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SPEAK-OUT - MIDWEST GREATS


[Within days of one another, two industry greats from the Midwest died-George Petritz from Crystal Mountain, Mich, and Paul Augustine from Afton Alps, Minn. The following is an excerpt from Augustine's eulogy, given by his son, John P. Augustine. Through hard work and treating people right, these two men are examples to us all about how to run a successful ski area.] -Ed 

My father, Paul Augustine, was blessed-or some would say cursed-with an incredible work ethic. Years before the automated answering systems, on Christmas Eve, the one time we knew the slopes would be closed, he would plug a phone into the business line in our house so that someone could answer the questions of people planning trips to the area over Christmas vacation. In the early growth days of Afton Alps, he did almost every job there. He made snow, groomed the slopes, plowed the parking lots, answered the phones and sold tickets. 

My father was a real, straightforward man of the people. He believed in equal opportunities and in second chances for those who seemed deserving. In industry organizations he fought to keep dues affordable for smaller operators. At his ski areas, he gave a little extra break to people just trying the sport, because he saw himself as an ambassador of skiing. And not everything was about the bottom line-he would stay open past times of peak demand and even reopen to let an out-of-town group experience the area. He knew that any given day could be that person's one chance to be on the slopes that year, and that word-of-mouth marketing was his most effective marketing. 

As an owner, he set a powerful example by working directly with customers, going through the line in the cafeteria, and being willing to pitch in wherever needed. 

My father was prudent. He saw building his businesses and acquiring possessions as a gradual process. He built a very large Midwestern operation, but started small. 

There were some things that really annoyed my father. He didn't like ski bums who thought they could sneak onto the slopes undetected, or those who felt entitled to special treatment because of skiing prowess or connections. He didn't like people expecting a discount just because they worked for some big corporation. He opposed selling passes to hard-core skiers at such a discount that it risked them taking their experiences for granted. He resisted overplanning the operational details of his business because he knew that he had to be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions, especially the weather. 

He really didn't like listening to people who talked big, but never followed through, or wasted his time with lots of excuses for poor performance. However, as nearly anyone who worked with him can attest, he was very forgiving of mistakes, as long as you showed a commitment to doing better and being there when he needed you most. 

Of course, he was human and made some mistakes as well-all you have to do is look at my Dad's old pickup truck to see that he should have left the driving to others long before he did. 

There's no questions that my father was a stubborn taskmaster, but he was also very much a mentor through the examples he set.

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