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July 2015

10 Under 30

SAM's annual collection of 20-somethings who are making a difference and leading by example.
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Sooner or later, every generation gets to forge its own way. And we’ve seen, through this annual celebration of under-30 talent, how quickly a new generation can begin to shape our resorts.

This year’s group is typical in that regard, as well as noteworthy for their individual accomplishments. We chose this group not because they are the 10 most outstanding of their generation, but to represent the great diversity in experiences, positions, resort types and sizes, geography, and accomplishments that younger members are bringing to the industry. We received nearly 50 nominations for this year’s list, from resorts as diverse as Marble Mountain, Newfoundland, and Vail, Colo. From the call center to the general manager’s office, young professionals are stepping up and making a difference, as this year’s 10 demonstrate.

As impressive as the nominees themselves are, the enthusiasm and respect their nominators express is equally striking. We thank all of you nominators for showing such strong support for your staffs.

And now, to the 10.

alexbeech

Alexandra Beech
Advanced Sales Centre Host, Whistler Blackcomb, B.C. | Age: 24 | First job in industry: This one | Six-word bio: Hockey bum living a snowboarder’s life.

What drives you in your career?
Knowing that my role is the start of most people’s Whistler experience. I want to ensure every guest feels they made the best decision possible coming here.

You answer calls each day from resort guests. How do you maintain a happy face, and how do you unwind?
If I have a bad phone call and remain in a bad mood, that won’t get me or the next guest anywhere. Each call is a new start. And there is nothing better than having a great conversation while processing an order. Obviously getting out on the mountain is a great way to let off steam! You organized some office outings this year. What prompted that? Knowing that you are in a beautiful place and not always having time to experience it can be a drag, so I helped organize office trips in which we’d experience “being a tourist” for a day. It’s also a great way to learn what this area has to offer when people ask us for suggestions.

You also volunteered with Whistler Adaptive. How did that impact you?
I booked the lessons for the attendees and their friends and families, and it was one of the great experiences I’ve had. The program is volunteer-based, and every person involved is warmhearted, accepting and patient. You cannot help but be motivated by the determination of the attendees and volunteers.

Preston

Preston Cline
Risk and Safety Manager, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, W. Va. | Age: 26 | First job in industry: Ski Patroller, Student Patroller to be exact | Six-word bio: Work hard, but play harder.

What drives you in your career?
It is a great feeling knowing that you can make a difference at the mountain on which you grew up, and that impacts my coworkers, friends, family, the community, and the industry.

How can you contribute to the future of the industry?
I’d like to help modernize certain aspects of the industry. The Responsibility Code uses complex, lengthy words that don’t appeal to Millennials and needs updating. The industry needs to take the freestyle terrain approach, developing new safety programs that utilize short, simple phrases and pictograms. Additionally, the sport’s top athletes need to be a focal point in industry growth and safety efforts. The NFL’s concussion program is an example of how we could use athletes like Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn to promote safety and growth of the sport. I would also like to see the industry foster growth in a way that reasonably mitigates risk. Our guests will continue to push the envelope, and we must create a series of checks and balances that reduces the risks and creates a reasonably safe environment.

What about risk and safety management appeals to you?
My favorite aspect is working with every business unit on the mountain and learning different aspects of the industry. No two days are the same, and the field, being relatively new, continues to evolve.

Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards
Senior Activities Manager, Breckenridge, Colo. | Age: 26 | First job in industry: This one! (previously theme parks and a zoo) Six-word bio: Driven, passionate, experiencing work through play!

What is it that you love about working at a resort?
The people and the teamwork and positive working relationships that our resort harbors. Coming from the attraction industry, which has similar dynamics, I’ve been blown away by the acceptance, ability to adapt, and willingness to help cross-departmentally.

What have been your biggest challenges?
Learning the ski side of the business, understanding winter concepts such as snow movement and what infrastructure needs to be preserved for the winter operational dynamics.

You manage 125 employees. How do you define your leadership strategy?
Right now, our growing summer team is split between the Alpine Coaster, Alpine Slide, guided activities, zip line, and base area activities. Many of the employees also work for us in the winter. One of my strategies is to create a summer team that has passion for our whole business.

If you could share one thing about the new generation of visitors with the older generation of managers, what would that be?
Our newer guests are truly looking for an authentic experience around their skiing vacation, as well as their summer trips. We need to ensure our entire mountain is working to provide the best possible service and experiences, giving them reasons to keep coming back.

Greg

Greg Gavrilets
Terrain Park Manager, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area, Tenn. | Age: 26 | First job in industry: Ski Patrol | Six-word bio: Passionate, hard-working, enthusiastic skier.

What drives you in your career?
It has been my dream to work in the ski industry since I was a volunteer ski patroller. I try to constantly challenge myself to improve and to make a positive impact on the people around me.

What is it that you love about working at a resort?
I love working in the mountains and being challenged daily in a variety of ways. There is no better way to spend a day than skiing or riding. Seeing our guests learn, enjoy, and progress in the sport makes it all worthwhile.

How do you want to contribute to the future of the industry?
I’d like to help our industry grow. That means making it more accessible to young people from all income brackets and encouraging participation through school programs and other on-hill events. I admire the terrain-based learning trend. It’s a novel idea to reshape the guest’s experience on snow.

You manage terrain parks, but also do social media. Do you see yourself focusing on one area in the future?
I really appreciate the opportunity to work at a smaller area and contribute to multiple departments. It has given me a unique perspective on the many layers of operations. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’d like to continue growing and making an impact wherever I can.

Brent

Brent Noren
Operation Manager, Big Powderhorn Resort, Mich. | Age: 27 | First job in industry: Ski & bike sales and service | Six-word bio: Nothing beats the perfect pass.

How did you get into this role?
I grew up at Big Powderhorn and started skiing when I was two. My parents ran the ski school, so if I wasn’t in school, I was at the hill. I was always interested in the equipment, and remember watching Tuckers and LMCs make their last passes before the hill opened. I always wanted to operate them, and now I’m fortunate enough to do it as my career.

How can you contribute to the future of the industry?
I want to continue the successful operation of a small resort and offer affordable and friendly access to the sport for first-time skiers and boarders. Helping them develop an ongoing love of the sport is the biggest contribution I can make.

How has your operations experience helped you contribute to marketing and management?
I can see the “big picture,” and I’m able to adjust day-to-day decisions to better achieve our end-of-the-season goals, which can result in a more efficient and cost-effective operation. This could range from advertising in a high-traffic area to reducing fuel consumption while grooming.

What project are you particularly proud of?
I enjoy getting the resort ready for the next season. We run a small off-season crew, so there are many maintenance projects to complete. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a lengthy or challenging project.

Robby Ortlieb

Robert Ortlieb
Scanning Manager, Keystone Resort, Colo. | Age: 24 | First job in industry: Ski Instructor, Pine Knob, Mich. | Six-word bio: Three Mountains. Two Hemispheres. One Love.

How did you get into this industry?
Through the Gogebic Community College Ski Area Management program, I landed an internship at North Star at Tahoe. That led to roles at Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mt. Buller Resort in Australia, and now Keystone.

How have you energized the ticket- scanning department at Keystone?
When I was introduced to my role, I was told my department had a history of high turnover rates, so I emphasized the employees’ happiness, hoping it would create happy guests. We all joined the industry for our love of skiing, and to achieve success you can’t forget to enjoy yourself. That said, success only comes from holding yourself to a higher standard, and I expect the same from my employees. Over the past season, our team had the lowest missed scan rate in years and a record amount of fraudulent passes apprehended—all while receiving the highest guest satisfaction scores in the company.

Tell us about your initiative to recycle old passes and wrappers.
After a team survey, it was apparent we, as a group, lacked attention to sustainability. So we implemented a plan to recycle discarded season passes and Nature Valley granola bar wrappers. We then had an opportunity to donate to the charity of our choosing. I was proud to see my employees’ involvement and appreciation for doing more than just scan tickets. They really took ownership of their job.

dave

Dave Reilly
Terrain Park Manager, Steamboat, Colo. Age: 27 | First job in industry: Park Digger | Six Word Bio: I followed passion, dirt, snow, diesel.

How did you get into this industry?
I started working on the park crew, moved to an operator position, and finally to management. My childhood room was full of John Deere toys and snowboarding posters, so this role was the perfect match.

What drives you in your career?
Building parks and seeing our guests and locals having fun is awesome, but building a team of dedicated individuals who love their job while furthering our brand is truly where it’s at for me.

Prior to last season you had to develop a couple of snowcat drivers quickly. How did you manage that?
I did some serious networking and found a very experienced terrain park operator to work with the team during the initial builds. I gave them freedom to change and modify things as their skills progressed. Eventually they were comfortable in all aspects of dozing, shaping and rail transporting. From there, it was all them.

What are the biggest challenges in managing the park?
Steamboat has a very strong brand ­identity; a successful park has a brand-matched theme that sets it apart from everyone else. One of my goals is that when someone sees a photograph they immediately know that it’s Steamboat. We are also very family-oriented, so we try to make our parks appealing to everyone, not just our park regulars, which is definitely tricky.

Amanda Stewart

Amanda Stewart
Children’s Snowsports School Manager, Boreal Mountain Resort, Calif. | Age: 25 First job in industry: Instructor at Bear Mountain, Calif., 2005 | Six-word bio: Play and enjoy. Commit and succeed.

How did you get into this industry?
Growing up in Big Bear, my lifelong hobby has been skiing and snowboarding. Being an instructor was the best way to get paid, share my enjoyment of the industry with others, and get that free season pass.

Explain your role in the Take 3, Ride Free beginner conversion program.
The implementation of the program has been a six-year evolution, and it is continuously developing. We wanted to create an attraction for long-term retention, so making it affordable and fun was critical. The minor operational challenges I tackled were enrollment, tracking, and follow-up. But as a resort-wide initiative, it’s widely supported. We work together to find solutions.

Your program has seen four straight years of growth. What’s the secret?
It starts with creating a culture people want to be a part of—being fun and authentic, having pride and ownership on all levels (employee and guest), cross-department engagement, and paying attention to employee and guest safety.

You also handle international recruiting and pre-season planning for the mountain services division. How do you manage?
I’ve learned how to balance the many aspects of the resort I am involved in by understanding the audience and relating accordingly. I try to offer guidance, while setting standards and clear expectations. Feeding off the cooperation company-wide is also a main contributor to executing our projects successfully.

Molly

Molly Tarlofsky
Communications Coordinator/Snow Reporter, Okemo, Vt. | Age: 25 | First job in industry: Intern at an athlete management agency | Six-word bio: Native New Yorker; action sports enthusiast.

What do you love about working at a resort, and what you hope to accomplish?
I’d like to introduce as many people as I can to the awesome world of action sports. There’s no feeling in the world like the rush you get on a pair of skis. Resorts have the awesome job of spreading the stoke for these sports. My passion lies in helping people discover the outdoors so that they, too, can integrate it into their lifestyle.

You started The Peaks Project, a learn-to program, as a college senior. How did that come about?
I’ve met incredible people within the industry who have dedicated their careers to ensuring that anyone who wants to participate in action sports can do so, regardless of circumstance. It inspired me to do something similar in New York City, my hometown, because I wanted to share snow sports with kids. Now entering its third year, The Peaks Project is a nonprofit organization that teaches underprivileged New York City kids to ski and snowboard.

What have you learned about the industry that you didn’t expect?
I learned how engaged and passionate visitors are for their respective resorts. They care deeply about the operations, the staff and the entire mountain. Becoming a part of traditions shared by families or groups of friends, and personally connecting with them, is what it’s all about.

davidy

David Yeagle
Director of Snowsports, Mohawk Mountain, Conn. | Age: 28 | First job in industry: Ski Instructor at Afton Alps, Minn. | Six-word bio: Mountains, trails, snow, and good friends.

As a young person in a leadership position, how do you handle working with older staff?
I listen as much as possible and learn from everyone I can. Every idea, good and bad, can help shape the decisions you make for the better. It’s important to be confident in the decisions you make, while still being able to change if a better solution presents itself. In the long run, if the department runs well, age is less important.

You have increased instructor attendance in skill development classes. How did you accomplish that, and what effects emerged?
We’ve found that the more development opportunities we have available, the easier it is for staff, especially part-timers, to get involved. To pull them in, find out what drives them and why they teach. It just grows from there; training affects more than just those who attend. Instructors tend to share what they learn, and it’s amazing to see how quickly knowledge and teaching strength spread through the staff.

What do you see as the key to getting new riders to return to the sport?
Making them feel part of the skiing/riding community. Whether it’s teaching a group or family together, or introducing a new skier/rider to people already in the sport, it’s all about having friends in the sport.