I can do that. Thanks!
Staff: And if you look on our website and look at the X page you'll be able to see which shops carry our vouchers.
SAM: Awesome. I was just going to ask that. Thanks again.
Staff: Sure thing, bye!

Rating: 9
comment: big points for sticking with me and giving me all my options. Minus 1 for no web address. Hey, maybe I’m too lazy to Google!
Identity revealed: Sierra-at-Tahoe


November 2010

QUESTION: MY SON CAME HOME FROM SCHOOL AND WAS TELLING ME ABOUT A PASSPORT PROGRAM. CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THAT AND WHAT IT IS?

MOUNTAIN 6, WA

First Contact: Automated machine. Chose guest services.
Answering Phone: Young female. Very nice sounding.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Okay, we do participate in the 5th grade—he is a 5th grader?
SAM: Yes.
Staff: 5th grade passport program, which is part of XYZ. Give me one second to pull the website so I can give you more information.
SAM: Okay, great. So it's a ski pass for 5th graders for just your resort or for multiple resorts?
Staff: It's for multiple resorts. So the passport allows you to ski or snowboard three days free at each of the participating XYZ ski areas... And I do know that X and a lot of different resorts besides us are usually in this program. So for us, what we give, is we have two pages in the passport book, but I think it's like 40 pages total. We give three free lift tickets, as well as discounts on your rentals, half price. And discounts on your lessons, and I believe that's half price on a private lesson or free group lesson.
SAM: Oh, wow. So, do you know how much the passport program is?
Staff: It looks like it is $20 for processing.
SAM: So it's just a school program that they do for the kids?
Staff: Yeah, exactly.
SAM: And that's all I have to purchase to get them the coupon book and three free days?
Staff: Correct. Do you have access to the web?
SAM: I do, yes.
Staff: Do you want me to send you over a link where I am?
SAM: Oh, that's okay, I can look it up. I think you said the main website earlier.
Staff: Of course it's www.xyz.com and you should see the passport program right there. And I think you can actually pay and sign up online as well.
SAM: Great. Thanks so much for all your help!

Rating: 10
Comment: Can’t get much better than that! She knew her stuff and had a super attitude.
Identity Revealed: 49 Degrees North

Read 12 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 April 2018 09:43

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