Young Guns 2009
When we debuted the “Under 30” list last year, we really had no idea what we were getting into. We thought it would be a nice way to recognize some of the hard working young people of the industry, those people who aren’t quite SAMMY eligible yet but show great promise early in their careers.
The response to the article, however, was far greater than we anticipated. Through e-mails, trade shows and website visits, you flooded us with positive response, letting us know how nice it was to read about such talented and enthusiastic young people and how much hope it gave you for the future of our industry.
We knew there were far more people out there who deserved to be on that list than we could possibly fit, and so we’ve decided to make the “Under 30” list an annual event. In the following pages, you’ll read about another crop of exceptional young people, all under the age of 30 (or at least very close). They’re quite an outstanding bunch and we hope you enjoy reading about them as much as we did getting to know them.
Rick Schmitz is 26 years old and owns a ski resort. Do we really need to say any more?
No, he’s not a trust-fund kid and no, it wasn’t left to him in a will. He simply did it like everyone else—he saw a business for sale and asked a bank to loan him the money to buy it. The main difference between Schmitz and any other ski-industry entrepreneur is that he was 22 years old when he did it.
Schmitz is the owner of Nordic Mountain in Wisconsin, a 60-acre ski area less than two hours away from Green Bay. He recently celebrated the third anniversary of owning the operation and admits it’s been “a pretty wild ride” so far—but one he wouldn’t trade for any desk job in the world.
An avid skier, Schmitz was finishing up his Bachelor of Science in Finance degree from Washington University in St. Louis when he spotted an ad for Nordic Mountain. He had been interviewing for finance jobs in his senior year, but hated the idea of sitting behind a desk all day. When he found the ad, he wrote up a business plan in school and walked straight to the bank with it.
It was a bit of a tough sell, he notes wryly.
“I had no ski hill experience at all. I had skied. That was my experience,” he laughs. “I remember my first meeting at a bank so clearly. I walked in and I was out of there again in 15 minutes. They sent me away immediately. I thought ‘Oh. This is never going to work.’”
But eventually, crazily, it did. And on November 14, 2005, he was the proud new owner of a 30-year-old ski area that had been for sale for the past six years—with barely a single capital improvement the whole time.
“Everyone thought I was crazy,” he says. “All my college friends were like ‘You’re doing what?’ People still can’t believe what I’ve done here. But I knew I wanted to do it and I was going to stop at nothing to get it done.”
Today, Nordic is humming along successfully and Schmitz is more than pleased with its progress. The maintenance backlog remains a challenge, but he knows it will be several more years before all the kinks are worked out. “My long-term goal with this business is to develop it to the point where we’re not scrambling [to fix things] and spending every penny we have to get things going. I know where I want to go with this, but it will take another five years to get there.”
Terrain park development manager
Ownership changes in a business can be a scary thing, but in Jay Scambio’s case, it has turned out to be a significant career opportunity.
Formerly the terrain park manager of Loon Mountain, NH, Scambio, 29, is now the terrain park development manager for Boyne Resorts. He has six resorts’ terrain parks under his care and it’s his job to create standards and procedures for the creation and maintenance of all six park programs.
Prior to his relatively new role with Boyne—he came on board in the fall of 2007—Scambio helped build Loon’s park into one of the best in the east. When Boyne purchased Loon from Booth Creek Resorts last year, the company had decided to make terrain park quality a priority and that they needed someone who could manage all the parks on a macro level. That person, they decided, should be Scambio.
Scambio got his professional start in the industry in the late 90s, when he helped launch a private snowboard coaching business at Loon. It soon became clear that Loon’s terrain park wasn’t quite what it needed to be and the resort asked him to step in and help. The rest, as they say, is history. He’s specialized in terrain parks ever since.
His new role with Boyne has been exciting, he says, although managing a portfolio of resorts in disparate locations is a challenge. “For me, the biggest challenge is having a vision of each resort and what should be done at each one—without necessarily being there all the time.”
“Jay has a great understanding of all aspects of the resort—not just the terrain park,” says Stacey Lopes, marketing manager at Loon. “He has reached out and developed relationships with operations, marketing and events to create a terrain park program that is successful on many levels: parks for all abilities, signature parks, safety programs, and events for all skill levels. Now, he is taking his success at Loon and bringing it to rest of Boyne Resorts. We’re really proud of him!”
Sarah AllenMarketing and communications coordinator Powderhorn Resort, Colorado
Choosing a college based on its proximity to skiing might not have been the best educational strategy, says Sarah Allen, but it’s certainly one that has paid off.
Allen, a graduate of Mesa State College in Colorado, is the 26-year-old marketing and communications director of Powderhorn Resort, Colo., known for her savvy with new media marketing in an extremely competitive ski market. It’s a big job for such a young person but even with all the challenges it brings, it still allows her to do the one thing that brought her to Colorado in the first place—ski as much as possible.
She got her foot in the door via an internship with a local tourism organization, where she met Powderhorn’s then-marketing director at a tourism function. Soon after, the marketing coordinator position opened up at the mountain and, as a result of that connection, she was asked to apply. She got the job and not a year later, the director’s position opened up too. So, at 23 years old, she found herself in the unique position of having a director’s job with almost no professional experience.
Rather than being a hindrance to the job, however, Allen’s youth has proved to be a valuable asset. She is forced to be creative with her marketing budget, because it, like the resort, is quite small. And she is tapped into the youth market in a completely natural way, since she is a part of it herself. Text-message marketing, Facebook, MySpace and blogs are as natural to her as typing an e-mail and she has put them all to great use.
“Sarah’s attention to the youth market is extraordinary,” “She knows what products young people want, how they want to receive those products and how to get information to them without making them feel like she is ‘selling’ something,” says Steven Bailey, Powderhorn’s CEO.
Tim Smith kicked off his career at Michigan’s Gogebic Community College Ski Area Management program, which he followed with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Northern Michigan University. Fully primed for a career in the business, he settled into a position as lodge manager at Mt. Holiday for a year. But the call of big-mountain skiing grew and when Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado recruited him to manage the snowmaking department, he readily accepted. After a short stint there, he followed that up with a two-year stint as operations manager at tiny Ski Hidden Valley in Wisconsin, and finally ended up in New Hampshire, in his new role as Crotched Mountain’s operations manager.
Finding someone as young and talented as Smith to fill the role was exactly what they were looking for, says Crotched’s general manager Chris Bradford (who, at 32 years old, is not much older than Smith). “He is a naturally a strong leader and a real ‘get it done’ type of guy,” says Bardford.
“Working for Peak Resorts, and working with a guy like [Crotched’s COO and VP] Felix Kagi who is just next door—I can just go over there and bounce ideas off of him and he can be like, ‘Tim, I’ve tried that a million times and it won’t work.’ To work with someone like him is amazing.’”
General Manager, The Outpost Lodge restaurants
Tracey Hammond must have one of the most logistically demanding jobs in the resort industry—managing a AAA, Four Diamond restaurant (among others) at almost 12,000 feet on top of a mountain. And she is just 30 years old.
Think about it for a minute. Hammond manages three distinct mountaintop dining experiences: the fine-dining Alpenglow Stube, the casual Der Fondue Chessel and the Timber Ridge Food Court. And every day, among all the other duties of managing a restaurant, she must ensure all the supplies are delivered in a perfectly choreographed truck-snowcat-two-gondola delivery dance.
It’s one thing to keep the cafeteria’s food court stocked with good fresh food, but the Alpenglow Stube is a different story. It has a new special menu daily and everything on it must be of the highest-quality possible—never mind maintaining the 8,000-bottle strong wine cellar. On top of all that, she has the everyday concerns of running all three restaurants, including keeping the Alpenglow staff in Four-Diamond shape every day.
Hammond, originally from Boston, Massachusetts, is an accredited chef and sommelier with a genuine passion for the hospitality industry.
“Every day is learning something new,” she says. “I get to taste something new, I get to try some new wine, and the big thing is I get to teach a lot. I teach a lot of wine classes, and I’m constantly talking about food and wine pairings. I’d say that’s the biggest thing that keeps me motivated.”
Although surviving each day is an achievement in itself, her proudest achievement in the last six years is not only maintaining the Alpenglow Stube’s AAA rating (held since 1994) but earning it new accolades as well. By slowly and carefully increasing the wine list from 300 wines to 700, the Alpenglow has earned a coveted “Best of Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator magazine and mentions in major travel magazines as well.
Resort programs coordinator
Like any ambitious young Vermont snowboarder, Hillary Sherman wanted to work at Burton Snowboards when she graduated college. It would be perfect, really—she could see her friends and family, snowboard often, and be a part of a legendary company. It would probably take a few years to get there, but she was willing to put the time in and wait.
Little did she know that just a few short years later, at 26 years old, she would be Burton’s resort programs coordinator, spending half her year travelling all over the United States, running clinics and camps at mountain resorts for Burton’s Learn to Ride program. In many ways, it’s been a dream come true.
Her professional career started in a way that any college grad would dream about. Her final-year project for her degree was to build a marketing/business plan for a line of women’s snowboards, complete with a thesis paper on women’s snowboarding.
The project got into the hands of the a group of female professionals at Burton and subsequently, she was asked to present the paper to them. It was the foot in the door she needed—she got a job in the customer service department, and not long after, the LTR job opened up. With recommendations from management on her side, she handily scored the position.
It’s a pretty comprehensive job, working to market and sell LTR, organizing and executing clinics and camps, developing programs for the brand. And while she enjoys all aspects of her job, it’s the Women’s Learn to Ride program that really satisfies both her creative spirit and love of snowboarding, she says.
“If I really had to choose the part of my job that I like best, it would be being in charge of the Women’s Learn to Ride programs,” she says. “I get to meet these really great female instructors and we get to create the direction for the program. Essentially, nothing like that exists right now, so we have all these concepts that we’re putting in practice and all of these ideas, but since there’s no set standard, we’re trying to create one. And that’s pretty cool.”
Terrain park and youth brand marketing manager
Chris Castaneda is the terrain park and youth brand manager for Northstar-at-Tahoe and has become one of the more high-profile park managers in the country. On top of managing Northstar’s comprehensive terrain park program, he regularly helps coordinate photo and video shoots for pro riders and media.
This year, he’s going to be even busier, hosting the final stop of the new, televised AST Winter Dew Tour, which will easily be one of the highest-profile ski and snowboarding events of the season.
Since he started out raking parks at Bear Mountain with Snow Park Technologies’ Chris Gunnarson and Chris Winslow over 10 years ago, Castaneda has been steadily building his impressive list of terrain-park and freestyle credentials. He’s now expanding those credentials outside of the park in his new role as the youth brand manager (while still retaining his park management role), helping to craft the marketing efforts directed towards young people.
“Chris has an enormous amount of talent and skill in the area of terrain park design, management and maintenance, but also has great skill and instinct in the area of marketing the product,” says Julie Maurer, VP of sales and marketing for Booth Creek Resorts. “Additionally, he is skilled beyond his years of experience in the area of management. He really gets managing his team effectively as well as cross-departmental relations and managing up the ladder.”
Of all the things he has achieved in his (short) career so far, Castaneda says he is most proud of his part in cultivating Northstar’s thriving freestyle scene.
“Just being a part of the evolution of [the parks] and the progression of things has been amazing,” he says. “That’s definitely why I’m here—I love being a part of it and watching the culture evolve over time.”
In a world where video is quickly becoming the currency of media, videographer and producer Dane Henry is a lucrative asset for Heavenly Mountain Resort.
Henry, 27, is in charge of populating Heavenly’s website with short clips about all aspects of resort life. He’ll do a three-minute film about that day’s snowfall, or a short film about life in the terrain park. In short, he’s the visual chronicler of day-to-day life at Heavenly.
It’s a job that he knows he’s lucky to have, especially in regards to how much it has grown in scope and importance since it was created two years ago. He started at the resort in the “wardrobe department,” four seasons ago, handing out uniforms to staff in a low-key job that allowed him a lot of time on the hill. It wasn’t exactly what he had dreamed of doing at the time—he had already built up a portfolio of skate and snowboarding videos in his teens—but he liked the resort and liked the lifestyle it allowed him to lead.
But he did a few videos for the human resources department and not long after that, the resort decided to invest in having a full-time person dedicated to video, so that they could build the website up to rapidly changing and growing 2.0 standards. They liked his work and he was more than a little excited about the opportunity.
“I like telling stories through video, film and photography. And I like skiing, so it seemed to fit together pretty well,” he says.
Since he started in the role two years ago, the focus and importance of web video has soared, he says. He how has two people working under him and the resort has stopped outsourcing a lot of the video work they used to, allowing Dane and his team to handle creating ad spots for TV and doing tons of video for the site.
The increased traffic to the website in itself speaks to the quality of Henry’s work, says Russell Pecoraro, director of communications at Heavenly.
“Video is becoming crucial to ski area marketing, and Dane presents our product and brand in a way that is entertaining, while also delivering the message we want to communicate,” says Pecoraro. “The viewership of our video is off the charts, and it has everything to do with the content Dane creates.”
Alpine Rental Manager
As weekend ski racer and chef-in-training, Erin Shedd was pretty sure she had the future figured out. That is, until, a horrible accident in the kitchen made her reconsider what she really wanted out of her job, and her life.
She knew she loved skiing, so her post-accident job search brought her to the mountain’s career page. Fast-forward to today, at just 25 years old, she’s the Alpine rental manager of the mountain and loving the challenges it brings.
She started at the resort as a ski instructor and has steadily worked up the ranks since. James Noyes, her mentor and supervisor for five of the past eight years, is continuously impressed with her dedication and work ethic since they started working together in 2003.
“She’s dedicated the better part of her young life to the ski industry and the lessons she has learned on snow and off are reflected in her management style,” he says. “She’s fearless when challenged to meet the goals I set for her and always gracious when the guest insists they know best.”
This is her second season managing the rental shop and her greatest achievement so far has been earning the respect and loyalty of her staff, she says. Last year, she encouraged them to think up new ways to improve the shop and they ran with it, inventing a new helmet racking system and creating a staff room for breaks.
The reward for such freedom has been loyalty. Employees who left at the end of the year to pursue other opportunities have come back this season, saying they missed the fun atmosphere of the shop and were keen to come back.
At just 30 years old, lifelong skier Andre Quenneville got the opportunity of a lifetime—to take over general management of Mt. Norquay, a ski area that sits in the heart of one of Canada’s most popular tourism destinations.
Quenneville was plucked from an assistant GM position at tiny Edelweiss, a ski hill just outside of his hometown of Ottawa, Ontario. There, he was getting tons of hands-on experience running a resort, since the mountain’s GM was based off-site, making Quenneville the go-to manager on site.
His success in running Edelweiss did not go unnoticed. Fellow ski racer Bob Sudermann’s brother Peter, was the new co-owner of Mt. Norquay. The mountain was purchasd in the fall of 2006 and soon after the deal was done, Quenneville got a life-changing call: Would he like to come out and manage Norquay? Like, right away?
“The first thing I thought was ‘Wow, I’ll get to ski out West.’ The second thing I thought was ‘I get to live in Banff, which is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world.’ The third thing I thought was to call my wife—we had just built our first house and just had our first baby—and ask her what she thought!”
It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so they decided to make the move. He arrived just in time to start the season—at a resort he had never been to, with brand-new ownership, in a big-mountain setting to which he was completely new. It was more than a little overwhelming.
But fast forward two years and Quenneville, now 32, has two successful seasons of running Norquay under his belt and continues to impress the man who hired him in the first place.
“He’s a stellar person and good manager,” Sudermann says. “He can troubleshoot problems on the fly really well, juggle five things at once and make all the right decisions while he’s at it—it’s so interesting to watch him work.”
As for Quenneville, his favorite part of the job is really the job itself—it’s a small resort and he’s out there, in the mix, all the time. “I just love that feeling of not having a typical job—where if it’s snowing out, you probably don’t even want to go to work. Whereas here, everyone has a smile on their face and everyone is pumped and excited.”