Young Guns 2012
2012 10 UNDER 30 WINNERS
Click on a Young Gun to read their bio.
About six years ago, leaders across the industry looked around and asked themselves, “where are the future leaders who will take over for us when we want to retire?” A good deal of anxiety followed, as upper management didn’t see an obvious line of succession.
To help clarify the outlook, SAM profiled a “Top 10 under 30”âof likely candidates. And truthfully, it was not easy to find 10 young guns that top managers felt were up to the task.
But that was then. Over the past several years, hundreds of younger employees have stepped forward and into positions of greater and greater responsibility.
As with leaders before them, they saw a challenge, and they determined how to meet it. It turns out that there were lots of people willing and able to pick up the mantle of leadership. All they needed was a chance to show their stuff.
That’s how it looks to us, anyway, based on what we’ve learned in researching articles such as this one.
And please, tell us about your own future leaders. It’s a great way to recognize and inspire them and to reassure current leaders that the industry will be in good hands.
CONGRATULATIONS! JULIAN TYO WINS MOST INSPIRING BIO: "CREATING A SKI SEASON FOR SUMMERTIME."
Gregg BlanchardAge: 29
Founder, Slopefillers.com, and
Director of Communications, Ryan Solutions
Six word bio: “Dig marketing. Love mountains. Devour Reubens.”
As a child, growing up in Utah but only skiing four or five days a year, Blanchard cherished every outing on snow. “Every day I went skiing was like a birthday,” he recalls.
The founder of Slopefillers.com, a ski industry blog about resorts’ use of digital media and social marketing, Blanchard skis a lot more these days. And that’s by design. His insights into marketing have now put him in the enviable position of making money doing what he loves, all while working in an office five minutes from the base of Beaver Creek.
Slopefillers.com is the engine of all this. “I was working with a couple of resorts but wanted to be involved in something bigger. I started looking for marketing resources, but nothing existed, so I decided to create a resource, and people started following it,” says Blanchard. Today, Slopefillers has grown to a point where it draws more than 7,000 unique monthly visitors, and Blanchard has become one of the most cited social media experts in the industry.
At press time, content on Slopefillers included top-25 lists of the best resorts ranked by social media initiatives from Twitter to Facebook, a post on the current “swag” war between resorts (t-shirts beat socks), and Whistler’s cool mountain bike park teaser video. Some of that will certainly have changed by the time you read this. Social media is, after all, constantly in motion.
And Blanchard stays as current as anyone. “There are a lot of good things happening,” he says. “Vail and Park City are doing well. They’re using the data generated to learn about guest behavior, and they’re making decisions based upon that behavior.”
Still, social media isn’t the be-all of marketing. Blanchard admits that, at first, he thought social media would be a “magic bullet.” He now sees it as a key part of a resort’s overall communications with guests, but not a total solution.
And he sees nuances in the various tools. “Each social media network is different,” he says. “You can’t post the same content to every social network.”
He also understands that the level of passion in the winter resort business makes it a different animal than most enterprises. “You can make a lot of money marketing toilet paper,” says Blanchard. “But it is another thing to help people enjoy a sport. It’s fun to provide some value to the system, and I feel lucky.”
JESSE CLEVELANDAge: 29
Liberty Mountain Resort, Pa.
Six word bio: “adventurous, reliable, goal-oriented, happy, enthusiastic, curious.”
Talented females give rise to more talented females. That’s the premise that Liberty Mountain Resort’s Jesse Cleveland has used to shape one of the most successful women’s learning programs in snowboarding. Snowboarding’s seemingly unending growth has hit a wall in the past few years, and that makes Cleveland’s contributions especially important.
Cleveland fell in love with snowboarding (and instructing) at an early age. “I took a lesson at about 10 or 11,” she says, “and knew immediately that I wanted to teach.”
“I love teaching,” she adds. “It’s really cool to watch people get it.”
Cleveland’s initial part-time work at Liberty evolved into a full time position, where she quickly put some of her observations about teaching, learning and snowboarding into practice. “I was the only girl snowboarding when I started,” she recalls. “So I really wanted to get more females involved.”
“She’s amazing and inspiring,” says Burton’s Hillary Sherman. “She created a women’s certification program at her resort that all instructors have to go through to coach at any of the women’s programs they host.”
“We focus on what’s different between men and women,” Cleveland says of her blueprint for the female-specific learning techniques that Liberty uses in its snowboard camps and other programs. “Women ride differently.”
While she’s been the driving force in developing the innovative teaching techniques used at Liberty, Cleveland is quick to share the credit, saying that the family atmosphere at Liberty has allowed her to ideas to take root and be successful.
“Everyone says ‘yes’ here,” she says. “A lot of people at other resorts have to jump through hoops, but at Liberty everyone wants to make it easy to get things done. I can go to any department and tell them I’m having an event in three days and they’ll help make it a success.”
That kind of teamwork, coupled with Liberty’s family atmosphere, means that Cleveland won’t be going anywhere soon. “I had plans to go out West to bigger mountains,” she says, “but Liberty is a great place to work.”
JEFF CULLINANEAge: 25
Six word bio: “YOUNG PROFESSIONAL, PASSIONATE ABOUT SKI INDUSTRY.”
If you want to win a pond-skimming contest, says contest winner Jeff Cullinane, “It’s all about the lean. You have to shift your weight back and get as much speed as possible.” The rest, he says, is easy.
Cullinane has a knack for making things look easy. “If anyone has a problem with either financials, complex on mountain machinery or a control room, Jeff always knows how to see the big picture and figure out how to fix it,” says Stratton’s Meredith Morris, where Cullinane got his start in the industry. “He doesn't just fix the problem, he will explain how he is thinking, and how others can further prevent it.”
Currently a financial analyst in Intrawest’s department of financial planning and analysis in Denver, Cullinane got his start at Stratton as the manager of a mid-mountain lodge. “I started seasonally,” she says. “I was able to take a snowmobile to work every day, and drive a snowcat around the mountain at night.” He’d also hike down the mountain under a full moon. He found that, after that first winter, “I loved it so much that I stayed,” he says.
Cullinane quickly gained a reputation as a guy who could get things done. “Everyone wanted him to be in their division, to clean it up and get it running like a well oiled machine,” adds Morris. “He is a true leader.”
With an advanced degree in project management (which he earned while working at Stratton full time), Cullinane has forged ahead quickly. As part of Intrawest’s financial planning and analysis team, he’s firmly established on a fast track. “I get to work with motivated people day in and out, that are truly vested in the continuance and growth of the industry,” he says Cullinane.
He credits his co-workers at Stratton for helping him land in Denver.
“Everyone at Stratton trusted in me to get it done,” he says. “Now that I am at Intrawest I am still able to keep in touch with, and work with, the people I started with.”
And, hopefully ski with them from time to time, too. “In no other profession can you take a lunch break at the summit of the mountain and ski back to your office,” he says. “I love to ski.”
JARED EMERSONAge: 28
Jack Of All Trades
Saddleback Ski Area, Maine
Six word bio: “DO SOMETHING FUN FOR A LIVING.”
Jared Emerson pauses when asked, “what exactly is your title, anyhow?” The question arises during our interview because Emerson has been talking about installing lifts, ski patrolling, grooming the mountain, and plunging into the overgrown Maine forest with chainsaw in hand during summer operations. He does a lot of things at Saddleback, but what—exactly—should SAM call him? “Well,” he admits, “I wear a lot of hats.”
Indeed he does. The 28-year-old has taken advantage of every opportunity that has presented itself to dive into all aspects of mountain operations at Saddleback. He’s currently the director of ski patrol as well as the grooming and park director. In the summer, he oversees glading operations, including the ongoing development of Saddleback’s Casablanca Glades, which commenced in 2009. He’s also supervised the installation of two lifts and the relocation of another chair. The man does it all.
“We run things differently here,” admits Emerson of his multi-faceted role at Saddleback. “I guess if I have to give you a title for what I do, it would be something like mountain operations supervisor, but it’s a lot more than that.”
Emerson has deep roots at Saddleback. Both his father and grandfather worked at the resort as patrollers. “My granddad had a camper, and the mountain let him park it up there and we stayed up there on weekends,” says Emerson. “We were all ski bums. I remember telling my dad that one day I’d live and work at Saddleback.” That remains a family thing: his grandfather has mostly retired from skiing, but his dad still patrols at the mountain.
Emerson landed his first position at the mountain at age 16, when he became a volunteer ski patroller. He moved up to a pro patroller position two years later. The timing was impeccable, as Saddleback was undergoing big changes. Emerson’s familiarity with and commitment to the resort, along with his motivation, allowed him the chance to play a major role in new projects, starting with the installation of a new lift his first summer at the mountain in 2004.
“I was young and ambitious to learn,” says Emerson. “I’d see something that needed attention and would take it on.”
What’s happened since then is a highlight reel of every major project at Saddleback, including the Casablanca Glade project, which Emerson led. “One of the things I’m most proud of,” says Emerson, “is the fact that I had 17 chainsaw operators, some of whom had never operated a saw before, and we opened up 40 acres of glades in nine weeks without a single injury. Now people come from all over to ski it. That’s really cool.”
ERIC HASSELAge: 28
Base Area Operations Manager
Durango Mountain Resort, Colo.
Six word bio: “WORK HARD, HAVE FUN, TEAMWORK.”
“Well, I can ski quite a bit,” admits Eric Hassel, Durango Mountain Resort’s base area operations manager, of the major motivation for his current position at the mountain. He laughs, “that’s why a lot of people get into this business, right?”
Hassel didn’t always get to ski at will. A native of the nearby town of Durango, he grew up skiing but later joined the Navy to, in his words, “see the world.” Hassel spent six years in the service, rising to the rank of E6 before getting a discharge and returning to the mountains.
“There’s a lot of water out there,” says Hassel of his time on a boat. “But the Navy really helped me with my management skills and with working with people.” He’s putting that experience to good use at Durango Mountain Resort, where he oversees a diverse group of employees who all work there for the same reason he does, “to ski.”
“We’re behind the scenes,” he says of the base operations team he manages. “We pick up the trash, take care of the recycling and handle all the snow removal.” He laughs again. “It’s like the TV program Dirty Jobs. That’s a bit of a running joke for us.”
And it’s true: organizing parking lots, emptying trashcans and running snow removal operations aren’t sexy. But those tasks are crucial, because the base area of any resort is the first and last opportunity for a mountain to make a good impression on locals and visitors alike, and Hassel knows it. “We’re the first stop for guests,” he says “They see us first.”
Aside from the opportunity to make a great first impression, Hassel loves the fact that each day is varied. “The flexibility we have on a daily basis is great,” he says. “Our schedule changes. If you work patrol, you’re doing the same thing every day you show up to work, and that’s not the case with us.”
The diversity in Hassel’s career is getting greater, too, as he’s currently pursing a degree in construction management He is already putting in-class lessons into practice, as he’s beginning to oversee base area construction projects. It’s this kind of initiative and motivation that’s getting him recognized by his peers at the resort, and which makes him a man on the move.
Just don’t ask him to move to a desk job. One of his favorite aspects of his current position is that he gets to be outside every day. “Being outdoors is great,” he says. “It’s a terrifying thought to be stuck in an office.”
KYLE MARTOLAAge: 23
Sunburst Ski Area, Wisc.
Six word bio: “LAST PUSH, FIRST CHAIR, HELLO WISCONSIN.”
Kyle Martola has always been a snowboarder. “I knew from day two on a board that it was what I wanted to do,” he says. the park manager for Wisconsin’s Sunburst Ski Area.
And that’s exactly what Martola has done ever since that second day. Sunburst’s park manager is also a sponsored rider, representing Rome snowboards, and an integral part of the summer camp scene, working at Windells. So it’s not altogether surprising that he’s taken a small hill in the Midwest and turned its park offerings into a big deal.
“Everything I do at Sunburst is based on what I see in my travels,” says Martola. “Windells and the Mount Hood scene is a showcase of everything interesting that has happened in the past year in the park scene. I bring it straight home, it keeps our hits progressive when it comes to our layout.”
His extensive experiences as a rider also contribute to the progression of Sunburst’s park offerings. He’s an accomplished athlete who competes in a variety of events, and he’s also a coach. Both attributes help make him the perfect fit for Sunburst’s exploding park scene.
Martola’s passion, energy and innovation are helping to make Sunburst a regional epicenter for freeriding. But he also pays attention to the local temper. “The kids that ski and snowboard in Wisconsin, they’re proud, but they’re also humble,” says Martola. “When snow is on the ground, they’re lapping the park.”
To keep things fresh for his core group, Martola takes a hands-on approach, running groomers at night and constantly looking for the next innovation in park design. “It’s the best job in the world,” he says. “I set up something the night before, and the next day I’m the first one to ride it.”
He’s also brought the fabrication of features in-house, saving money while tripling the number of features that the ski area offers. “I’ve learned to weld and to fabricate,” says Martola. “It’s really benefited our park. We used to spend $3,000 for one feature. Now we can build 10 features for $3,000.”
Still, Martola is quick to credit others for his success, including Sunburst mountain manager Jon Finck. “He listens to everything I have to say,” says Martola. “Everything I’ve brought to him has been heard.”
That includes Martola’s latest terrain park innovation, a ride-in, ride-out hotdog stand. “You can ride up, get a dog and ride through the park,” laughs Martola. “I am so stoked!”
LAURA PARQUETTEAge: 26
Senior Communication Manager
Six word bio: “UNEXPECTED CHAPTERS TURNED INTO LIFELONG PURSUITS.”
For Laura Parquette, senior communications manager at Keystone Resort, it’s about the people. “I love the personalities,” she says. “The snowmakers, the lift ops, all the people behind the scenes, who are out there every day.”
And Parquette is out there every day, too, looking to tell their stories. “I arrived in Keystone in December, and it was really exciting coming to Keystone once the season had already started, it’s a big place!”
A lifelong skier, Parquette got her start in the ski industry at Snowshoe, W. Va., where she was hired by Bill Rock (now GM at Northstar-at-Tahoe) to oversee communications for the Mid-Atlantic resort. “He scared the hell of out me in my interview,” laughs Parquette. “But he’s a great person, and he was a true mentor.”
Brad Larsen, now marketing VP at Sugarloaf but then marketing director at Snowshoe, calls Parquette “smart, savvy and poised. Laura managed Snowshoe Mountain’s negative community perception and improved it.”
“Snowshoe was a little bit of a fluke,” says Parquette. “I grew up skiing in New England and I had an internship with the Major League Soccer team in Washington, D.C. United. A friend of mine in D.C. had a family connection with Snowshoe, and that’s how I heard about the position.”
Parquette’s ability to transform the public perception of Snowshoe in the D.C. urban area helped raise the resort’s local visitation, and led to the opportunity to move to a bigger mountain with an even bigger urban base of skiers and snowboarders. Denver’s Front Range is one of the most competitive markets in North America, so Keystone should benefit from Parquette’s ability to connect with consumers.
Expect her to focus her attention on the people who make that mountain tick, as she spreads the word about the ski area’s mountain personalities to enhance that resort’s image. “You have to dive into the personalities,” she says. “There are some great people here, and it’s a special place.”
ALEX SAVITSKYAge: 27
Mountain Operations Manager
Tahoe Donner, Calif.
Six word bio: “MOVED WEST. LEARNED LOVE. FOUND LIFE.”
Blame it on a woman: Alexander Savitsky ended up in Tahoe because of his better half. “We spent our honeymoon looking for a place to live in the mountains,” says Savitsky. That particular journey started in Mammoth, took him to the beaches and urban sprawl of Southern California, and wrapped up on the shores of Lake Tahoe. “We moved to Truckee on a whim,” he recalls. “We had no jobs, but we had found a place slopeside at Donner. I looked at those guys and thought, ‘I bet I can help.’ So I tracked down the GM and the rest is history.”
Savitsky was far from raw when he walked into his position at Donner. A Wisconsin native, he cut his teeth at Mammoth, were he worked a variety of positions for mountain operations. “I started at the bottom working as a lift op,” he says, before also gaining experience in shipping and receiving and retail. A summer job in construction rounded out his experience.
Then love intervened. “I met my wife in Mammoth,” says Savitsky. “But she was headed to Southern California for school, so we made a deal: After she finished school, we’d go back to the mountains.”
The deal turned out to be a good one. At Donner, Savitsky’s timing was perfect, as the mountain was looking to add new management staff, and his versatility made him a perfect fit. Hired on as the mountain operations manager, he quickly made his mark, particularly in streamlining and improving the resort’s operations. “It’s all about the flow,” he says. “We focus on the guest experience from the moment they get out of their car to the last minute of the day. How can we make it easier and smoother for them? We focus on the experience.”
And Savitsky is constantly trying to improve the experience. “I’m always asking, ‘how can it be done better?” he says. “Even if I developed a process, if it can be improved, then we need to improve it.”
JULIAN TYOAge: 28
Sun Valley, Idaho
Six word bio: “CREATING A SKI SEASON FOR SUMMERTIME.”
It was, admits Sun Valley lift supervisor Julian Tyo, a bit of a scam. A serious mountain biker with a jones for lift-accessed, gravity-fed riding, he “recognized a deficit in the [resort’s mountain bike] trail offerings,” and he knew that “the way to get trails built was to get involved in the company.”
The company in question was Sun Valley, where Tyo started in retail (renting mountain bikes, to be exact) and then quickly moved up the ladder. Currently, he’s the lift supervisor for Sun Valley’s Dollar Mountain, the original ski mountain at Sun Valley that now combines a learning area with freestyle terrain and a halfpipe.
While he’s received kudos for running the show at Dollar, where he coordinates everything from ski patrol operations to overseeing seasonal lift attendant staff, it’s his mountain bike savvy that makes him exceptional.
According to Sun Valley director of mountain operations Peter Stearns, Tyo was “a key player in the vision, planning and implementation of the mountain bike trails for the 2011 National Mountain Bike Championships.” Stearns adds that in addition to the work with the 2011 Championships, Tyo was also a driving force behind developing a five-year mountain bike plan for the resort.
The project will change the game when it comes to summer recreation on Sun Valley’s Mt. Baldy. “It’s a mission to create a summertime ‘ski season’ for the resort,” says Tyo. The project will include more than 14 miles of downhill mountain bike trails for all skill levels accessed via the resort’s Roundhouse gondola. The project is complex, as the new trails are being designed to avoid ski runs, and to minimize visual and environmental impacts.
The Baldy trail initiative, combined with other mountain biking opportunities in the area, has locals wondering if the region can become an epicenter for the sport. Tyo, who was just named to the newly formed Sun Valley Marketing Alliance’s event committee, believes it can. “The economic impact is absolutely huge,” he says. “There will be new bikes sold and there will be additional visits to the resort because of this park."
But for Tyo, that’s just an additional benefit to his personal bottom line: “I feel honored to be doing what I love,” he admits. “I have every intent of a career in mountain ops.”
SOLVEIG VICKAge: 27
Ski Patrol Director
Lutsen Mountains, Minn.
Six word bio: “OUTDOORSY, EXCITED, COMPETENT, CREATIVE, EFFICIENT CARING.”
A ski area in Montana is about to get really, really lucky. “I’m out West right now looking for a job,” says Vick when SAM finally tracks her down in early June. “I’m hoping to stay in Montana.”
Vick would be an asset to any mountain. The ski patrol director for Minnesota’s Lutsen Mountains, Vick has skiing in her blood. She grew up at the resort, where she says she got into trouble for trying to ski without a pass. “I was always so exited to go skiing once I got my gear on,” she laughs, “that I’d always run out the door without my pass. The patrol director would always make me go back and get it.”
As patrol director herself, Vick oversaw a varied staff of pro patrollers and National Ski Patrol volunteers. She also worked closely with almost every other department on the mountain.
“She’s demonstrated flexibility to work in nearly all departments,” says Lutsen’s director of human resources, Kathy Buckman. “Her personality and organization skills successfully blended the divergent needs of management, staff, volunteer National Patrol, hill maintenance and lift operations.”
“You constantly work on things to make them more efficient,” says Vick. “There’s a lot of brainstorming going on.” All that thought, she says goes into “everything from balancing the risk and safety factor in our park to working with our snowmakers. We do a lot of snowmaking and that needs to be coordinated so it won’t impact the public.”
For Vick, the highlight of her position was this collaboration. “A lot of people have been there 20 or 30 years,” she says. “And I grew up there. So you get to know everyone and you work with everyone.”
It’s that atmosphere that makes Lutsen special, Vick says. Even so, she admits that she’s excited to expand her horizons out west. “I’m looking at the western Montana area, Whitefish, maybe Missoula or Bozeman,” she says. “But I will end up at Lutsen again.”